What is an intercontinental ballistic missile ( ICBM )?

ICBM ( Intercontinental Ballistic Missile ) – According to the Federation of American Scientists, a ballistic missile is one that has a ballistic trajectory over most of its flight path. What that means is that once the missile burns up the fuel that propels it, the missile keeps moving, the same way that a bullet does after it’s been fired out of a gun. Once the fuel is gone, the missile’s direction can’t be altered. It follows a path determined by the speed of its launch and the force of gravity trying to pull it back toward the Earth’s surface. Eventually, gravity guides the missile — and its payload.

An Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) is a guided ballistic missile with a minimum range of 5,500 kilometres (3,400 mi) primarily designed for nuclear weapons delivery (delivering one or more thermonuclear warheads). Similarly, conventional, chemical, and biological weapons can also be delivered with varying effectiveness, but have never been deployed on ICBMs. Most modern designs support multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs), allowing a single missile to carry several warheads, each of which can strike a different target.

ICBMs are much faster and have a greater range than other types of ballistic missiles, which include intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs), medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs), short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) and tactical ballistic missiles (TBMs).

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