Ballistic Missiles

Ballistic missiles are short-, medium-, and long-range rocket-propelled vehicles that deliver nuclear or conventional weapons. RAND's analyses help policymakers understand the potential uses of ballistic missiles for warfare and terrorism, the likelihood of their use by combatants, possible defense strategies, and emerging threats to the global security environment.

  • A Kh-47M2 Kinzhal missile being carried by a Mikoyan MiG-31K interceptor in a 2018 Moscow Victory Day parade, photo by kremlin.ru/CC BY 4.0

    Commentary

    China Evaluates Russia's Use of Hypersonic 'Daggers' in the Ukraine War

    A Chinese review of Russia's use of Kinzhal hypersonic missiles in Ukraine is pessimistic about their ability to have a major impact on the outcome of the war. It is not yet clear how this insight will affect China's assessments of its own hypersonic arsenal.

    Jan 12, 2024

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivers a policy speech at the second-day sitting of the 5th Session of the 14th Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) at the Mansudae Assembly Hall in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this undated photo released on September 30, 2021, photo by KCNA via Reuters

    Commentary

    The Politics of North Korea's ICBM Program

    It appears that Kim Jong-un is now practicing ICBM politics. Successful ICBM launches generate internal political support and remind South Korean citizens of reasons to question the reliability of the U.S. nuclear umbrella.

    Jan 2, 2024

  • The South Korean and American flags fly next to each other in Yongin, South Korea, August 23, 2016, photo by Staff Sgt. Ken Scar/U.S. Army

    Report

    South Korea Needs Greater Nuclear Assurance

    With growing nuclear threats from North Korea and China, there has been considerable interest in South Korea in developing its own nuclear weapons. But doing so could become a major disaster. The United States should bring greater strategic clarity to its nuclear umbrella commitment to South Korea.

    Oct 29, 2023

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un held the Fifth Enlarged Plenary Meeting of the Eighth Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) in Pyongyang, North Korea in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on June 11, 2022, photo by KCNA via Reuters

    Commentary

    What North Korea Is Learning from the Hamas-Israel War

    South Korea and the United States should rein in North Korean nuclear weapon production and prepare to respond to escalated North Korean coercion. While Kim Jong-un probably won't resort to a Hamas-style attack, he certainly shares Hamas' goal of cultivating U.S. reluctance to get involved militarily in the region.

    Oct 24, 2023

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    Aerial Minefields Can Put the 'Miss' in Missiles

    The growing missile threat is the greatest tactical challenge of the early 21st century. Adversaries ranging from near-peer competitors to rebel groups increasingly can wield highly accurate missiles that can strike ships, ground forces, and key installations.

    May 23, 2023

  • The China's PLA's Rocket Force conducts conventional missile tests off the eastern coast of Taiwan in this handout released on August 4, 2022, photo by EyePress via Reuters

    Testimony

    The Chinese Acquisition Process

    Despite great progress over the past 30 years, the People’s Liberation Army research, development, and acquisition system is plagued by many inefficiencies. Based on publicly available research, what are some policy insights Congress can keep in mind as it considers Chinese and U.S. processes?

    Apr 13, 2023

  • Photo by KCNA/Pool/Latin America News Agency via Reuters Connect

    Commentary

    North Korea Is Forcing U.S. Military Counters

    If the U.S. military shoots down a North Korean ICBM fired in the direction of the United States and its territories, North Korea will regard it as an act of war. Even in the realm of North Korean rhetoric, this is extreme.

    Mar 14, 2023

  • Report

    Report

    Russia's Evolution Toward a Unified Strategic Operation: The Influence of Geography and Conventional Capacity

    In this report, RAND researchers examine the reasons behind Russia's evolution toward a unified strategic operation, as well as the capabilities that would be necessary to execute key conventional offensive tasks in such an operation.

    Feb 13, 2023

  • U.S. Marine Corps High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems with 3d Battalion, 12th Marines, 3d Marine Division simulate live-fire missions during Exercise Talisman Sabre 2021 at Shoalwater Bay Training Area, Queensland, Australia, July 15, 2021. TS21 supports the U.S. National Defense Strategy by enhancing our ability to protect the homeland and provide combat-credible forces to address the full range of potential security concerns in the Indo-Pacific, photo by Lance Cpl. Ujian Gosun/U.S. Marine Corps

    Report

    Establishing a Sovereign Guided Weapons Enterprise for Australia

    Australia's 2020 Defence Strategic Update calls for increased weapon inventories across the Australian Defence Force. How can Australia's creation of a Sovereign Guided Weapons Enterprise be informed by comparable international case studies?

