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.

  • Bruce Bennett discusses North Korea at a March event at RAND's Santa Monica headquarters

    Blog

    Preparing for U.S.-North Korea Talks

    What are the chances that a meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and President Trump will lead to meaningful progress? And what should U.S. leaders be thinking about as they prepare? RAND's Bruce Bennett discusses.

    Apr 5, 2018

  • A U.S. Air Force B-52 prepares to carry the X-51 Hypersonic Vehicle out to the range for a launch test from Edwards AFB, California, May 1, 2013

    Commentary

    Hypersonic Missiles: A New Proliferation Challenge

    Within 10 years, hypersonic missiles are likely to be deployed and offered on the international market. But there is time for action by states that do not want hypersonic missiles to flourish in their neighborhoods. It is time to move toward heading off this threat while it is still possible to do so.

    Mar 29, 2018

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the Federal Assembly, including the State Duma parliamentarians, members of the Federation Council, regional governors and other high-ranking officials, in Moscow, Russia, March 1, 2018

    Commentary

    Red Glare: The Origin and Implications of Russia's 'New' Nuclear Weapons

    Why would Russia, which has over 1,500 deployed strategic nuclear warheads that can be delivered from existing ballistic and cruise missiles, invest in new, exotic systems? The answer is deeply rooted in modern Russian and Soviet history.

    Mar 26, 2018

  • The Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Louisiana transits the Hood Canal as it returns to its homeport following a strategic deterrent patrol

    Commentary

    Location, Location, Location: Evaluating Risks to Submarines from Low-Yield Warhead and Submarine Missile Launch Detection

    Experts can argue that a low-yield SLBM might not be worth deploying as it would put U.S. submarines at unacceptable risk. But the costs to adversaries to develop the capability to target U.S. submarines with nuclear weapons are substantial. In contrast, the costs to the United States are low, requiring only modification to an existing warhead.

    Mar 12, 2018

  • Periodical

    RAND Review: March-April 2018

    This issue features a Q&A with Michael Rich, Soledad O'Brien, and Francis Fukuyama on the perils of truth decay, and a story on the trend toward unretirement among U.S. workers. The Voices column features Gulrez Shah Azhar on environmental refugees.

    Mar 5, 2018

  • The Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Rhode Island (SSBN 740) returns to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay after three months at sea

    Commentary

    Discrimination Details Matter: Clarifying an Argument About Low-Yield Nuclear Warheads

    Nuclear forces and nuclear strategy are complex and the facts surrounding them are often shrouded in classification. But if the United States were to deploy a low-yield submarine-launched ballistic missile warhead in the future, an adversary would face the same problems as it does today in knowing what the missile contains

    Feb 16, 2018

  • Tourists and locals enjoy Ko'Olina beach on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, July, 29, 2013

    Commentary

    Every Second Counts with Missile Alerts

    The false alarm about a ballistic missile attack on Hawaii raises important questions. How much warning time would the public get before a missile hit? And how should the system be improved?

    Jan 24, 2018

  • Smoke trails are seen as rockets are launched towards Israel from the northern Gaza Strip July 12, 2014

    Commentary

    Is Iron Dome a Poisoned Chalice? Strategic Risks from Tactical Success

    While Iron Dome's past success in defending Israel makes it a tempting solution to future challenges, it does have shortcomings. This becomes even more serious when considering using the system in Korea, where the threat posed is substantially greater, and the targeted terrain substantially harder to defend.

    Nov 29, 2017

  • A Japan Self-Defense Forces soldier (L) talks with a U.S. Forces soldier during a drill to mobilise JSDF's PAC-3 missile unit in response to a recent missile launch by North Korea, at U.S. Air Force Yokota Air Base in Fussa on the outskirts of Tokyo, Japan, August 29, 2017

    Commentary

    Why Japan Needs Long-Range Strike Capabilities

    Japan's pacifist constitution allows it to exercise force only when its survival is threatened and there are no other means to repel the attack. But North Korea's advancing military capabilities have drastically changed the threat environment. Japan no longer has the luxury to be complacent about its security threats.

