Cruise Missile Proliferation
CRS Report for Congress
Cruise Missile Proliferation
Updated July 28, 2005Andrew Feickert
Specialist in National Defense
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
About 75 countries currently possess cruise missiles.1 Many experts predict that
anti — ship and land attack cruise missile proliferation will increase in terms of both
scope and technological sophistication. This report will be updated as events warrant.
There are reportedly about 130 different types of cruise missiles in the world today
and approximately 75 different countries are believed to have cruise missiles — with the
majority of these countries having only short range anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM).2 In
testimony to to the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 17, 2005, the Director
of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Vice Admiral Lowell E. Jacoby stated:
The numbers and capabilities of cruise missiles will increase, fueled by maturation of
land-attack and Ant-Ship Cruise Missile (ASCM) programs in Europe, Russia, and
China, sales of competing systems, and the spread of advanced-dual use technologies
and materials. Countering today’s ASCMs is a challenging problem and the difficulty
in countering these systems will increase with the introduction of more advanced
guidance and propulsion technologies. Several ASCMs will have a secondary land-3
Land attack cruise missiles (LACMs), which can be launched against ground targets
from the air, surface naval vessels, submarines, and from the ground, are of particular
concern. According to the U.S. National Air and Space Intelligence Center:
1 Cruise missiles differ from ballistic missiles in that they are powered throughout their entire
flight and fly a relatively flat, as opposed to ballistic, course to the target.
2 Michael E. Dickey, “Chapter 6, The Worldwide Biocruise Threat, The War Next Time -
Countering Rogue States and Terrorists Armed with Chemical and Biological Weapons,” United
States Air Force Counterproliferation Center, Nov. 2003, p. 156.
3 Testimony of Vice Admiral Lowell E. Jacoby, Director of U.S. Navy Defense Intelligence
Agency, in U.S. Congress, Senate Armed Services Committee, Current and Projected National
Security Threats to the United States, Mar. 17, 2005.
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Proliferation of land attack cruise missiles will expand in the next decade. At least
nine countries will be involved in producing these weapons. The majority of new
LACMs will be very accurate, conventionally armed, and available for export. The
high accuracy of many LACMs will allow them to inflict serious damage on important
targets, even when the missiles are armed only with conventional warheads. U.S.
defense systems could be severely stressed by low-flying stealthy cruise missiles that4
can simultaneously attack a target from several directions.
There are believed to be about 70,000 ASCMs in the inventories of about 70
countries.5 The largest class of these exported ASCMs are the U.S. Harpoon (entered
service in 1981), the French Exocet (1977), the Russian SS-N-2 Styx (1959) and the
Chinese HY-1 Silkworm (1959). About 12 industrialized countries currently produce
LACMs, and this number is expected to increase by the end of the decade.
Currently, only the United States and Russia have air and submarine launched
nuclear cruise missiles, although China is reportedly developing a new cruise missile with6
nuclear potential. Some believe that nuclear cruise missiles are probably outside the
technical range of most countries as most Third World nuclear designs would probably7
be too large and too heavy for cruise missile use. Cruise missiles have the potential to
be effective delivery systems for selected chemical and biological agents because they
could accurately deliver these payloads at sub-sonic speeds, insuring greater survivability
of the agent. Some have expressed concern that non-state or terrorist groups could obtain
cruise missiles and use them to conduct WMD attacks against either the United States or
its interests abroad. While terrorist use of a cruise missile may eventually become a
plausible scenario, successfully employing cruise missiles requires an in-depth technical
knowledge of the missile itself and mission planning,8 which many experts consider a
fairly difficult task for non-state groups.
Cruise Missile Attributes
Cruise missiles have a number of attributes that make them attractive to militaries
around the world — some of which include:
Proven and Effective. Air and sea-launched ASCMs are credited with the
destruction of the Israeli destroyer Eilat by Egypt in 1967, the HMS Sheffield and the
4 Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat (Unclassified), National Air and Space Intelligence Center
(NASIC), Aug. 2003, p. 25.
