Pakistan's nuclear arsenal today

Pakistan's nuclear arsenal today

Pakistan continues to develop its nuclear capabilities by increasing the number of warheads, delivery systems, and the industrial base for the production of fissile materials is also growing. According to Western experts, Pakistan currently has a nuclear arsenal weapons, numbering about 170 warheads.

In 1999, the US Defense Intelligence Agency predicted that Pakistan would have between 2020 and 60 warheads by 80 (US Defense Intelligence Agency 1999, 38), but several new weapons systems have been developed and deployed since then, leading to higher estimates . The overall estimate has significant uncertainty because neither Pakistan nor other countries publish enough information about Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.

With the development of several new delivery systems, four plutonium production reactors and an expanding uranium enrichment infrastructure, Pakistan's reserves have the potential to increase further over the next few years. The size of this projected increase will depend on several factors, including how many nuclear launchers Pakistan plans to deploy, how its nuclear strategy evolves, and how much India's nuclear arsenal grows.

We estimate that at current growth rates, the country's arsenal could potentially grow to around 200 warheads by the end of the 2020s. But unless India significantly expands its arsenal or continues to build up its conventional forces, it seems reasonable to expect that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal will not grow indefinitely, but may begin to level off as its current weapons programs end.

The assessments made by experts from the Nuclear Notebook are based on a combination of open source analysis:

1) government indicators, such as government official statements, declassified documents, budget information, information provided by the display of new missile systems at annual military parades, and materials about disclosed international treaties;

2) data of non-state origin, for example, media reports, information from think tanks and industry publications;

3) information obtained from commercial satellite images.

Because each of these sources provides different and rather limited information that is subject to varying degrees of uncertainty, cross-checking of each data file is necessary using multiple sources and supplementing them with private conversations with officials whenever possible.

Analysis of Pakistan's nuclear forces is fraught with uncertainty given the lack of official government data. The Pakistani government has never publicly disclosed the size of its arsenal and generally does not comment on its nuclear doctrine.

Unlike some other nuclear weapons states, Pakistan does not regularly publish any official documentation explaining the contours of its nuclear policy or doctrine. Whenever such details appear in public discourse, they usually come from retired officials commenting in a personal capacity.

The most regular official source of information on Pakistan's nuclear weapons is the Service of Public Relations (ISPR), the media arm of the Pakistan Armed Forces, which issues regular press releases on missile launches and sometimes accompanied by videos of the launches.

From time to time, other countries offer official statements or analyzes of Pakistan's nuclear capabilities. For example, US Air Force reports on ballistic and cruise missile threats include an analysis of the Pakistani missile force. As Pakistan's regional rival, Indian officials also make statements about Pakistan's nuclear weapons from time to time, although such statements should be taken with a grain of salt as they are often politically motivated.

Likewise, Indian media often either exaggerate or downplay the characteristics of the Pakistani arsenal, depending on the desired effect and audience. Pakistani media is also prone to frequent embellishment when describing the country's arsenal.

Given the lack of reliable data, commercial satellite imagery has become a particularly important resource for analyzing Pakistan's nuclear forces. Satellite images allow identification aviation, missile and naval bases, and potential underground storage facilities.

The biggest challenge to analyzing Pakistan's nuclear forces using satellite imagery is the lack of reliable data with which to cross-check information obtained from satellite imagery, especially regarding whether certain military bases are associated with nuclear or conventional strike missions, or whether and others.

Overall, the lack of accurate data on Pakistan's nuclear forces results in lower confidence in the latest Nuclear Notebook's estimates than those of most other nuclear-weapon countries.

Nuclear Doctrine of Pakistan

As part of its broader philosophy of “credible minimum deterrence,” which seeks to emphasize a defensive and limited nuclear posture, Pakistan operates under a nuclear doctrine it calls “full spectrum deterrence.” This position is aimed mainly at containing India, which Pakistan considers its main enemy. The belief that Pakistan's nuclear weapons deter India has reinforced the value of nuclear weapons in national security calculations since the mid-1980s.

