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5 ICBMs that could end the world: A look at the most deadly missiles in existence


As a definition, any supersonic missile that has a range of at least 4040m (6,500 km) and follows a ballistic trajectory after a powered, guided launch falls into the ICBM category.

At takeoff, the ICBM enters the boost phase until it reaches space. In the second phase, the ICBM enters space as it continues on its ballistic trajectory taking advantage of the fact that there's no air resistance. In the third phase, on the way back down to the ground, it ejects a number of independently targetable re-entry vehicles and decoys. Those vehicles are nuclear warheads.

You all know what happens next.

Now, off to the list!


The Trident D5, also known as the Trident II, is a ballistic missile launched from a submarine. The United States and the United Kingdom have deployed these missiles. Trident II missiles from the United States are carried by Ohio-class submarines, while British missiles are carried by Vanguard-class submarines. The range of the Trident II missile is 4847m (7800 km) at full load and 7456m (12,000 km) at reduced load. Each US Trident II missile can carry up to 14.475 kT yield warheads. The Trident II missile is extremely accurate. An Astro-inertial navigation system guides it to the target but can also receive GPS updates. The fact that it is submarine-launched makes it more effective, as US ballistic missile submarines are extremely hard to detect.

4- RS-24 YARS (SS-29 NATO name)

This ICBM was developed both as a road-mobile and silo-based system, that would use the same missile as RS-12M Topol-M. Yars is planned to become the mainstay of the ground-based component of the Russian nuclear force. This one has a range of 7456m (12,000 km) and is MIRV-equipped. It can carry up to 10 independently targetable warheads with 100-300 kT yield. In 2019 the highly maneuvrable Avangard hypersonic gliding re-entry vehicle was declared operational. This new technology is also an addition to this already formidable ICBM platform. Since this ICBM was designed to overcome missile defense systems, it is estimated that it has at least a 60-65% chance to do so. The mobile launcher has 310m (500 km) autonomy on roads and has a high probability of surviving the first nuclear strike.


The Minuteman III is a silo-based missile. With the removal of the LGM-118 Peacekeeper (yes, they really DID name an ICBM Peacekeeper), the Minuteman III has become the only US land-based ICBM in service. It was the first MIRV-capable missile. The Minuteman III missile has a maximum range of 8077m (13,000 km) This ICBM carries a payload of three independently targetable re-entry vehicles. Each of these MIRVs is armed with a nuclear warhead with a destructive power between 300 to 500 kT. It also carries penetration aids to counter enemy missile defense systems. This one is not as powerful or long-range or accurate as the first two missiles on our list. But it has a pointy edge! And what is good for Admiral General Aladeen is good enough for any of us. Any objections?


Being the most powerful ICBM in China’s inventory DF-41 carries up to 10 Multiple Independently-targetable reentry vehicles. The DF-41 is based on Taian HTF5980 special wheeled chassis with a 16x16 configuration. This vehicle has some degree of cross-country mobility and can travel over various terrain. The missile reportedly has an operational range between 7,500 to 8,100m(12,000 to 13,000 km) with a top speed of Mach 25. That is fast! It likely uses an inertial guidance system with stellar or satellite updates and is quite accurate. Being mobile gives it a high probability of surviving the first nuclear strike. Dongfeng means “East Wind” by the way. What a lovely name for a country-killing-grade weapon.


This one is big!

When we say big, we mean 456,000lb big.

To put it into perspective we can say that a Minutemen III missile weighs around 80,000lb.

And its specs are mind-blowing at the least.

RS-28 SARMAT is a very capable missile, mainly because of its high speed and extremely high throw weight. It has a range of 11 000m (17,700km) and carries up to 10 MIRVs with a blast yield of 0.75-1 MT and up to 40 penetration aids. This missile system’s power-to-weight ratio makes the trajectory changeable, allowing missiles to be fired at various trajectories. Sarmat is capable of carrying hypersonic glide vehicles along with other types of warheads. It has a short boost phase, which shortens the interval when it can be tracked by satellites with infrared sensors, such as the U.S. Space-Based Infrared System, making it more difficult to intercept. The Sarmat is able to fly a trajectory over the South Pole, completely immune to any current missile defense system.

So, here we go. Since we provided you with enough nightmare fuel we can happily end this episode and our first season. If you want to learn about the nuclear winter, please check out our “Imagine That” series video, where we draw a good picture of life after a planet-wide nuclear apocalypse.

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