Cruise Missile Defense

Ravi R. Hichkad and Christopher Bolkcom, Congressional Research Service

Congress has expressed interest in cruise missile defense for years. Cruise missiles
(CMs) are essentially unmanned attack aircraft — vehicles composed of an airframe,
propulsion system, guidance system, and weapons payload. They may possess highly
complex navigation and targeting systems and thus have the capability to sustain low,
terrain-hugging flight paths as well as strike with great accuracy. CMs can be launched
from numerous platforms — air-, land-, or sea-based — and they can be outfitted with
either conventional weapons or weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The Department
of Defense is pursuing several initiatives that seek to improve capabilities against an
unpredictable cruise missile threat. These initiatives compete for funding and
congressional attention. This report will be updated as events warrant.

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