In May 2023, Lieutenant General (retd) Khalid Kidwai—adviser to the Pakistan National Command, which oversees the development, doctrine and use of nuclear weapons—gave a speech at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI), where he offered his description of what entails behind it is a “full spectrum of deterrence.” According to Kidwai, “full spectrum deterrence” implies the following:

“Pakistan has a full range of nuclear weapons in three categories: strategic, operational and tactical, with full coverage of a large area of ​​India and its outlying areas; Indian strategic nuclear weapons are within reach.
Pakistan has a wide range of weapon yields from 0,5 kt to 40 kt, and their numbers are sufficient to deter the enemy's declared policy of massive retaliation.
Thus, Pakistan's "counter-massive retaliation" could be just as destructive, if not more so.
That Pakistan retains freedom to select from a full range of targets in “target-rich India” despite indigenous Indian missile defense or Russian S-400s, including countermeasures, counterforce and battlefield targets.”

According to Kidwai, who previously served as director general of the Strategic Plans Division, the "full spectrum" aspect of Pakistan's containment policy includes both "horizontal" and "vertical" elements.

The horizontal dimension refers to Pakistan's nuclear triad of Army Strategic Forces Command (ASFC), Naval Strategic Forces Command (NSFC) and Air Force Strategic Command (AFSC).

The vertical aspect refers to the three levels of nuclear power - “strategic, operational and tactical”, as well as the range “from zero meters to 2 kilometers”, which allows Pakistan to target the entire Indian territory (Kidwai, 750).

Kidwai and other former Pakistani senior officers explained that this position—and Pakistan's particular emphasis on non-strategic nuclear weapons—was specifically intended as a response to India's supposed “cold start” doctrine (Kidwai 2020).

The Cold Start doctrine is India's purported intention to carry out large-scale conventional strikes or incursions into Pakistani territory without triggering a nuclear retaliation from Pakistan. Pakistan has responded to this proposed doctrine by adding several shorter-range, lower-yield nuclear-capable weapons systems specifically designed to counter military threats below the strategic level.

An example of such a low-yield, short-range nuclear weapon is Pakistan's Nasr (Hatf-9) ballistic missile. In 2015, Kidwai stated that Nasr was "born because I mentioned some people on the other side toying with the idea of ​​finding a place for a conventional war despite Pakistan's nuclear weapons."

According to Kidwai, Pakistan's understanding of India's "cold start" strategy was that Delhi envisioned launching rapid strikes against Pakistan over two to four days at a time, involving eight to nine brigades: a strike force that would include approximately 32 to 000 36 military personnel. “I strongly believe that by bringing diversity in tactical nuclear weapons to Pakistan's arsenal and to the debate on strategic stability.

Following Kidwai's announcement, Pakistani Foreign Minister Aizaz Chaudhry publicly acknowledged the existence of Pakistan's “low-yield tactical nuclear weapons,” apparently the first time a senior government official had done so (India Today, 2015). At that time, the tactical missiles had not yet been deployed, but the purpose of their deployment was explained in detail by Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja M. Asif in an interview with Geo News. in September 2016:

“We are constantly being pressured again and again that our tactical (nuclear) weapons, in which we have superiority, that we have more tactical weapons than we need.
It is internationally recognized that we have superiority and if there is a threat to our security or if someone enters our land and if someone's plans pose a threat to our security, we will not hesitate to use these weapons for our protection.”

A 2019 journalistic study by Taslim and Dalton argues that in developing its non-strategic nuclear strategy, Pakistan to some extent copied NATO's flexible response strategy without necessarily understanding how it would work (Taslim and Dalton, 2019).

Pakistan's nuclear policy - especially the development and deployment of tactical nuclear weapons - has caused serious concern in other countries, and the United States fears it increases the risk of escalation and lowers the threshold for using nuclear weapons in a military conflict with India.

Over the past decade and a half, the US assessment of nuclear weapons security in Pakistan appears to have shifted significantly from security confidence to concern, particularly over the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons. In 2007, a US State Department official told Congress that “we have, I think, reasonable confidence that they have the proper structures and safeguards in place to maintain the integrity of their nuclear forces and not allow any compromises” (Boucher 2007).

The Trump administration repeated this assessment in 2018:

“We are particularly concerned about the development of tactical nuclear weapons intended for use on the battlefield. We believe these systems are more susceptible to terrorist theft and increase the likelihood of a nuclear exchange in the region."

(Economic Times 2017).

The Trump administration's 2017 South Asia Strategy called on Pakistan to stop harboring terrorist organizations, specifically to “prevent nuclear weapons and nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorists” (White House 2017).

In the 2019 Global Threat Assessment, US Director of National Intelligence Daniel R.
Coates stated:

“Pakistan continues to develop new types of nuclear weapons, including short-range tactical weapons, sea-launched cruise missiles, air-launched cruise missiles and long-range ballistic missiles,” noting that “new types of nuclear weapons will create new risks for escalation and security dynamics in the region.”

