A tactical ballistic missile is a ballistic missile designed for short-range battlefield use. Typically, range is less than 300 kilometres (190 mi). Tactical ballistic missiles are usually mobile to ensure survivability and quick deployment, as well as carrying a variety of warheads to target enemy facilities, assembly areas, artillery, and other targets behind the front lines. Warheads can include conventional high explosive, chemical, biological, or nuclear warheads. Typically tactical nuclear weapons are limited in their total yield compared to strategic rockets.
Tactical ballistic missiles fill the gap between conventional rocket artillery and longer-range theatre ballistic missiles. Tactical missiles can carry heavy payloads deep behind enemy lines in comparison to rockets or tube artillery, while having better mobility and less expense than the more strategic theatre missiles. Additionally, due to their mobility, tactical missiles are better suited to responding to developments on the battlefield.
For many nations, tactical missiles represent the upper limit of their land-based military equipment. They can provide a powerful weapon for a very economical price, and in some cases are sought to help level the field against opponents who are clearly superior in other areas of military technology. Currently, ballistic missile technology is relatively accessible to nations that may find other military technology beyond easy reach.
Ballistic missiles are still difficult to defeat on the battlefield. Newer air defense systems have improved ability to intercept tactical missiles, but still can not reliably protect assets against ballistic missile threats. This allows a moderate force of missiles to threaten a superior enemy by penetrating their air defenses better than with conventional aircraft, while providing a deeper strike than conventional artillery.
- MGM-140 ATACMS (300 km) United States
- WS-1 (60–180 km) China
- DTI-1 (60–180 km) Thailand
- [Prithvi (missile)] (100–150 km), India
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