The Special Challenges of
Cruise Missile
Dennis M. Gormley
Senior Fellow
Monterey Institute’s Center for
Nonproliferation Studies
Definition: Cruise Missile
A cruise missile is essentially a small unmanned aircraft
designed for offensive missions
Like an airplane it generates lift by airflow over aerodynamic
surfaces and is propelled by a small jet engine
The focus of this discussion will be on cruise missiles for land
attack and unmanned air vehicles capable of being turned into
weapons-carrying cruise missiles
However, many jet-propelled anti-ship cruise missiles have
essentially the same design, and while they are optimized for
attacking ships at sea, they potentially could be converted to
land-attack roles
The Context
Obsessive focus on ballistic-missile proliferation as cruise-missile use
Cruise missile proliferation seen as “lesser included case”
National Intelligence Estimates emphasize that “other means,” including
cruise missiles, are more likely ways of attacking the US homeland
Quantum leap in enabling technologies for land-attack cruise missiles
Slow but steady increase in LACM manufacturers
Strategic consequences for viable force projection and possible threats to
Slowly reacting defense preparedness and serious loopholes in nonproliferation policy
Key Points
Threat uncertainty has led to either careless exaggeration or—
more the case—neglect and an excessively singular focus on
the ballistic-missile threat
Multiple paths to cruise-missile acquisition, pace of
technological change, and weak export controls, mean that the
cruise-missile threat could emerge suddenly—before minimal
defense preparedness measures are in place
Unfolding threat demands hedging strategies encompassing
both improved non-proliferation policy and investments in
technology readiness programs
Technological change challenges governments to keep
nonproliferation policy up to date
Technological challenges of acquiring LACMs
Alternative ways to acquire LACMs
Defending against LACMs
Strengthening non-proliferation policy
Technological Challenges of
Acquiring LACMs
Key enabling technology—from TERCOM and DSMAC to
Small aerospace firms now provide variable autonomy flight
management systems
Commercial satellite imagery for fixed targets and GPS-aided
mission planning
Advanced propulsion systems for >1000 kilometer ranges still
remain tightly held
But propulsion workarounds abound: civil systems, reciprocating
Knowledge and Skill Requirements
Aeronautical, electrical, computer,
mechanical/machining, and testing skills
Systems-integration skills needed for complex
weapon-system development
Two primary drivers: scope and sophistication of
indigenous skills and level and quality of foreign
True autarky is mythical
Alternative Ways to Acquire LACMs
Converting anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs)
into LACMs
Converting unarmed UAVs into LACMs
Converting very light manned aircraft into armed
UAVs (viz., LACMs)
Acquiring LACMs from industrial suppliers
Converting ASCMs
From pool of ~75,000 ASCMs, potential conversion candidates are likely
to be a small fraction
Modern designs offer little space (physical volume) for
longer-range conversions (additional fuel)
Silkworm-class ASCMs offer attractive potential
Developing modern land-attack navigation system is biggest barrier;
finding suitable propulsion is next
Several years to achieve full capability to manufacture and effectively
deploy converted ASCMs (cut in half with substantial foreign assistance)
Notional Extended-Range HY-4
Land attack
Cruise Altitude:
100 to 200 m
8.48 m
Maximum Speed:
0.68 (Mach)
Body Diameter:
0.76 m
Ship, truck/trailer, aircraft
2.41 m
Launch Weight:
2,221 kg
• Installation of Land-Attack Navigation System
708 km
• Installation of fuel “plugs”
500 kg HE
• Fuel system modifications
855 kg
Hypothetical Tularemia Attack on San Diego
A land-attack Silkworm variant, moving southward offshore, releases 120 kg
of liquid BW agent. The colored bands represent the probability of infection
(yellow >90 percent, green >50 percent, pink >10 percent).
Converting Unarmed UAVs
Major market growth expected in both military and civilian
sectors by 2005
40 nations produce UAVs, of which half are not MTCR
Some already come with GPS/INS systems
Several examples (India, South Africa, Israel, Italy) already
demonstrate conversion potential
True range potential of UAVs not apparent—recent study
reveals that nearly 80 percent of 600 UAVs examined have
ranges >300km
>75% of the UAVs Have Range
Greater Than 300 km
>2000 km
<300 km
1001-2000 km
Range (km)
301-500 km
501-1000 km
Converting Very Light Aircraft
Appeal represented by low cost, ease of
conversion, and challenges posed to
advanced air defenses
Many well-tested designs with ranges to
1000km, payloads of 150kg, take-off
distances of 100-200m, cruise speeds of
120kts (stall speeds <80kts)
UAV flight control systems—permitting
conversion from manned to unmanned
flight—make conversion much easier
“Poor man’s” strategic arsenal or
terrorist’s weapon of choice?