(Coats 2019, 10).

The Defense Intelligence Agency appears to have softened its language slightly in its global threat assessments for 2021 and 2022, saying that "Pakistan is likely to continue to modernize and expand its nuclear capabilities by training with deployed weapons and developing new delivery systems... ” without explicitly noting the inherent risks of escalation.

Pakistani officials, for their part, dismiss such concerns. In 2021, then Prime Minister Imran Khan said that he was “not sure whether we are increasing the nuclear arsenal or not because as far as I know... the only purpose of Pakistani nuclear weapons is not offensive but defensive.” He added that "Pakistan's nuclear arsenal merely serves as a deterrent to protect itself."

Nuclear Safety, Decision Making and Crisis Management

After years of well-publicized US concerns about the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons. As the Pentagon develops plans for its use in a crisis, Pakistani officials have repeatedly questioned the notion that the security of its nuclear weapons is inadequate.

Samar Mubarik Mund, former director of the country's National Defense Complex, explained in 2013 that “a Pakistani nuclear warhead is assembled eleven hours after receiving the order to use. It is stored disassembled in three or four parts in three or four different places. If nuclear weapons do not need to be launched, then they will never be available in assembled form” (World Bulletin 2013).

Despite Pakistan's recent strengthening of security measures for its military bases and installations, at a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reception in October 2022, US President Joe Biden noted that Pakistan is "one of the most dangerous countries in the world" due to the lack of "cohesion" in its nuclear security command and control procedures - a comment by the US President that Pakistan has strongly condemned.

Nuclear policy and operational decision-making in Pakistan is carried out by the National Command, which is headed by the Prime Minister and includes both senior military and civilian officials. The primary nuclear-related body within the National Command is the Strategic Plans Division (SPD Force), which the former SPD Force Director of Arms Control and Disarmament Affairs described as "a unique organization unmatched by any other nuclear weapons organization."

Operational planning, weapons development, weapons storage, budgets, arms control, diplomacy and policies related to civilian applications of energy, agriculture, medicine, etc. are all directed and controlled by the SPD Force.”

In addition, SPD Force “is responsible for nuclear policy, strategy and nuclear doctrine. It formulates force development strategy for the three strategic forces, operational planning at the joint services level, and controls the movements and deployment of all nuclear forces.

The national command was convened after India and Pakistan engaged in open hostilities in February 2019 when Indian fighter jets dropped bombs on Pakistani ground forces positions near the town of Balakot in response to a suicide bombing carried out by a Pakistan-based militant group. In response, Pakistani planes shot down an Indian MiG-21 and captured the Indian pilot, returning him a week later and convening the National Command.

After the meeting, a senior Pakistani military officer made what appeared to be a thinly veiled nuclear threat: “I hope you know what National Command means and what it represents. I said we would surprise you. Wait for this surprise. … You chose the path of war without knowing the consequences for peace and security in the region.” In his memoirs, published in January 2023.

On March 9, 2022, India accidentally launched a BrahMos cruise missile that crossed the border into Pakistan and flew about 124 kilometers before crashing near the town of Mian Channu. It was an extremely rare case of a nuclear-armed country launching a missile into the territory of another nuclear power.

A subsequent Indian investigation found that the incident occurred as a result of deviation from standard operating procedures during "routine maintenance and inspections." India made a public statement announcing the incident and fired the three Indian Air Force officers responsible. However, Pakistan was not satisfied and rejected “India's purported cover-up of a highly irresponsible incident,” insisting on a joint investigation into the circumstances of the accident (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, 2022).

Apart from the opacity of the incident itself, India has classified all circumstances regarding the incident that occurred immediately after the missile was launched, it is noteworthy that Pakistan may have incorrectly tracked the missile during its flight. At a press conference after the missile launch, the Pakistani military showed a map showing their interpretation of the missile's flight and noted that "the actions, the response, everything... everything was perfect."

We discovered it in time and took care of it.” However, the flight path presented by Pakistan included some discrepancies regarding the missile's launch location as well as its intended target, and was publicly disputed by Indian sources.

According to an Indian news agency, in the absence of clarification from India, the Pakistan Air Force's Air Defense Operations Center immediately grounded all military and civilian aircraft for nearly six hours and reportedly placed forward air bases and strike aircraft on high alert. Pakistani military sources stated that these bases remained on alert until 13:00 on March 14.