5 Information in this paragraph is from Thomas G. Mahnken, The Cruise Missile Challenge
Overview, Center For Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Nov. 9, 2004.
6 Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat, National Air & Space Intelligence Center, Feb. 2003, p. 22.
7 Cruise Missiles: Potential Delivery Systems for Weapons of Mass Destruction, U.S.
Government Publication, Apr. 2000, p. 32.
8 Mission planning for cruise missiles involves planning a route using detailed terrain information
typically gained from high-resolution satellite imagery. In addition, specific target data is needed
for the terminal phase of the missile’s flight and route and target data must then be uploaded to
the missile’s flight computer.
transport ship Atlantic Conveyor by Argentina in 1982, and the damaging of the USS
Stark by Iraq in 1987.9 Land attack cruise missiles (LACMs) have featured prominently
in a variety of U.S. contingency operations in the past decade. During the 2003 Iraq War,
the United States used almost 800 cruise missiles.10 Of these 800 or so missiles, only 711
of them reportedly failed to reach their targets. U.S. vulnerability to cruise missile
attack was highlighted during the 2003 Iraq War. During the conflict, U.S. and Kuwaiti
Patriot theater missile defense batteries intercepted and destroyed all nine Iraqi ballistic
missiles launched against the Coalition but failed to detect or intercept the five HY-12
2/CSSC-3 Seersucker cruise missiles launched against Kuwait. All the more troubling
was the fact that HY-2/CSSC-3 missiles — developed in the 1970s — are considered
large and slow compared to modern cruise missiles. This demonstrated vulnerability
could further the attractiveness of cruise missiles to countries looking for a means to
strike U.S. targets.
Affordable and Easily Acquired or Built. Relative to combat aircraft and
ballistic missiles, cruise missiles are affordable to most nations. As one senior U.S.
official suggested, “ an enemy with $50 million dollars to spend could buy one or two
advanced tactical fighters or 15 ballistic missiles with three launchers, or 100, off-the-
shelf, ready to fire cruise missiles.”13 In addition to the cost of acquisition, cruise missiles
require less maintenance, training, and logistical support than either manned combat
aircraft or ballistic missiles, which translates into lower operating costs.14 Given these
attributes, cruise missiles are often referred to as “The Poor Man’s Air Force.”
According to one senior DOD official, “if you want to see how easy it is to acquire
a cruise missile, just visit any international air show and see how aggressively they are
marketed.”15 One market analysis predicted that 6,000 to 7,000 LACMs could be sold by
2015 — excluding U.S., Russian, and Chinese sales.16 To avoid Missile Technology
Control Regime (MTCR)17 restrictions, many countries either produce cruise missiles
which just fall under the regime’s parameters or modify missiles proscribed by the MTCR
9 Thomas G. Mahnken, The Cruise Missile Challenge, Center For Strategic and Budgetary
Assessments, Mar. 2005, p. 13.
10 Tony Capaccio, “Raytheon Tomahawks Miss Few Iraqi Targets, Navy Says,” Bloomberg.com,
Apr. 12, 2003.
12 Thomas G. Mahnken, p. 1.
13 Adam J. Herbert, “Cruise Control,” Air Force Magazine, Dec. 2002, p. 43.
14 Jeffrey A. Larsen and Kerry M. Kartchner, Emerging Missile Challenges and Improving
Active Defenses, United States Air Force Counterproliferation Center, Aug. 2004, pp. 9-10.
15 Dickey, p. 156.
16 Robert Wall, “Cruise Missile Threat Grows,” Aviation Week & Space Technology, July 27,
17 The MTCR, begun in 1987, created a common set of export control guidelines that each
member country administers independently. See CRS Report RL31848, Missile Technology
Control regime (MTCR) and International Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile
Proliferation (ICOC): Background and Issues for Congress.
to produce a “less capable” variant 18 such as the SCALP/Storm Shadow version of the
French APACHE stealthy cruise missile. If acquiring a cruise missile proves to be too
difficult or expensive, it is possible to convert ASCMs into longer- ranged LACMs.
