How Cruise Missiles Work


Cruise Missile
Cruise Missile
Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Defense

Cruise missiles are 20 feet (6.25 meters) long and 21 inches (0.52 meters) in diameter. At launch, they include a 550-pound (250-kg) solid rocket booster and weigh 3,200 pounds (1450 kg).

The booster falls away once it has burned its fuel. The wings, tail fins and air inlet unfold, and the turbofan engine takes over.

This engine weighs just 145 pounds (65 kg) and produces 600 pounds of thrust burning RJ4 fuel. The fuel load is 800 to 1,000 pounds (about 450 kg) of fuel at launch, or approximately 150 gallons (600 liters). The missile has a cruising speed of 550 mph (880 kph).