Pakistani officials confirmed this, noting that "whatever procedures were initiated, whatever tactical actions were taken, they were taken." Although the US Air Force National Aerospace Intelligence Center's Ballistic and Cruise Missile Report lists the Indian BrahMos missile as a conventional missile, the incident could have potentially escalated had it occurred during a previous period of tension between the two nuclear-armed countries (National Air Intelligence Center). Space Intelligence 2017, 37).

Moreover, Pakistan and India lack robust transparency and crisis management mechanisms: the two countries have exchanged an annual list of nuclear sites every year since 1988, and a high-level military hotline exists between the two countries. However, Pakistani officials noted that during the seven minutes of the missile's flight, India did not use a hotline to alert Pakistan about the accidental launch.

Aircraft capable of carrying nuclear weapons and air-to-surface missiles

The aircraft carrying nuclear weapons are Pakistani fighter squadrons Mirage III and Mirage V. Mirage fighter-bombers of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) are stationed at two air bases. At Masroor Air Base near Karachi, the 32nd Wing is home to three Mirage squadrons: 7th Squadron (Bandits), 8th Squadron (Haiders) and 22nd Squadron (Ghazis).

Secure nuclear weapons storage facilities are possibly located five kilometers northwest of the airbase, and heavily guarded underground facilities have been built at Masrur since 2004 that could potentially support a nuclear strike mission. Which includes a potential combat duty hangar with the ability to store weapons in secure underground vaults.

The second Mirage air base is Rafiki Air Base near Shorkot, which is home to the 34th Air Wing with two Mirage squadrons: the 15th Squadron (Cobras) and the 27th Squadron (Zarras). On 25 February 2021, Pakistani President Arif Alvi visited the base during the 50th Anniversary of Mirage in Service Award ceremony, where 11 Mirage V fighter-bombers were displayed in flight in an air parade.

The Mirage 5 is believed to have a strike role against Pakistan's small arsenal of free-fall nuclear bombs (gravity bombs), while the Mirage 3 is used as a carrier of air-to-surface missiles, Pakistan's Raad air-launched cruise missiles ( ALCM), as well as the more advanced Raad-II. The Pakistan Air Force has added mid-air refueling capability to the Mirage, significantly improving its nuclear strike capabilities against targets up to 2 km deep. Several Mirages presented at the awards ceremony at Rafiki Air Base in 000 were equipped with refueling booms.

The dual-use air-launched Raad ALCM is believed to have been test-fired at least six times, most recently in February 2016. The Pakistani government says the Raad "can deliver nuclear and conventional warheads with great precision" at ranges of up to 350 km and "complement Pakistan's deterrence capability" by achieving "strategic standoff capabilities on land and at sea."

During a military parade in 2017, Pakistan showcased what was said to be the Ra'ad-II ALCM, apparently an upgraded version of the main Ra'ad missile with a new engine intake and tail configuration. Pakistan last tested the Ra'ad-II in February 2020 and it was stated then that the missile can reach targets up to 600 km away.

There is no evidence that any Raad system has been deployed as of July 2023; however, one potential deployment site could eventually be Masroor Air Base near Karachi, which is home to several Mirage squadrons and includes unique underground facilities that could be a nuclear weapons storage facility.

To replace the Pakistan Air Force's aging Mirage III and V aircraft, Pakistan has acquired more than 100 JF-17 aircraft, which are jointly produced with China, and plans to acquire about 188 more JF-17 aircraft. These aircraft are constantly being upgraded with new “technological blocks”. Pakistan is reported to have accepted the first batch of 12 JF-17 Block III aircraft into the 16th Squadron (Black Panthers) in March 2023.

Several reports suggest that Pakistan may be looking to equip the JF-17 with a dual-role Ra'ad ALCM so that the new aircraft could eventually take over the role of carrying nuclear strike ALCMs in place of the aging Mirage III/V. In March 2023, during a rehearsal for the 2023 Pakistan Day Parade (which was subsequently cancelled), JF-17 Thunder Block IIs carrying what appeared to be a Ra'ad-I ALCM appeared in the air, the first time such a configuration had been observed.

The nuclear capability of the Pakistan Air Force's legacy F-16 fighter jets is unknown. Although Pakistan was contractually obligated not to modify the aircraft to deliver nuclear weapons, numerous credible reports subsequently emerged suggesting that Pakistan intended to do so. In September 2022, the Biden administration agreed to a $450 million deal to help bolster Pakistan's F-16 aircraft program (US Defense Security Cooperation Agency, 2022).

