You are here

Krishnam Naidu asked: Please elaborate on tactical missile vs. strategic missile.

  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Email
  • Whatsapp
  • Linkedin
  • Print
  • S. Samuel C. Rajiv replies: At first glance, the distinction is a factor of distance over which they are used, the context in which they are employed and the warheads they can carry. Generally, short-range missiles are termed tactical while long-range missiles are termed strategic. Battlefield missiles (like the Scud-type) are tactical while long-range missiles targeting bigger targets like cities are termed strategic. The former typically use conventional warheads while the latter typically use nuclear warheads.

    Exceptions include short-range ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons and long-range missiles mated with conventional warheads. An example of the latter is the Pentagon’s Prompt Global Strike (PGS), which generated concerns from Russia as regards the ambiguity enveloping such use (distinguishing a nuclear-armed long-range missile from conventionally-armed one). The issue also generated concerns vis-à-vis bilateral arms control agreements like New START. While the US continues to insist the treaty does not prevent it from developing and deploying such capabilities, Russia does not quite hold this view. The US is concurrently developing alternative systems like Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle (FHTV) to perform long-range conventional strike missions (time-dependent anti-terrorist operations for instance).