A missile can be defined as an unmanned self-propelled guided weapon system.
Missiles can be classified attending at different concepts: attending at the trajectory, missiles can be cruise, ballistic, or semi-ballistic. A ballistic missile is a missile that follows a sub-orbital ballistic flightpath with the objective to a predetermined target. The missile is only guided during the relatively brief initial powered phase of flight and its course is subsequently governed by the laws of orbital mechanics and ballistics. Attending at the target, missiles can be classified as anti-submarines, anti-aircraft, anti-missile, anti-tank, anti-radar, etc. If we look at the military function, missiles can be classified as strategic and tactical. However, the most extended criteria is as follows:
- Air-to-air: launched from an airplane against an arial target.
- Surface-to-air: design as defense against enemy airplanes or missiles.
- Air-to-surface: dropped from airplanes.
- Surface-to-surface: supports infantry in surface operations.
The general configuration of a missile consists in a cylindrical body with an ogival warhead and surfaces with aerodynamic control. Missiles also have a guiding system and are powered by an engine, generally either a type of rocket or jet engine.