The F-16A/B fighters are based as part of the 38th Airlift Wing at Mushaf Air Base (formerly Sargodha), located 160 km northwest of Lahore in northeast Pakistan. Formed into the 9th and 11th squadrons ("Griffins" and "Arrows" respectively), these aircraft have a range of up to 1 km (expandable with drop tanks) and are likely equipped to carry one nuclear bomb on the central pylon.

If the F-16s are on a nuclear strike mission, the nuclear bombs assigned to them are likely not stored on the base itself, but potentially located at the Sargodha weapons storage complex, located 10 km to the south. In the event of a crisis, the bombs could be quickly transferred to the base, or the F-16s could disperse to bases near underground storage facilities and obtain nuclear weapons there. Pakistan appears to be strengthening nuclear storage bunkers.

The new F-16C/Ds are based with the 39th Airlift Wing at Shahbaz Air Base near Jacobabad in northern Pakistan. The wing was upgraded to the F-16C/D from Mirages in 2011 and currently has one squadron: 5 Squadron (known as the Falcons). The base has undergone significant expansion, with numerous ammunition storage buildings added since 2004.

For the F-16A/B, if the base is on a nuclear mission, the weapons assigned to the F-16C/D are likely stored elsewhere in dedicated storage facilities. Several (up to 6) F-16s can also be seen at Minhas (Kamra) airbase northwest of Islamabad, although these aircraft may have flown for repairs or routine maintenance at the base. The F-16C squadron was showcased at the 2022 Pakistan Day Parade.

Despite reports of F-16 aircraft and the recent public demonstration of a Raad ALCM suspended from a JF-17, there are still too many uncertainties surrounding these two aircraft to confidently attribute either to a specific role in a nuclear strike. As a result, USAF F-16s are excluded from this Nuclear Diary and JF-17 fighters are listed with significant uncertainty.

Ground-launched ballistic missiles

Apparently, Pakistan currently has six types of solid fuel mobile missile systems capable of carrying short-range nuclear warheads: Abdali (Hatf-2), Ghaznavi (Hatf-3), Shaheen-I/A (Hatf -4) and Nasr (Hatf-9), as well as two types of IRBM Ghauri (Hatf-5) and Shaheen-II (Hatf-6). Two other ballistic missile systems capable of carrying nuclear warheads are currently under development: the medium-range Shaheen-III and the MIRVed Ababil. All Pakistani missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, with the exception of Abdali, Ghauri, Shaheen-II and Ababil, were displayed at the Pakistan Independence Day parade in March 2021.

Nasr, Ghauri, Shaheen-IA/II, and Babur-1A and Raad-II cruise missiles were displayed during the 2022 Pakistan Day Parade.

Over the past two decades, Pakistan's nuclear missile force has made a quantum leap in technology from rocket-propelled rocket-propelled rocket technology of the 1950s to modern rockets with solid propellant rocket engines and satellite navigation system-based guidance systems.

Nine missile bases are deployed, including five along the Indian border for short-range systems (Babur, Ghaznavi, Shaheen-I, Nasr, and four missile bases further inland for medium-range systems (Shaheen-II Pakistan conducted significantly fewer missile test launches in 2022 and 2023 than in previous years, which may be due to ongoing political instability in Pakistan and protests across the country following the overthrow and subsequent arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Hana in mid-2022.

The Abdali (Hatf-2) short-range single-stage solid-fuel missile has been in development for a long time. In 1997, the Pentagon reported that the Abdali appeared to be out of production, but flight testing resumed in 2002 and the last reported test launch was in 2013. The missile with a range of 200 kilometers was demonstrated several times at parades on a four-axle mobile PU transporter. The gap in flight testing indicates that the Abdali program may have encountered technical difficulties.

After the 2013 test, public affairs agency Inter Services said the Abdali: "carries both nuclear and conventional warheads" and "provides an operational-level capability for Pakistan's strategic forces." The statement said the test launch "strengthens Pakistan's deterrence capabilities at both the operational and strategic levels."

The Ghaznavi (Hatf-3) solid-fuel single-stage short-range missile was tested in 2019, 2020 and twice in 2021 - the first recorded test launches since 2014. A major milestone in testing the readiness of Pakistan's nuclear forces, the test launch of the Ghaznavi in ​​2019 was carried out at night.

