Intercontinental ballistic missile

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An intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) is a ballistic missile with a long range (greater than 5,500 km or 3,500 miles) typically designed for nuclear weapons delivery (delivering one or more nuclear warheads). Due to their great range and firepower, in an all-out nuclear war, land-based and submarine-based ballistic missiles would carry most of the destructive force, with nuclear-armed bombers having the remainder.

ICBMs are differentiated by having greater range and speed than other ballistic missiles: intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs), medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs), short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs)—these shorter range ballistic missiles are known collectively as theatre ballistic missiles. There is no single, standardized definition of what ranges would be categorized as intercontinental, intermediate, medium, or short.

While the warheads of theater ballistic missiles are often conventional, ICBMs have been nearly inseparable from their connection with nuclear warheads. 'Nuclear ICBM' was seen as a redundant term. Strategic planning avoided the concept of a conventionally tipped ICBM, mainly because any ICBM launch threatens many countries and they are expected to react under the worst-case assumption that it is a nuclear attack. This threat of ICBMs to deliver such a lethal blow so rapidly to targets across the globe has resulted in the interesting fact that there has never been any end-to-end test of a nuclear-armed ICBM. However, see also Prompt Global Strike.

With the advent of multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs) in 1970, deployed in Minuteman ICBMs and Poseidon SLBMs,[1] a single missile had the capability of carrying several warheads, each of which could strike a different target.



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