Special Report

The 'East Wind-41' is the Longest-Range Missile in the World

Handout / Getty Images News via Getty Images

When people think about how a city is destroyed in a nuclear war, they invariably question where the missile or bomb will have come from. One option, the oldest, is strategic bombers like the B-52. Another is from nuclear submarines. Recently, a Russian submarine that carried nuclear torpedoes was seen near the Arctic Circle. The third threat is intercontinental ballistic missiles that travel thousands of miles carrying multiple warheads. (This is what a nuclear war would do to the world.)

ICBMs are usually launched from inside the borders of the deploying countries. China’s DF-41 can travel 7,456 to 9,321 miles, the greatest distance of any long-range missile, according to Arms Control Association, an organization that promotes effective arms control policies. Russia and the U.S. also have extremely long-range missiles. 

For comparison purposes, the longest commercial flight in the world is the Singapore Airlines route from New York City to Singapore, which covers 9,537 miles. People routinely have to fly 7,000 miles or more to reach several cities in Australia.

America’s long-range missiles cannot be seen in isolation from the sea- and air-based ones. Together, they are part of what is known as the “Nuclear Triad.” The theory is that if the U.S.’s nuclear capabilities are spread across more than one option, it is a greater deterrent to other countries with their own nuclear capabilities. (Here are the six European bases where the U.S. is storing nuclear bombs.)

One major threat to the world order is that the number of countries with long-range missiles is growing. North Korea recently tested its Hwasong-17, which is the most advanced long-range missile in its arsenal. Recent tests are not a true test of how far it can fly. A Japanese military expert recently told Reuters that the missile’s range could be 9,320 miles

See 24/7 Wall St.’s list of 18 missiles that can travel more than 3,700 miles.

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