Ballistic missiles present key advantages (See Table 1) compared with cruise missiles (the latter are propelled until impact and include a guidance system). Ballistic missiles can reach a longer range with lower fuel in a relatively short time (around 30 minutes for an ICBM). Their very high speed in the ballistic phase also makes them harder to intercept and destroy, even if they are easily detected. For these reasons, cruise missiles have not replaced ballistic missiles for carrying nuclear weapons at long range even if cruise missiles provide better precision and are harder to detect due to their low altitude trajectory. Nevertheless, the cost of developing ballistic missiles and the infrastructure they require make them much more expensive than cruise missiles.
Key characteristics of ballistic and cruise missiles
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