How do missiles work ? | Targeting, Guidance & Propulsion

All of us has seen war footages and Hollywood war movies where a missile bound air strike saves the day. We have also heard of rockets something which seems to be just like a missile but actually isn’t. Although beyond the scope of this write-up but still we will make a small mention of rockets.



By definition, A missile is a self-propelled vehicle which uses a guiding system to guide it to its location. The basic difference between a missile and rocket is its guidance system. A rocket has no guidance and relies on pre-fed coordinates to hit its target. Missiles were first developed by German Nazis and were simple devices guided by radio waves. The missile technology has come a far way since then.


Missile Diagram

Missiles are generally categorized on the basis of its launch platform. Missiles can be air to surface, surface to surface and air to air depending on the nature of the application and need. Some missiles can even be launched from underneath a sea where a submarine acts as the launch platform.

Also Read: How rocket engines’ cooling system works?

Guidance and Targeting in missiles:

Modern missiles are a complex piece of machinery, they make use of sophisticated computer algorithms and external guidance technology to reach their targets.Guidance and targeting for modern missile systems go hand in hand as both are essentially required in order to make the hit a success. Missiles are really expensive pieces of equipment hence the guidance and targeting systems on them has to be flawless and perfect.

A missile might use simple fixed GPS coordinates as sent back by a ground team near the target and responsible for marking the target and then the same is fed into the missiles computers which in turn decides the flight path of the missile.


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