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 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

  • News Release

    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

  • 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

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

    Report

    Hypersonic Missile Nonproliferation

    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

  • Maps with targets indicated with red circles

    Report

    How to Counter Aggression When Shielded by A2/AD Capabilities

    Land-based, multi-domain anti-access/area denial forces can play a role in helping the United States 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

    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

    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

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives a New Year address in Pyongyang on January 1, 2017

    Commentary

    Trump Should Confront Kim Over ICBM Tests

    Whether successful or not, an ICBM test by North Korea would be very much against U.S. interests and President-elect Trump should act to counter it as early as possible. A turn to the basics of deterrence would be the path most likely to succeed.

    Jan 6, 2017

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

    Commentary

    The Future of Hypersonic Weapons

    Russia and China appear to be developing hypersonic weapons. But the United States should make decisions about whether to develop its own hypersonic weapons in a vacuum.

    Oct 20, 2016

  • The 9T250-1 transporter and loader vehicle for a Russian Iskander-M system

    Report

    Weighing the Potential Value of Theater Ballistic Missiles in the Pacific

    The U.S. Department of State concluded in 2014 that Russia is in violation of its obligations under the INF Treaty. If the treaty cannot be revived, the U.S. Army should assess the value of adding conventional land-based theater ballistic missiles to its portfolio of strike capabilities.

    Jun 28, 2016

  • Report

    Report

    Identifying Key Workplace Stressors Affecting Twentieth Air Force: Analyses Conducted from December 2012 Through February 2013

    A series of focus groups with 20th Air Force personnel and their spouses helped assess such issues as job stress and satisfaction and problem behaviors and solicit suggestions for addressing them.

    Dec 23, 2015

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    The Iranian Missile Threat to Air Bases: A Distant Second to China's Conventional Deterrent

    Iranian and Chinese ballistic missile doctrine contrasted. Implications for United States (US) force posture, force structure, and ability to project force globally.

    Jul 31, 2015

  • A military policeman looks through binoculars before the official groundbreaking ceremony of the site for the U.S. Aegis Ashore missile defense facility east of Bucharest, October 28, 2013

    Report

    Defending Against Iranian Missile Threats Without Diluting the Russian Deterrent

    In 2013, the U.S. opted to cancel Phase 4 of its European Phased Adaptive Approach missile defense system. Russia had cited it as a threat to its nuclear deterrent. The restructured U.S. system remains capable of reaching Iranian missiles without posing a threat to Russia's missile forces.

    Feb 13, 2015

  • Report

    Report

    Cruise Missile Penaid Nonproliferation: Hindering the Spread of Countermeasures Against Cruise Missile Defenses

    An attacker's missile-borne countermeasures to cruise missile defenses are known as penetration aids, or penaids. This research recommends export controls on penaid-related items under the Missile Technology Control Regime.

    Oct 20, 2014

  • Palestinians walk past a mosque and water tower damaged by Israeli air strikes and shelling in Khuzaa, in the southern Gaza Strip

    Commentary

    The Grim Lessons of “Protective Edge”

    For all the attempts to find technological quick fixes or enforce a permanent settlement, Operation Protective Edge has highlighted that a war of attrition, known as a “long war,” remains the only viable strategy in the current environment.

    Sep 3, 2014