Quest for WMD
Interest in aerial balloon delivery for dispersing biological or
chemical agents
Crop duster airplanes investigated by at least two of the
September 11 plotters
43 recorded cases involving 14 terrorist groups in which
remote-control delivery systems either threatened, developed,
or actually utilized
Aerodynamic delivery (airplanes, UAVs, cruise missiles) most
effective method of delivering biological and chemical agents
Suicide appeal is compelling but effectiveness probably drives
choice of delivery means
Simply Buying LACMs
Expanding number of LACM
producers with strong export
motivations to reduce unit costs
European manufacturers have
leapt to top rung of world
Russia and China could choose to
exploit MCTR deficiencies
regarding cruise missiles
Marketing Brochure for Russia’s Kh-65SE
Cruise Missile Defense Challenges
Detecting another class of air targets featuring
Reduced signatures
Terrain masking
Use of simple endgame countermeasures
360 degree route of attack
Need for high clutter rejection
Saturation attacks with cheap UAVs
Fratricide or identifying friend from foe (IFF) problems
The Limits of Defense Preparedness
Despite huge investments in air defenses, notable shortcomings—some on display
during Operation Iraqi Freedom—exist in defending against LACMs
Limited connectivity among services in C3 and combat ID
Each service procures equipment and develops procedures unique to its own vision of
LACM defense
Only a handful of manned interceptors supported by limited ground-based radars
comprise continental air defenses
Virtually no detection capability below 3000 feet over the US homeland
“Poor man’s” arsenal of low-cost cruise missiles threatens to make both ballistic- and
cruise-missile defenses problematical
Yet, however difficult the challenge, there is something to build upon, which is less the
case with ballistic missile defense
The Effect of RCS Reduction on AWACS
(Target Speed: 800 km/hr)
•7 square meter aircraft
•0.1 square meter cruise
•0.0001 square meter
cruise missile
•Detection range: 370 km
•Detection range: 130 km
•Detection range: < 25 km
•Reaction time: 28 minutes
•Reaction time: 10 minutes
•Reaction time: < 2 minutes
Implementing Joint Cruise Missile
Congressional support began in earnest with “Cruise Missile
Defense Initiative” FY96 Defense Authorization Act
Very uneven technology development program thus far—Air
Force only service making some progress
Several years of technology development needed to position
DOD to implement Defense Planning Guidance on CMD
Homeland defense requires both external and internal focus
Cruise missile defense remains weak sister to BMD programs
Four LACM Defense Priorities
Providing a single integrated air picture with greatly improved
combat ID
Improving the performance of airborne surveillance radars and
missile seekers against low cross-section cruise missiles and linking
elevated sensors to ground- and air-based shooters to create a widearea defense
Lowering the cost of air-defense interceptors to cope with large, lowcost raids of LACMs
Exploiting improvements in theater cruise missile defense to
consider homeland defense options
Nonproliferation Policy Options
1987 Missile Technology Control Regime
Seeks member adherence to agreed list of export-policy
guidelines controlling transfer of ballistic, cruise, UAVs
having range of 300km and payload of 500kg (nuclear)
 1993 modification to include systems capable of
delivering chemical/biological payloads
 Wide range of dual-use technologies subjected to caseby-case review
 Members—now 33—unilaterally implement export
MTCR Successes: The Glass Half Full
Dismantling of the Condor ballistic missile program
Hundreds of blocked transfers of components,
technologies, and production capabilities
Strong consensus on ballistic missile transfers
Need to capitalize on recent MTCR attention to
UAVs/cruise missiles
Antiterrorism Proposal
MTCR Warsaw Plenary 2002: examine ways of limiting the risk that controlled
items and their technologies could fall into the hands of terrorist groups
Terrorist capabilities trail ambitions: therefore make the “long pole in the tent”
(flight management) even longer
U.S. “anti-terrorism” proposal to Wassenaar Arrangement reflects concern
about kit airplanes as terrorist weapons, but it failed to elicit support because of
lack of specificity
Changes to the MTCR technology annex (Item 10) covering flight controls are
needed to impose case-by-case reviews of UAV flight management system
Advantage over Wassenaar because of MTCR’s no-undercut provisions
Strengthening Non-proliferation Policy:
Top Priorities
Creating a uniform set of ground rules for determining LACM/UAV
range and payload--Accomplished
Close existing loophole on flight management systems--Attempted in
Wassenaar Agreement (needs reformulation and consideration in
MTCR, too)
Implementing tighter controls on stealthy cruise missiles--Attempted
but stalled by lack of consensus
Implementing tighter controls on countermeasure technologies
specially designed for LACM penetration
Broadening current MTCR parameters governing controls on jet