What is a ballistic missile and why is Iran using them against the U.S.?

SEE: Iran missile strike targets U.S. bases in Iraq

Iran’s revenge for the killing of a top military official came early Wednesday as the country launched ballistic missiles at two U.S. military bases in northern Iraq.

The attack Wednesday was launched to avenge the killing by the United States of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, a top Iranian military leader. According to the Department of Defense and various media reports, ballistic missiles were used in the attack.

What is a ballistic missile and which bases were targeted? Here’s a look at what happened.

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Which bases were attacked: Ain al-Assad airbase is in Iraq’s western Anbar province and a base in Irbil in Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdish region was attacked, the Pentagon confirmed.

How were they attacked: The bases were attacked with ballistic missiles, according to the Pentagon. According to the Associated Press, the attack consisted of a series of surface to surface missiles.

What are ballistic missiles: A ballistic missile has a ballistic trajectory – meaning it is powered and guided toward a target, but as its fuel is spent, the missile’s warhead detaches and falls under gravity onto its target.

Imagine a trajectory that is a high, arching path toward a target.

  • Ballistic missiles are made up of three parts: a propulsion system, a guidance system and the payload, which destroys the target.
  • Ballistic missiles are more difficult to intercept than cruise missiles because they can be launched quickly and travel at high speeds.
  • The payload in a ballistic missile can include conventional explosives, biological, chemical or nuclear warheads.
  • They are propelled by solid or liquid fuels.

Where were the missiles fired from: The missiles came from somewhere inside the country of Iran. According to the AP, Iranian State TV said the Guard’s aerospace division that controls Iran’s missile program launched the attack, which it said was part of an operation dubbed “Martyr Soleimani.”

Was anyone injured: So far, there is no report on causalities.

Source: Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance; The Associated Press

Coffins of Gen. Qassem Soleimani and others who were killed in Iraq by a U.S. drone strike, are carried on a truck surrounded by mourners during a funeral procession, in the city of Kerman, Iran, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020. The leader of Iran's Revolutionary Guard threatened on Tuesday to "set ablaze" places supported by the United States over the killing of a top Iranian general in a U.S. airstrike last week, sparking cries from the crowd of supporters of "Death to Israel!"
Coffins of Gen. Qassem Soleimani and others who were killed in Iraq by a U.S. drone strike, are carried on a truck surrounded by mourners during a funeral procession, in the city of Kerman, Iran, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020. The leader of Iran's Revolutionary Guard threatened on Tuesday to "set ablaze" places supported by the United States over the killing of a top Iranian general in a U.S. airstrike last week, sparking cries from the crowd of supporters of "Death to Israel!" (Erfan Kouchari/Tasnim News Agency via AP/AP)

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