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Recently there has been an increasing interest in military topics. Normally, Aviation does include military aircraft. Since e.g. this question got 4 close votes, and other missile-related questions get nominated as well, the opinion seems to be divided on missiles.

There was a brief related discussion on Meta 7 years ago, but it was for a very narrow question. I'd like to ask a broader one: should we consider missiles on topic, as a subset of aircraft, or off topic?

For on-topic, I see the point that cruise missiles are, for many intents, aircraft. They have similar major parts, fly the same way, and for large cruise missiles, are designed and built in part by the same companies, and the difference from UCAV comes down only to reusability.

For off-topic, there's the counterexamples of Space and Drones SE. It also risks an increased shift of military topics here (which isn't necessarily bad), with how much role missiles play in modern warfare.

However, there is no Military.SE, which would be the perfect fit. As the Aviation SE has a number of combat pilots and aerospace engineers, at this point, it's likely to have the most missile-related knowledge on the SE network.

What is the community's opinion on this? Should we establish a guideline, or leave it case-by case?

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  • $\begingroup$ This reminds me of a boat-question discussion. Unfortunately, that was deleted many years ago. For anyone not senior enough, back in the early days of SO, someone asked something like "what's the best equipment to program on a boat?" It was decided it had nothing to do with programming and everything to do with boating and therefor off topic for programming (SO). Just because a title or subject concern (the act of) being propelled through the air does not mean it is a proper on-topic fit here. $\endgroup$
    – CGCampbell
    Apr 11 at 10:36
  • $\begingroup$ @CGCampbell I can see the merit of both positions, which is why I decided to ask the community. Though in the boat analogy, I'd argue this is more like asking about ships on a boating Q&A. In my view, it comes down to whether the community is comfortable seeing these questions among the rest, comfortable answering them, and believes it has the expertise to do so. $\endgroup$
    – Therac
    Apr 11 at 14:49

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While there are missiles that utilize aerodynamic lift, the most common definitions (Wikipedia) are:

  • aircraft do not include missiles
  • missiles are ranged weapons

With that in mind:

enter image description here

Cannonballs and [fancy] artillery shells (above) – despite being ranged weapons – I'm sure you'll agree are not aircraft and are not on-topic.

I'm with voretaq7's assessment from 7 years ago.

There are many topics that don't have a Stack Exchange site (yet), warfare is one of them, but it doesn't mean weaponry should be on-topic here just because a weapon is dropped from a plane or it has wings. Would the workings of a hydrogen bomb be on-topic? I'm also sure the answer to that is no.

➤ If the topic is about the lift or propulsion of missiles, then fine I suppose; otherwise (e.g. guidance, warhead payload, fail-safes, etc.), no.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree with everything mentioned here, except the suggestion that guidance should not be on topic. Guidance is avionics, not payload. $\endgroup$
    – dotancohen
    Apr 6 at 16:04
  • $\begingroup$ @dotancohen: Guidance comes with control, and then there'll be e.g. How is an ICBM course corrected mid-flight? They may be avionics, but of ranged weapons, not aircraft, IMO. $\endgroup$
    – user14897
    Apr 7 at 9:05
  • $\begingroup$ I think that would be an excellent question to discuss on a naviation forum, to be honest. ICBMs have subsonic, supersonic, and vacuum flight regimes. Discussing when different parts of the missile are active (fins, cold gas thrusters) would be incontrovertibly on topic. The ICMBs then renter and are guided to a specific location without the use of GPS. What sensors are useful during the plasma stage? When do control surfaces become effective? How far downrange can they correct for? What are the limitations? Do they work in inclement weather? During sunset/sunrise? After birdstrike? $\endgroup$
    – dotancohen
    Apr 7 at 10:53
  • $\begingroup$ @dotancohen: You commented on another answer that SE is not a best-fit model, which is correct, why then are ICBMs "incontrovertibly on topic"? They're ranged weapons, not aircraft. $\endgroup$
    – user14897
    Apr 7 at 11:34
  • $\begingroup$ I said that a question regarding the active maneuvering elements of an ICBM (fins, cold gas thrusters) would be on topic for Aviation.SE. Certainly other aspects of their operation, e.g. the proximity fuse, would not be. $\endgroup$
    – dotancohen
    Apr 7 at 12:08
  • $\begingroup$ I would think ICBM questions would be a pretty obvious subject for the space exploration side of the aerospace field, no? $\endgroup$
    – llama
    Apr 7 at 19:08
  • $\begingroup$ @llama: Frankly neither here nor Space.se. The answers are either outdated or nothing more than guesses. This is not what SE is for. $\endgroup$
    – user14897
    Apr 7 at 21:56
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There are lots of missile-oriented questions that should be on-topic for Aviation. Not necessarily EVERYTHING about them--being missile-related shouldn't immediately be grounds for the question standing, of course--but topics like

  • aerodynamic performance
  • avionics
  • integration with aircraft
  • sensorium

all seem completely valid. They're very closely analogous to the same issues on other aircraft, but intrinsically interesting due to the different design constraints proposed on missiles. For example, how do you electrically power a Sidewinder missile? a gas turbine feeding off the solid rocket motor core that runs at ca. 60,000 RPM (per Westrum's "Sidewinder" pp75 in my edition). That's just neat! There are interesting things to know about missiles that don't fit neatly anywhere else on SE except for Aviation.

I say leave it alone unless you have another community like Physics you can push it to, or objections other than it being about missiles.

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    $\begingroup$ Not fitting anywhere else on SE doesn't mean fit for Aviation. SE is not a best-fit model for all questions. That said, I completely agree with the rest of the post. $\endgroup$
    – dotancohen
    Apr 7 at 10:55
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Both rocket science and missile questions are accepted on our Physics site, with engineering questions about missiles accepted at Engineering.SE. The Space Shuttle and rocket sleds have a home on Space.SE. We don't do people a service by expanding our scope.

To be on-topic on Aircraft.SE the question should be aircraft related, and not somewhat similar objects that are not aircraft.

Wikipedia definition:

"An aircraft is a vehicle or machine that is able to fly by gaining support from the air. It counters the force of gravity by using either static lift or by using the dynamic lift of an airfoil, or in a few cases the downward thrust from jet engines. Common examples of aircraft include airplanes, helicopters, airships (including blimps), gliders, paramotors, and hot air balloons.".

So, to stretch things: A lighter than air missile or one with large wings would be an aircraft, otherwise it isn't.

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