Autoduel QuarterlyVolume 9Issue 1

Cruisin': Cruise Missiles in Car Wars

By John Schuncke and Norman McMullan

A cruise missile is really a small, computer­guided, unmanned airplane which accurately and stealthily carries a payload to a target. Cruise missiles are jet­powered missiles with ranges measured in hundreds of miles. They are directed by intelligent, self­contained guidance systems which use terrain­following radar, visual terrain­image matching and inertial navigation to fly a programmed course from launch point to target. A cruise missile flies low­level ­ "on the deck" ­ to avoid detection.
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Cruise missiles are seldom if ever seen in civilian hands. They are the ultimate high­tech missile; governments and the very largest corporations are the only organizations which can afford to make them, keep them and use them. As military equipment, civilian possession of these weapons is strictly forbidden. Cruise missiles are designed to deliver chemical, biological and even nuclear payloads from extreme range. So the average duelist will probably never run into one. And count himself lucky for it.

How to Build a Cruise Missile

A cruise missile consists of an airframe, flight surfaces (usually wings), a jet engine, jet fuel, a launch propellant to get the missile up to a speed where the wings can provide lift, a guidance system and a warhead.

The airframe is the skeleton and skin of the missile. It holds everything together. It can also be armored, to provide some protection from any defensive weapons that may be used against it, and the skin is usually radar­absorptive and fireproof (i.e., flameproof stealth armor).

The wings and control surfaces provide lift and flight control to the missile over its long trip. The wings are needed because the flight of a cruise missile is too long and too low to be ballistic, like a conventional vehicular rocket's is. Control surfaces allow the missile to maneuver. The flight surfaces usually stow within the airframe before launch, to conserve space, and pop out of their stowage position into flight position at launch. They, like the airframe, are usually radar­absorptive and fireproof.

The jet is a small marvel. It is compact and fuel­efficient in the extreme. It is also cool­running (for a jet and leaves remarkably little detectable emissions, or "signature," consisting mostly of smoke, heat and noise for a jet engine. It burns jet fuel, of course, the storage of which takes up the bulk of the airframe. Jet fuel is highly flammable, so a missile destroyed in mid­air would make spectacular fireworks. For this reason, the fuel tank is self­sealing and fire retardant.

Because the jet engine is designed for compactness and efficiency, the missile's acceleration is somewhat less than blazing. In fact, the missile needs assistance at launch to get to flight speed. The launch propellant is a rocket engine which bums for about 10 seconds, getting the jet to around 100 mph. At this point the wings can provide adequate lift, and the jet has decent thrust.

Making this miniature airplane go where it needs to be is the guidance system's chore. The guidance system consists of several different types of sensors, an inertial tracking system and an extremely fast and sophisticated computer. The sensors provide information on the radar and infrared visual profiles of the ground the missile is flying over and towards, the state of ground targets and threats to the missile, and flight information like altitude and airspeed. The inertial tracker allows the computer to determine its precise location relative to launch point, and by extension to the target. The computer puts it all together at phenomenal speeds, to command the controls and the engine to carry out the maneuvers needed to avoid the terrain and follow the course to target. In other words, the computer is the pilot.

The warhead, of course, is the reason for this whole system. It can be a (very) large conventional explosive, a chemical or biological weapon, a submunition deployment system designed to scatter bomblets or smart micromissiles, a fuel­air incendiary weapon, a nuclear warhead, or even propaganda leaflets (though the last is hardly cost­effective). The possibilities are limited only by weight, volume and the imagination.

Blowing Up

If a cruise missile survives its trip to target, it has to "deploy the payload. " This means the missile must be programmed for an attack mode. This programming, as with all other programming (like flight course and target), must be done before launch.

There's no taking back or reprogramming a cruise missile once it's launched.

Cruise Missiles have three basic attack modes­'

Coordinate Airburst: The missile goes off in mid air when it reaches its target coordinates. In other words, the target isn't a thing, it's a place ­ a point in space over a certain spot on the ground. This mode is ideal for deploying submunitions, gasses and large­area airburst nukes.
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Coordinate Ground Impact: This is similar to coordinate airburst, except that the missile dives to hit the ground when it reaches its target coordinates. This is good for ground­impact nukes and area coverage for napalm, as well as hitting completely immobile targets at precisely­known coordinates.

Target Attack: In this mode the missile is assigned a specific target object, as well as target coordinates. When the missile arrives at the vicinity of the coordinates, it uses its sensors (imaging and radar, usually) to locate an object which matches its target profile, and then flies into the target object and sets off its warhead. If it fails to find the object within about a quarter­mile radius of the target coordinates, the missile reverts to coordinate ground impact mode.


