How Much Do You Know About Missiles?


By: John Miller

6 Min Quiz

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

In the early 20th century, a whole new world of military technologies began sweeping the globe, from warplanes to machine guns to missiles. The first missiles were rudimentary devices that had zero form of guidance. These days, missiles can be launched from one continent and then guided to a pinpointed location half a world away. Do you think you know anything about these weapons and their explosive history?

Missile systems often make headlines, and as such, they become ingrained into our cultural consciousness. During the Cold War, the Soviet Semyorka missiles sent shivers running down the spines of Americans fearing WWIII. And there’s no doubt that citizens in the USSR feared America Minutemen missiles for the same reasons.

It all started just after the turn of the 20th century. Do you know which armed conflict really kicked missile technology into high gear? And do you know when missiles really made a difference in a war zone?/p>

And who could forget the widely mocked Patriot missile program? Often mocked, these missiles have slowly but surely improved in their primary mission. Do you know what that mission is?

Not all missiles are weapons. Some are used for peaceful purposes, too. Can you name them?

Let’s blast off together and see if you can keep up with this MACH 5 missile quiz. Hurry, we’ve got an inbound SAM!

What is a missile?

A missile, by today's definition, is a self-propelled weapon that's capable of destroying targets at a distance. They are sometimes called rockets.


When did militaries first tinker with missiles during combat?

During the first World War, missiles were still very much in the experimental stage. But both generals and engineers used their lessons from the war toward WWII, which was coming sooner rather than later.


What is a "SAM"?

A SAM is a surface-to-air missile. Military pilots do everything in their power to avoid being targeted by SAMs, which become more sophisticated each year.


The Henschel Hs 298 was a German missile meant for ______.

The WWII-era Henschel Hs 298 was the first air-to-air missile. It had a built-in radio system and it was controlled by a joystick-wielding operator on the ground.


A Tomahawk is a famous type of _____ missile.

In the '90s, America's Tomahawk cruise missiles gained a lot of press coverage during strikes in the Middle East. Often launched from sea, these missiles can streak just above ground level, evading radar and enemy countermeasures, and then pinpoint a small target from afar.


The AIM-9 Sidewinder is a famous air-to-air missile. How does it track its targets?

The AIM-9 Sidewinder is a heat-seeking air-to-air missile. Most versions have infrared devices that help them track the exhaust from enemy planes ... and then blast them to smithereens.


In WWI, the very first air-to-air missiles were meant to destroy which targets?

In WWI, simple air-to-air missiles were fired at German Zeppelin balloons. The unguided missiles were obviously best for really large targets like balloons, otherwise they'd veer off into no man's land.


The WWII-era Ruhrstahl X-4 was a German air-to-air missile guided by _____.

The Ruhrstahl X-4 was a wire-guided air-to-air missile. These were never deployed in the war, but the concept proved successul in later years.


What is special about ICBMs?

ICBMs are intercontinental ballistics missiles, good for attacking far-off countries. In dire circumstances, they can be tipped with nuclear warheads.


Which country developed the very first ICBM?

During the Cold War, the USSR created the R-7A, the first-ever ICBM. First tested in 1957, it was (fortunately) never used for combat purposes.


What is the MINIMUM range of ICBMs?

ICBMs don't even get warmed up until they've gone at least 3,400 miles. And they can go much, much farther.


During which conflict did Germany use the first cruise missiles?

In WWII, Germany deployed its V-1 cruise missiles, which were often called "buzz bombs" due to the distinctive sound they made. Most V-1s targeted British cities to terrorize civilians.


The "V" in Germany's V-1 missiles stood for "Vergeltungswaffe," which meant what?

The "V" stood for Vergeltungswaffe, which essentially meant "retribution weapon." In other words, V-1s were meant as weapons of terror from the outset.


True or false, can ICBMs carry multiple warheads meant for DIFFERENT targets?

