What was the first ICBM

Long-Range Missiles: Who Has the Biggest? Who can go the furthest?

In the past few decades, the two terms have slipped into our linguistic usage - almost unnoticed - without their exact definition causing the general public a lot of headache. The "long-range missile", the Duden thinks - not too precise, but correct - is "a missile with a comparatively long range".

So far so good. But with the launcher it is a bit more diffuse. After all, every rocket "carries" some kind of payload - from manned spacecraft to satellites, space probes, components for space stations to atomic warheads. Even our harmless little New Year's Eve rockets drag their small "payload" up to the permitted maximum height of 100 meters - where they then dissolve in small spectacular explosions and bright rain of colors.

So what is a special "carrier" missile supposed to do, if all missiles carry their "payload" equally. And why "long-range missiles" when at least all missiles that can launch satellites are basically long-range missiles in terms of performance. Otherwise they would not be able to put their satellites into orbit.

This realization shocked the Americans when the first of all artificial earth satellites, the Russian Sputnik-1, was launched on October 4, 1957. They suddenly understood that the Russians had a missile with which they could not only fire satellites into space, but also very well fire nuclear warheads at the United States - while the United States itself did not yet have a comparable weapon.

Launchers are automatically long-range missiles

So if all satellite launchers are automatically long-range missiles, then - at least in this area - the distinction between launchers and long-range missiles no longer appears to be imperative. In fact, this differentiation probably also has a different meaning.

When state-sponsored space travel began in the Federal Republic of Germany in 1962 - in view of the German role in World War II - great importance was attached to avoiding even the slightest appearance of a military-oriented German space travel, such as the German participation in the construction of the Large three-stage rocket "Europa-1".

First and foremost, probably for this reason, one spoke cautiously of "satellite launch vehicles", in order to make it clear to every non-technician that one was by no means intending to build a projectile for military warheads.

The military themselves, on the other hand, had no such reservations. Rather, they are concerned with precisely classifying the capabilities of their missiles. Today, long-range missiles or ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles) are those projectiles that can cover distances of 5,000 to 15,000 kilometers.

Below that is the class of IRBMs (Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles). These "medium-range missiles with a longer range" can haul their deadly load 2400 to 5500 kilometers, the "normal" medium-range missiles, the MRBMs (Medium Range Ballistic Missiles), bring it to 800 to 2400 kilometers, the short-range missiles (SRBMs) to 150 up to 800 kilometers.