One such ASCM, the Styx-class (SS-N-2/SSC-3), is considered by some experts one
of the most easily converted missiles, largely due to its available on-board space, its
conventional aircraft-like construction, and its large warhead.19 The Styx liquid rocket
engine can be replaced with a turbojet to extend range, and its guidance system can be
replaced with a modern/compact Inertial Navigation System (INS)/Global Positioning
System (GPS) to provide sufficient accuracy for land attack operations. At least 20
countries including Angola, Cuba, Ethiopia, India, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria,
and Yemen are believed to have the Styx. India, North Korea, and possibly Egypt
produce the missile.
Accurate and Ability to Penetrate Defenses. Many analysts believe that the
cruise missile’s most significant attribute is its accuracy. Unclassified estimates of cruise20
missile accuracy are between 10 and 100 meters (33 feet and 328 feet, respectively) but
some experts suggest that accuracies of almost 1 meter or less are possible. Cruise
missiles are difficult to defend against because of their physical characteristics and their
ability to fly unpredictable courses at low altitudes. The cruise missile’s relatively small
size results in low visual, infrared (IR) and radar signatures which makes the missile
difficult for air defense radars to detect, identify, track, and engage.21 This situation is
further complicated if the cruise missile employs low observable (stealth) technologies
that reduce or minimize signatures.
The proliferation of both ASCMs and LACMs continues to be a significant U.S. and
international security concern. According to one report, naval surface combatant programs
in several countries (i.e. Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands,
Norway, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom) have
provisions for a new generation of ASCMs, including some with the dual capability of
striking land targets.22 Most of these newer missiles (e.g. many upgraded versions of
older missiles such as the Exocet and the Harpoon) incorporate new navigation and target
acquisition technologies, enabling the missiles to fly complex trajectories in littoral,
confined waters and still detect and track their intended targets.
India has conducted at least nine test firings of its PJ-10 supersonic “Brahmos”
ASCM (which it co-developed with Russia) since 2001 and has recently started serial
18 Robert Wall, p. 57.
19 Information in this section is taken from “Cruise Missiles: Potential Delivery Systems for
Weapons of Mass Destruction,” p. 47.
20 Key Cruise Missile Technologies in Detail, Center for Defense and International Security
Studies (CDISS), 1996, p. 1.
21 Rex R. Kiziah, p. 3.
22 Information in this section is taken from Joris Janssen Lok, “Modern Navy Missiles March
On,” Jane’s International Defense Review, Apr. 2005, pp. 47-48.
production.23 Because of its supersonic speed, some suggest that the Brahmos will be
almost impossible to defend against. It can also be easily modified for land-attack use.
It is reported that Russia and India plan to market the Brahmos to supposedly “friendly”
countries in order to cover developmental and production costs. Russia (an MTCR
member) pledges to keep the missile’s range below the MTCR’s 300 km range threshold.