Cruise missiles are usually launched from large, armored, tracked vehicles. In a sense, they are the ammunition for a special type of self­propelled artillery piece. In addition, they can be mounted on and launched from large air or watercraft and oversized land vehicles ­including (theoretically) standard vans.

Each launch vehicle requires a launch­director console. This is a special 2­space "gunner's" position which is exclusively dedicated to monitoring, programming and launching cruise missiles. One launch console controls all the missiles on the vehicle, and virtually any number of cruise missiles which can be remotely linked to it (for instance, on a launch trailer towed behind the launch crawler). If used, the remote linkage is usually a fiberoptic cable, although radio or laser linkage can be used for greater dispersion of launchers. The launch director console is 2 spaces, 200 lbs. (including the crewperson's weight). The sophisticated electronics involved make the console terrifically expensive ­ $1,500,000. The remote linkage gear is 0 space and weight, and has a range of 5 miles for radio and line­of­sight for laser linkages. The console has no DP. Linkage gear is included in the price of a launch cradle ­$50,000 each.

Cruise missiles can be carried on a launch vehicle several ways. The easiest way is externally. Each missile sits on a launch cradle in the roof or bed of the vehicle. Each cradle requires I space and 100 lbs. inside the vehicle for aiming mechanisms, electronics and shielding from launch blast; the cradle itself has no DP. A vehicle can have one external launch cradle on its roof per 25 spaces of total capacity (if 13 or more spaces are left over, round up). The missiles are unprotected by the vehicle's armor, and take damage from the top before top armor. From the side, front or back they can be targeted like turrets. Note that this mode of missile carriage completely precludes any turret or topmounted weapon on the launch vehicle.

A second carriage method is external tube mountings. Missile tubes are armored boxes mounted on the sides of the vehicle, surrounding the missiles. They need one space and 500 lbs. per missile (armor weight not included). They're each armored with tank armor, and are damaged before the vehicle's armor. They are mounted in pairs, left and right, and a vehicle can carry one pair, except superheavy tanks, which can carry two pairs, and non­oversized vehicles, which can't mount them at all. External tube mountings make it impossible to put any weapon on the side facing the vehicle.

A more secure way of carrying cruise missiles is internally. This method requires 4 spares and 350 lbs per missile, in addition to the spaces and weight used by the missile itself. These 4 spaces hold mechanisms to open hatches and extend the missile for launch, and more electronics and shielding, costing an additional $5,000. The missiles can be mounted on both sides, the back or top. Any facing which has an internally­carried cruise missile cannot have any other weapon; the cruise missiles, in effect, are the weapons in that facing. Also, cradle mounted missiles preclude internally top­mounted missiles, and external tube mounts preclude internal side­facing missiles. Also note that the 0 spaces per side rule does apply to internal cruise missile launchers.


There are two basic sorts of cruise missiles: standard and heavy. Each sort can be fitted with any one of a number of warheads.

Cruise Missile

Maximum Strike Range: 200 miles (70,400").

Minimum Strike Range: 3 miles (1,056").

Airspeed. 550 mph,

Spaces: 10, excluding launch systems.

Weight. 1,000 lbs., excluding launch systems.

DP. 10 DP, plus 8 DP of fireproof stealth armor.

Cost. $900,000.

Heavy Cruise Missile

Maximum Strike Range: 600 miles (70,400").

Minimum Strike Range: 5 miles (1,760").

Airspeed: 470 mph.

Spaces: 15, excluding launch systems.

Weight: 1,500 lbs., excluding launch systems.

DP. 14 DP, plus 10 DP of fireproof, stealth armor.

Cost. $1,250,000.

If either sort of missile is internally damaged in flight, loss of 8 internal DP will cause loss of control and a crash into the ground. Due to the flammability of its fuel, the missile has the same chance as a heavy rocket of catching fire and exploding when internally hit, unless it's carrying an incendiary payload; in that case, treat it as a flamethrower for catching fire and exploding. Of course, this applies only to internal damage, because of the missile's fireproof armor.


Both sizes of missile can mount any of the following warheads.

High Explosive (Airburst)

Cruise Missile: 10d damage in a 5" radius, 5d at up to 10", and Id at up to 15". Id damage to pedestrians out to 20". Cost: $1,200.

Heavy Missile: 13d damage in a 6" radius, 6d at up to 12", and 2d at up to 18". Id damage to pedestrians out to 25". Cost: $1,500.