After each test, the Pakistani military stated that the Ghaznavi was “capable of delivering multiple types of warheads to a range of up to 290 kilometers.” Its short range means the Ghaznavi cannot strike Delhi from Pakistan, and army units equipped with the missile are likely to be based relatively close to the Indian border.

Shaheen-I (Hatf-4) is a single-stage, dual-purpose, solid-propellant, short-range ballistic missile with a maximum launch range of 650 km, in service since 2003. "Shahin-I" is in service. Since 2012, many Shaheen-I test launches have used an extended-range version, commonly known as Shaheen-IA. The Government of Pakistan, which claimed a range of 900 km for the Shaheen-IA, used both designations. Pakistan last tested Shaheen-I in November 2019 and Shaheen-IA in March and November 2021.

Potential locations for Shaheen-1 deployment include Gujranwala, Okara and Pano Aqil. "Shaheen-I" was displayed in the 2021 Pakistan Day Parade, but it has been replaced by "Shaheen-IA" in the 2022 parade.

A total of 16 Shaheen-I/IA launchers and 24 Shaheen-2 launchers have been deployed.

One of the most controversial new nuclear-capable missiles in Pakistan's arsenal is the Nasr (Hatf-9), a short-range solid-fuel missile that originally had a range of only 60 km but has recently been upgraded to extend its launch range to 70 km. However, since its range is too short to attack strategic targets inside India, the Nasr appears to be intended solely for defensive use on the battlefield against invading Indian forces.

According to the Pakistani government, the Nasr "carries nuclear warheads of appropriate yield with high accuracy, fireability and maneuverability" and was designed as a "quick response system" to "enhance the deterrent value" of Pakistan's strategic weapons program "at shorter ranges." to contain evolving threats,” including, apparently, India’s so-called “Cold Start” doctrine. Later tests of the Nasr system, including two tests in one week in January 2019, were aimed at demonstrating the system's salvo launch capability. A total of 24 launchers are deployed.

The US intelligence community has included Nasr in its list of deployed systems since 2013 (National Air and Space Intelligence Center, 2013), and with a total of 15 test launches conducted to date, the system is apparently already accepted for use. weapons are being deployed. Potential deployment locations include Gujranwala, Okara and Pano Aqil.

The Shaheen-II (Hatf-6), a two-stage solid-fuel medium-range missile, appears to have entered service after many years of development. Pakistan's National Defense Complex has been assembling Shaheen-II launchers since at least 2004 or 2005, and a 2020 US intelligence community report states that "less than 50" Shaheen-II launchers have been deployed (National Center air and space intelligence, 2020).

After the last test launch of the Shaheen-II in May 2019, the Pakistani MoD reported a range of only 1500 km, but the US National Aerospace Intelligence Center (NASIC) continues to claim that the Shaheen-II's range is about 2 km.

Pakistan's newest two-stage solid-propellant medium-range ballistic missile, the Shaheen-III, was first publicly displayed at the Pakistan Independence Day parade in 2015. After the third test launch in January 2021, the Pakistani government said the missile could deliver either a single nuclear or conventional warhead to a range of 2 km, making it the longest-range system Pakistan has ever tested.

The last test launch took place in April 2022, which, according to the Pakistani government, was “aimed at re-verifying various design and technical parameters of the weapon system.” Shaheen-III is carried on a mobile eight-axle PU carrier, which is reportedly supplied by China (Panda 2016). Several more test launches may be required before the system becomes operational.

The Shaheen III has a range sufficient to hit the entire Indian mainland from launch positions in most of Pakistan south of Islamabad. But the rocket was obviously designed to do more. According to General Kidwai, the 2 km range was determined by the need to be able to target the Nicobar and Andaman Islands in the eastern Indian Ocean, which are “being developed as strategic bases” where “India could consider stationing its troops.” But for the 750-km-range Shaheen-III to reach the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, it needs to be launched from positions in the easternmost part of Pakistan, close to the Indian border.

Pakistan's oldest medium-range ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, the single-stage liquid-fuel missile Ghauri (Hatf-5), was last tested in October 2018. The Ghauri is based on the North Korean Nodong medium-range ballistic missile.

The Pakistani government says the Ghauri can carry a single conventional or nuclear warhead to a range of up to 1 km. However, NASIC indicates that its range is slightly lower at 300 km and suggests that “less than 1” Ghauri launchers have been deployed (National Air and Space Intelligence Center, 250). The extra time required to refuel the missile before launch makes the Ghauri more vulnerable to attack than Pakistan's latest solid-fuel missiles. Thus, it is possible that longer-range versions of the Shaheen could eventually replace the Ghauri.