    Mar 21, 2022

  • The Ronald Reagan Strike Group ships conduct an exercise with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships in the South China Sea, August 31, 2018

    Report

    Japan’s Possible Acquisition of Long-Range Land-Attack Missiles and the Implications for the U.S.-Japan Alliance

    The security environment in Northeast Asia is rapidly worsening. How is this situation affecting the debate in Japan over how to deter Chinese coercion? And what role might the U.S.-Japan alliance might play? To better understand these, RAND organized a virtual conference to discuss.

    Mar 1, 2022

  • U.S. and Japanese military commanders visit the Misawa Air Base during Keen Sword/Orient Shield 21 in Aomori, Japan, October 28, 2020, photo by Sgt. Raquel Birk/U.S. Army

    Commentary

    Japan's Potential Acquisition of Ground-Launched Land-Attack Missiles: Implications for the U.S.-Japanese Alliance

    If Japan acquired ground-based strike capabilities, it would have significant consequences for the U.S.-Japanese alliance. American and Japanese policymakers may need to have a new and expanded set of conversations about how such capabilities would be used and how the alliance could adjust to incorporate them.

    Sep 9, 2021

  • Report

    Report

    Army Theater Fires Command: Integration and Control of Very Long-Range Army Fires

    The U.S. Army is developing a new generation of surface-to-surface fires with very long ranges. To help with integration, the Army proposed creating the Theater Fires Command, which will need to operate as part of a joint force.

    Aug 30, 2021

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    Through the Looking Glass: Chinese Open Source Assessments of North Korea's Ballistic Missile Capabilities

    This report examines Chinese assessments of North Korean ballistic missile capabilities between 1998 and 2017. Chinese analyses mirror Western conclusions that North Korea has a functional ICBM that can reach the U.S. with a nuclear weapon.

    May 14, 2021

  • A Standard Missile (SM) 3 Block IIA is launched from the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex at the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Kauai , HI, December. 10, 2018, photo by U.S. Army

    Commentary

    Is Japan's Interest in Enemy Base Attack Capabilities a Good Idea?

    In the span of a month, Tokyo has rapidly gone from canceling a ballistic missile defense system to considering strike capabilities against foreign adversaries. Is Japan on the precipice of dramatically changing the way it uses its military?

    Jul 17, 2020

  • Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono speaks at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan, Tokyo, June 25, 2020, photo by Yoshio Tsunoda/Reuters

    Commentary

    Japan Is Canceling a U.S. Missile Defense System

    In June, Japan canceled its planned deployment of two Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense systems. This decision is understandable, but that doesn't negate the problems it could pose for Japanese security and Japan's relationship with the United States.

    Jul 6, 2020

  • A projectile is fired during North Korea's missile tests in this undated picture released by North Korea's Central News Agency (KCNA) on November 28, 2019, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Commentary

    Japan's North Korea Challenge in 2020

    North Korea began 2020 by announcing a shift toward a more hard-line foreign policy approach. While this is bad news for all countries in the region, it is particularly unwelcome for Japan.

    Jan 27, 2020

  • Missiles being launched during a military drill in North Korea, May 10, 2019, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Commentary

    Downplaying North Korea's Missile Tests Carries Risks

    North Korea test-fired short-range ballistic missiles for the first time in 18 months. President Trump is downplaying the tests, refusing to call them a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. But if North Korea starts testing longer-range missiles, it could become harder for Washington to return to talks, risking the end of diplomacy with Pyongyang altogether.

    Jun 5, 2019

  • People walk in front of a monitor showing news of North Korea's fresh threat in Tokyo, Japan, August 10, 2017, photo by Toru Hanai/Reuters

    Tool

    DPRK Sanctions: Countering DPRK Proliferation Activities

    This tool provides an understanding of sanctions regimes currently in force against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

    Apr 29, 2019

  • Chinese ICBM missile with China flag graphic overlay, photo by Allexxandar/Getty Images

    Journal Article

    Of Bombs and Bureaucrats: Internal Drivers of Nuclear Force Building in China and the United States

    This article examines the domestic influences on US and Chinese nuclear forces. While strategic factors largely drive each side's, underappreciated domestic and organizational factors also influence outcomes.

    Feb 8, 2019

  • The Missile Defense Agency conducts the first intercept flight test of a land-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense weapon system from the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex in Kauai, Hawaii, December 10, 2015

    Commentary

    Japan's Aegis Ashore Defense System

    For nearly 20 years, Japan has used the North Korea threat as a legitimate rationale to build its missile defense system and cooperate closely with the U.S. in its development. This argument remains as true today as it was before the flurry of regional diplomacy began earlier this year.

    Aug 20, 2018