High Explosive (Impact)

Cruise Missile: 15d damage to target, 5d at up to 10", Id to 15". Id damage to pedestrians out to 20". Cost $1,200.

Heavy Missile: 20d damage to target, 8d at up to 12", and Id at up to 15". Id damage to pedestrians out to 20". $1,500.

Airburst Gas

Cruise Missile: Gas covers an area 3/4 miles wide, 5 miles downwind from burst point. Effect is dependent on the nature of the gas. Cost: $1,500 (possibly more for exotic or experimental gasses).

Heavy Missile: Gas covers 2 1/8 mile wide strip, 7 miles downwind from burst point. Effect is dependent on the nature of the gas. Cost: $1,750 (possibly more, as above).

Fuel­Air Incendiary

Cruise Missile: All targets within 20" radius take 4d fire damage. Pedestrians stunned in 40" radius. Cost $1,500.

Heavy Missile: All targets within 30" radius take 4d fire damage. Pedestrians stunned at 50" radius. Cost: $1,750.

Napalm Incendiary

Cruise Missile: All targets within 20" radius take 3d damage for 2 turns. Cost $1,500.

Heavy Missile: All targets within 30" radius take 3d damage coordinate for 3 turns. Cost: $1,750


Cruise Missile: For each possible target within 15 " radius of burst, follow this procedure: roll Id­I for each 4 squares or fraction thereof occupied by the vehicle counter. This is the number of dice damage that the target will take as damage on it's top armor. (0d damage is possible. Lucky you.) Cost: $1,500.

Heavy Missile: As above, but radius is 20". Cost: $1,750.

Nuclear: Cost and damage as per Car Wars Tanks, p. 43.Standard missiles can carry up to a 5 kt warhead, heavy missiles up to 20 kt.


Cruise Missile: Little leaflets printed with a propaganda message scatter around a 30"radius, subject to wind. Cost: $1,000.

Heavy Missile: As above, but radius is doubled. Cost: $1,200.

Other Notes

Cruise missiles have a to­hit of 8. If the missile is attacking in either airburst coordinate or ground impact coordinate modes, the to­hit is completely unmodified, and if you miss you determine the point of missile detonation as though the missile were a grenade. If the missile makes its attack in the target attack mode, the to­hit is modified by the target's size modifier (but if it's a large target, only to a maximum of +2), target speed modifiers and visibility modifications.

A cruise missile can have its guidance systems jammed. A Bollix­type high­power jammer can make terrain­avoidance radar in the missile fail. For each phase the missile passes through a broadcast zone for a Bollix or Wild Weasel EW rig, roll 2d. On a 2 the missile momentarily loses terrain­following and executes a maximum­G pullup for the rest of the tam to avoid possible "terrain. " This maneuver has a I in 6 chance of destroying the missile by ripping its wings off. (Roll Id; if it comes up 1, the missile buys it.) If the missile survives the pullup, it can have terrain­following restored next turn, by making the 2d roll and succeeding.A cruise missile programmed for target attack mode will lock on to its target when it comes into line­of­sight. It will target the ground object which matches its radar and visual profile, and which is nearest to its target coordinates.

A target profile is an imaging description of the target. It describes dimensions (accurate to a couple of feet), radar image, thermal profile and shape. It can differentiate a truck from a tank, or a pickup from a station wagon, or a shopping center from a munitions plant. In general, a short description like, "A super heavy tank, 35' long by 20' wide', or "a pentagonal building a half mile across," is as detailed as it gets. The profile isn't sufficiently detailed to discriminate between, say, a green van and a red, or between a friendly tank or a hostile one, or between a tank factory and a toy factory. So it's quite possible for the missile to target the wrong object.

In any event, a lock­on can be prevented by simultaneous jamming of the missile's radar by a high­power jammer like a Bollix (a personal radar jammer will not do the job) and complete obstruction of visual and infrared line­of­sight. In this case, the missile fails to notice the target and will target another item that matches its profile, or, failing to find a suitable target within 80" of its target coordinates, will switch to ground­impact mode.

A cruise missile on its run­in to the target is no longer in terrain­following mode, and behaves like a standard RGM. If its radar is jammed while in attack mode, apply a modifier of ­4 to the to­hit roll, to reflect the loss of a targeting system (radar imaging). The missile can still guide itself with its other

sensors, and therefore doesn't go into straight­line flight when jammed. Other forms of jamming don't work against a cruise missile.A cruise missile can be targeted while in flight.

Issue 9/1 Index

Steve Jackson Games * Car Wars * ADQ Index