On January 24, 2017, Pakistan test-fired a new medium-range ballistic missile called Ababil, which the government says is “capable of carrying multiple warheads using MIRV technology. A three-stage solid-fuel missile capable of carrying three individually targetable nuclear warheads, which is currently being developed at the National Defense Complex, the missile appears to be based on the Shaheen-III and a new solid-fuel rocket motor and has a range of 2 km.

After the test launch, the Pakistani government said the test was aimed at testing "various design and technical parameters" of the missile and that the Ababil IRBM "aims to ensure the survivability of Pakistan's ballistic missiles in the face of a growing regional missile defense (BMD) system... and further enhance deterrence " The development of a multiple independently targetable warhead capability appears to be intended as a countermeasure to India's planned missile defense system. As of July 2023, the status of the Ababil IRBM remains unclear.

Missile bases

The total number and location of Pakistani missile bases and nuclear-capable facilities remain unknown.

In particular, it is very difficult to distinguish between Pakistani military bases designed for conventional strike missions only and those designed for dual-use strike functions or specific nuclear strikes.

Analysis of commercial satellite imagery shows that Pakistan has at least five missile bases on its border with India.

Acro Missile Base

The Acro base is located approximately 18 km north of Hyderabad in southern Sindh province and approximately 145 km from the Indian border. The base covers an area of ​​about 6,9 square meters. km and has been gradually expanding since 2004. On the Akro territory there are 6 hangar-type shelters, similar to our Krona, for the Pioneer IRBM, which, apparently, are designed for 12 launchers.

Beneath this “garage complex” there is a unique underground structure, the construction of which could be seen on satellite images. The underground structure consists of two cross-shaped sections connected by a central corridor that leads to two buildings on either side via covered ramps.

The base houses 12 mobile launchers of the Babur missile launcher.

Gujranwala Missile Base

The Gujranwala garrison is one of the largest military complexes in Pakistan. It covers an area of ​​almost 30 square kilometers in the northeastern part of the Punjab province and is located approximately 60 kilometers from the Indian border. Since 2010, the Gujranwala garrison has added what appears to be a TEL launch site to the east of the likely conventional ammunition storage site, which became operational in 2014 or 2015.

The TEL area consists of two identical sections, each containing multiple launchers, garages, and possibly a weapons loading hall with fortified embankments connected by a covered walkway to what appears to be a fortified weapons storage bunker. There is also a technical area slightly south of the main TEL area for maintenance of launchers.

Satellite images show several trucks that strongly resemble the Nasr short-range missile system. While it is impossible to be sure, these trucks appear to have a twin launcher similar to the one seen in photographs of the Nasr missile test launch.

Khuzdar Missile Base

The Khuzdar base is located about 220 km west of Sukkur in the southeast of Balochistan province and is the furthest known missile garrison from the Indian border. The base is divided into two parts: northern and southern (where mobile ballistic missile launchers are based).

In late 2017, the southern portion of the base expanded its perimeter to include three additional secure launch pads, bringing the total to six.

The base contains two multi-story warhead storage buildings with covered ramps leading to a possible underground nuclear weapons storage facility similar to that at Acro.

The base houses Ghauri or Shaheen-II ballistic missile launchers.

Missile base "Panno-Akil"

The Pano Akil base is located just 85 kilometers from the border with India, in the northern part of Sindh province and is divided into several parts, the total area of ​​which is almost 20 square kilometers.

The base has eight protected shelters (the last three were built in 2017), each of which has space for six mobile ballistic missile launchers. The additional ninth shelter appears to only have room for five launchers.

In total, this base could potentially host 50 mobile launchers of Babur and Shaheen-I missiles.

Missile base "Sargodha"

The Sargodha base is a large complex located in and around the Kirana Hills, a subcritical nuclear test site that Pakistan used to develop its nuclear program from 1983 to 1990.

TEL garages plus two more garages of different sizes that can be used for maintenance. The TEL zone does not have the same layout or perimeter as other TEL zones throughout the country, although this may depend on the age of the garrison.

Directly east of the conventional ammunition storage area is an underground storage facility built into the side of a mountain ridge. Commercial satellite images show at least 10 entrances to underground facilities, as well as potential weapons and missile storage facilities.