    Oct 23, 2017

  • Multimedia

    Hypersonic Missile Nonproliferation

    RAND researchers present an overview of their key findings on hypersonic missiles — a new class of threat that could penetrate most missile defenses and compress the timelines for a nation under attack to respond.

    Sep 27, 2017

  • News Release

    U.S.-Russia-China Cooperation Could Hinder the Proliferation of Hypersonic Missiles, Reduce Risk of Strategic Wars

    Despite their differences, Russia, China and the United States should act jointly to head off a little-recognized security threat—the proliferation of hypersonic missiles beyond the three nations. The spread of this new class of weapons would increase the chance of strategic (missile-based) wars and would jeopardize nations small and large—including the three nations that now have the technology.

    Sep 27, 2017

  • The X-51A Waverider is set to demonstrate hypersonic flight

    Report

    U.S.-Russia-China Cooperation Could Hinder the Proliferation of Hypersonic Missiles

    Hypersonic missiles are a new class of threat that could penetrate most missile defenses and compress the timelines for a nation under attack to respond. The United States, Russia, and China should agree not to export hypersonic missile systems or components to other nations.

    Sep 27, 2017

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects a long and medium-range ballistic rocket launch drill in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency in Pyongyang on August 30, 2017

    Commentary

    Beyond Strategic Patience with North Korea: What Comes Next?

    North Korea says that nuclear weapons are essential to regime survival. The United States should figure out how to persuade the North Korean regime that it is less likely to survive by posing a nuclear threat than by cooperating with the international community.

    Sep 8, 2017

  • A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense interceptor is launched during Flight Test THAAD in Kodiak, Alaska, July 11, 2017

    Commentary

    Why THAAD Is Needed in Korea

    As the threat from North Korea has been developing over the last 30 years, the U.S. has responsibly deployed missile defenses in Korea to protect its forces and South Koreans. Today, North Korea's medium- and intermediate-range missiles require a defense able to handle higher missile re-entry speeds like the THAAD system.

    Aug 7, 2017

  • Multimedia

    North Korea's Continuous Provocations

    In this July 17th, 2017 congressional briefing, Bruce W. Bennett, Senior International/Defense Researcher, discusses North Korea's nuclear missile programs, its changing relationship with China, and implications for U.S. policy.

    Jul 17, 2017

  • People watch a huge screen showing the test launch of intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-14 in this undated photo released by KCNA, July 5, 2017.

    Commentary

    A Surgical Strike Against North Korea? Not a Viable Option

    North Korea's July 4 launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile that could hit American soil has renewed talk of military intervention. But an effective limited military strike with minimal collateral damage and no escalation simply won't work.

    Jul 14, 2017

  • Report

    What Role Can Land-Based, Multi-Domain Anti-Access/Area Denial Forces Play in Deterring or Defeating Aggression?

    This report examines the role that land-based, multi-domain anti-access/area denial forces can play in helping the U.S. and its allies and partners deter or defeat aggression in the western Pacific, European littoral areas, and the Persian Gulf.

    May 22, 2017

  • Research Brief

    Domestic Factors Could Accelerate the Evolution of China's Nuclear Posture

    This brief discusses how domestic factors could influence China's evolving nuclear deterrent.

    Apr 20, 2017

  • Military vehicles carrying DF-26 ballistic missiles travel past Tiananmen Gate during a military parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Beijing, September 3, 2015

    Report

    China's Evolving Approach to Nuclear Deterrence

    China's nuclear posture has been consistent since 1964. But in recent years, China has increased the numbers of its missiles and warheads and improved the quality of its force. Understanding its future nuclear direction is critical to shaping U.S. strategy.

    Mar 15, 2017

  • Report

    Smarter Power, Stronger Partners, Volume II: Trends in Force Projection Against Potential Adversaries

    This book describes scenarios to test whether the anti-access and area-denial threat to U.S. force projection is growing more severe. They describe plausible U.S. and adversary military actions given current operational capabilities and approaches.

    Feb 8, 2017