The proliferation of ballistic and cruise missiles to Third World countries is becoming a major concern for both the United States and the Russian Federation. These classes of missiles can carry weapons of mass destruction and are difficult to intercept. To date, this concern has been somewhat mitigated because these missiles are relatively inaccurate. But the potential of improving the accuracy of these missiles by using the Global Positioning System (GPS) or the Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) makes them a greater threat. This paper evaluates the error sources that affect missile accuracy and assesses the improvement that could occur by using satellite navigation-aiding of the missile's inertial guidance system. The authors' analysis focuses on the U.S. GPS system; however, the findings would be similar if GLONASS were used. The paper concludes that satellite navigation-aiding can improve the accuracy of current short- and medium-range ballistic missiles by approximately 20-25 percent, and up to 70 percent for advanced ballistic missiles. It can also greatly improve the accuracy of cruise missiles with ranges greater than 50 km. In addition, the U.S. policy of Selective Availability has a marginal effect on controlling missile accuracy in most of the cases the authors examined.
Originally published in: 5th International Conference on Differential Satellite Navigation Systems, St. Petersburg, Russia, May 20-24, 1996.
This report is part of the RAND Corporation Reprint series. The Reprint was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1992 to 2011 that represented previously published journal articles, book chapters, and reports with the permission of the publisher. RAND reprints were formally reviewed in accordance with the publisher's editorial policy and compliant with RAND's rigorous quality assurance standards for quality and objectivity. For select current RAND journal articles, see External Publications.
Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit www.rand.org/about/principles.
The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.