China and Iran are also co-developing new short and long-range ASCMs.24
Developments in LACMs also continue to be a source of concern. In April 2005, a
Taiwanese intelligence source reported that China would soon begin to deploy a new,
subsonic LACM.25 This missile is “expected to approximate the performance and tactical
flexibility of the U.S. RGM/UGM-109 Tomahawk and will eventually be fielded in
ground, submarine, ship and air-launched versions.”26 This missile, known as the “Hong
Niao” or HN-class LACM, comes in three versions with the HN-2 version having a 1,800
km range from ground or ships and a 1,400 km range when fired from a submarine.27 It
is believed that this LACM can carry both nuclear and conventional payloads.28
According to Taiwanese press reports, China is expected to deploy some 200 additional
LACMs (including the new HN series) within striking distance of Taiwan by the end of
2006.29 Taiwan is also said to be developing a LACM with a 900 km range — capable
of striking targets in China.30
Russia has reportedly deployed its first conventional air launched cruise missile.31
The Kh-555 is a derivative of its Kh -55SM nuclear cruise missile and reportedly has a
range of between 3,000 and 3,500 km, an accuracy of between 5 to 10 meters, and a 400
kg conventional warhead capacity. These missiles, designed to be carried on Russian
long-range strategic bomber aircraft, are described by the Russian press as a weapon for
use in “local conflicts and counter-terrorist operations.” A number of unarmed Kh-55SM
cruise missiles — left in the Ukraine after the withdrawal of Russian forces — were
reportedly illicitly transferred to Iran and China.32 According to Ukranian government
officials, 12 missiles were supplied to Iran and six missiles to China in 2001. Some
Western analysts believe that more missiles could have been supplied than the 18
23 Information on the Brahmos is taken from Scott Jones, “Focus on Cruise Threat: Proliferation
Grows, Defense Unavailable,” DefenseNews.com, April 11, 2005.
24 “Chinese Missile Technology Transfers to Iran,” Jane’s Intelligence Review, May 2005.
25 Richard Fisher Jr., China’s New Strategic Cruise Missiles: From the Land, Sea, and Air,
International Strategy and Assessment Center, June 3, 2005.
27 Jane’s Strategic Weapons Systems, Issue 42, Jan. 2005, p. 69.
28 Ibid., p. 70.
29 “1,000 Chinese Missiles Near Taiwan by 2006,” Taepi Times, Apr. 24, 2005.
31 Information on the Kh-555 is from Robert Hewson, “Russian Conventional Cruise Missile
Enters Service,” Jane’s Defense Weekly, Dec. 15, 2004.
32 Information in this paragraph is taken from Robert Hewson, “Ukranian Cruise Missile Transfer
Under Scrutiny,” Jane’s Defense Weekly, Mar. 30, 2005 and Bill Gertz, “Missiles Sold to China
and Iran,” Washington Times, Apr. 6, 2005.
acknowledged by the Ukranian government and that North Korea might have also
received missiles. Some are concerned that these Kh-55SMs could be modified into
precision guided Kh-555s and could ultimately be fired from smaller aircraft (i.e. SU-
24s), thereby increasing its utility to nations that do not have large, long- range bomber
Reports indicate that other nations continue to advance their LACM programs.
France has recently announced that it is considering developing a new cruise missile
based on the Scalp-EG design and Sweden plans to test a new land attack version of its
RBS-15 in 2007.33 Italy also plans to test its MBDA Storm Shadow in South Africa
sometime in 2005 to fully demonstrate the missile’s capabilities.34
Cruise Missile Defense35
DOD’s cruise missile defense programs to protect deployed forces are under a
number of offices and organizations, which some analysts feel makes it difficult to
develop an effective strategy as well as associated technologies and weapons. Perhaps in
response to repeated calls by Congress for DOD to develop affordable and operationally
efficient cruise missile defense programs, DOD’s June 2005 Strategy for Homeland
Defense and Civil Support commits DOD to “devote significant attention to defending36
U.S. territory against cruise missile attacks.” The Senate version of the National
Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006 (S.Rept. 109-69 to S. 1042), calls for the
Secretary of Defense to establish an executive agent within DOD to “manage the
acquisition of capabilities necessary to defend the homeland against cruise missiles,37
unmanned aerial vehicles, and other low altitude threats.” The House version (H.Rept.
33 Scott Jones, “Focus on Cruise Threat,” DefenseNews.com, Apr. 11, 2005.
34 Tim Ripley, “Italy to Test Storm Shadow in South Africa,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, Jan. 26,
35 For additional information see CRS Report RS21921, Cruise Missile Defense.
36 Strategy for Homeland Defense and Civil Support, Department of Defense, June 2005, p. 25.
37 See Sec. 902 of S.Rept. 109-69 to S. 1042, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year