Designed to deliver nuclear or conventional warheads, cruise missiles travel at incredibly high speeds, some reaching supersonic velocities. They fly to their targets at low altitudes for hundreds or even thousands of miles using self-navigating systems.
Unlike intercontinental ballistic missiles, the world’s long-distance nuclear-warhead haulers, cruise missiles are designed to fly fast and low for shorter distances, typically delivering heavy conventional warheads at smaller targets like vehicle convoys or buildings. (See how far the most powerful missiles can travel.)
To determine the top cruise missiles in the world, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from Autojournalism.com, which ranked cruise missiles based on speed, range, technology, and warheads.
Currently, the fastest cruise missile is the BrahMos ramjet, a type missile that requires assisted takeoff until it reaches a velocity that allows the airbreathing jet engine to fly on its own power. The cruise missile developed jointly by Russia and India can reach a top speed of Mach 3, or three times the speed of sound (2,250 miles per hour), for up to 310 miles of range. It was designed as an anti-ship missile with a 200 kg (441 lbs) warhead.
The cruise missile with the longest range, the 3M54 Kalibr, was also developed by Russia. It can travel up to nearly 2,800 miles at up to 2,175 miles per hour, delivering either conventional or thermonuclear warheads. (Militaries also use drones to deliver bombs. Here are 13 of the world’s top military drones.)
The fastest cruise missiles are operated by the armed forces of Russia, India, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Turkey, Sweden, and Norway. The slowest of these cruise missiles reaches a top speed of 525 miles per hour for a range of up to 174 miles.
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