Some modern ICBMs are so advanced that they can deploy more than one warhead … and each warhead and then be guided to a different target. It's just one reason ICBMs inspire so much fear in the military and government alike.


During WWII, how did Allied missile designs compared to those built by the Germans?

During WWII, German engineers were leaps and bounds ahead of the Allies. It wasn't until after the war that the Allies used captured German information to begin developing their own real missiles.


The first cruise missiles were likened to ______.

In the WWI years, the first cruise missiles were thought of as aerial torpedoes. They were essentially small planes loaded with TNT.


The Soviet R-7 ICBM was never used for combat. But it was used for what significant purpose?

The Soviets didn't attack anyone with their R-7 ICBM. However, they did use it to put the world's first artificial satellite (Sputnik 1) into orbit around Earth, and in some ways that scared Americans more than a nuclear attack.


Which type of missile has a "re-entry" phase?

ICBMs fly straight out of Earth's atmosphere and into space … and then then plunge toward terra firma again. That means they must be able to withstand the high heat of re-entry.


Which country built a famous ICBM named "Titan"?

In the late 1950s, the U.S. began building its Titan ICBMs as part of the Cold War effort. Hundreds of Titans were launched, many for the purpose of putting NASA projects into space.


The AIM-4 Falcon was America's first operational air-to-air missile. When did it enter service in the Air Force?

Engineers started designing these missiles immediately after WWII. But it took them 10 years -- until 1956 -- to get the AIM-4 Falcon loaded onto American planes.


An MGM-1 Matador is what kind of weapon?

The MGM-1 Matador was the first working cruise missile developed by the United States. They were put into service in the early 1950s.


The first air-to-air missiles were meant to be used against _____.

No one wanted a repeat of the carpet bombing that occurred in WWII, so countries made air-to-air missiles to shoot down slow, heavily armed bombers. Early air-to-air missiles were terrible against speedy fighters.


True or false, are ICBMs only launched from missile silos deep in the ground?

Modern ICBMs can be launched from multiple platforms, including silos, submarines, railways and trucks. All the better to deal death, my dear.


What was the purpose of the U.S.'s AIR-2 Genie?

During the Cold War, the AIR-2 Genie was an ominous development -- an air-to-air missile meant to blast formations of incoming bombers … which would probably be carrying nuclear warheads.


What was one terrifying aspect of the American AIR-2 Genie missile?

Want to stop a formation of Soviet bombers surely loaded with nukes bound for New York City? Why, blast them with an AIR-2 Genie, an air-to-air missile loaded with, you guessed it, a 1.5-kiloton nuclear warhead. Nothing sketchy about that plan, not at all.


The LGM-30 Minuteman III is an active U.S. ICBM. What is the missile's maximum range?

America's LGM-30 Minuteman III has a maximum range of about 8,000 miles. Each Minuteman can carry up to three separate nuclear warheads. You hear that, Vladimir? Now be a good boy!


What's the purpose of a Patriot missile system?

Since the 1980s, the U.S. has been refining its oft-ridiculed Patriot missile system. Patriots are designed to knock down and destroy incoming enemy missiles … but the task is exceedingly difficult even with modern digital technologies.


In 1991, the U.S. and USSR signed the START I treaty, which was meant to limit which weapon?

As the Cold War wound down, hostilities between the U.S. and USSR softened. The START I treaty was meant to cut down on the number of ICBMs in both countries' stockpiles, that way they only had enough nukes to kill each other 10 times over instead of 20.


What is the purpose of the AGM-45 Shrike?

The AGM-45 Shrike has a very narrow purpose -- it is meant to target and destroy enemy radar, in hopes of blinding the enemy during a heated battle.


The AIM‐7 Sparrow was an air-to-air missile that tracked its targets through which means?

The AIM‐7 Sparrow was a radar-guided missile. Tens of thousands of these were manufactured and they were used to shoot down Iraqi aircraft in the the Gulf War.


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