Land- and sea-launched cruise missiles

Pakistan's family of land- and sea-launched cruise missiles is under development, with several types and modifications being worked on.

The Babur (Hatf-7) is a subsonic dual-purpose cruise missile, similar in appearance to the American Tomahawk sea-launched cruise missile, the Chinese DH-10 land-launched cruise missile, and the Russian air-launched AS-15.

The Pakistani government describes the Babur missile as having “stealth capabilities,” “high accuracy,” and “a low altitude, stealth missile with high maneuverability.” The Babur missile has a smaller midsection (520 mm) than Pakistani ballistic missiles (1,5–1,8 m), suggesting some success in miniaturizing nuclear warheads.

The Babur-1 ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCM) have been tested, 12 test launches have been carried out, the R&D program and flight tests have been completed and will most likely be put into service. At various times, the Pakistani government has reported a range of 600 km or 700 km, but the US intelligence community puts the launch range at much lower, up to 350 km (National Air and Space Intelligence Center 2020).

Pakistan is working to upgrade the Babur-1 missile to the Babur-1A modification, updating its avionics and navigation systems to increase the missile's ability to hit targets both on land and at sea. A test launch conducted in February 2021 showed that the Babur-1A has a range of 450 km.

Pakistan is also developing an improved version of the Babur missile launcher, known as Babur-2 or Babur-1B. Test launches of the new rocket were carried out in December 2016, April 2018 and December 2021. Indian media reported that Babur-2/Babur-1B failed two previous tests, in April 2018 and March 2020. "Babur-2/Babur-1B" has an increased range of up to 700 km and is "capable of carrying various types of warheads." The fact that both the Babur-1 and the "improved" Babur-2/Babur-1B have a range of 700 km indicates that the range of the original Babur-1 system was likely shorter.

Mobile transporters - the Babur missile launcher - have been observed for several years on the territory of the Akro base northeast of Karachi. Pakistan is also developing a naval version of the Babur missile launcher, known as Babur-3. The missile is still in development, with two test launches: on January 9, 2017, from an “underwater mobile platform” in the Indian Ocean; and March 29, 2018 from the “underwater dynamic platform.” The Babur-3 is reported to be a naval variant of the Babur-2 GLCM and has a range of 450 km.

Pakistan says the Babur-3 missile system is “capable of delivering multiple types of payloads... which... will provide Pakistan with a credible second-strike capability while enhancing deterrence,” and described it as “a step toward strengthening a credible minimum deterrence policy.”

The Babur-3 cruise missile will most likely be deployed on the Pakistan Navy's three Agosta-90B diesel-electric submarines. In April 2015, the Pakistani government approved the purchase of eight air-independent propulsion (AIP) submarines from China. The deal stipulated that four submarines would be built at the Wuchang Shipbuilding Industry Group (WSIG) shipyard in China, and the remaining four at the Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works shipyard in Pakistan.

On December 21, 2022, steel cutting for the second submarine began at the Karachi shipyard. The first submarine, being built in China, is expected to be delivered by the end of 2023, while the remaining four, assembled in Karachi, are scheduled to be completed by 2028. It is possible that these new submarines, to be called the Hangor class, could eventually be given a nuclear role with the help of the Babur-3 submarine-launched cruise missile.

Once the Babur-3 missile enters service, Pakistan will have a full-fledged nuclear triad, similar to what France had in the 1980s. A Pakistani MoD spokesman said the launch of Babur-3 was driven by the need to comply with India's nuclear triad and the "nuclearization of the Indian Ocean region." He also noted that the stealth technologies of the Babur-3 missile system “will be useful in the developing regional missile defense (BMD) environment.”

The future submarine nuclear capability is managed by the Naval Strategic Forces Command (NSFC) headquarters, which will be the "custodian of the nation's second strike capability" to "strengthen Pakistan's posture of credible minimum deterrence and ensure regional stability."

Pakistan is also developing a variant of the Babur cruise missile, likely with export prospects, known as the Harba, which could be launched on surface ships.

In March 2022, Pakistan unveiled the new missile at the 11th Doha International Maritime Defense Exhibition and Conference (DIMDEX).

A Pakistani Navy spokesman described the Harba missile as an "all-weather" subsonic cruise missile with anti-ship missile and ground attack capabilities, with a range of up to 290 km. According to a Pakistan Navy spokesman, the Harba has been adopted by the Pakistan Navy and deployed on Azmat-class surface ships.

It remains unclear whether the Harbah CD will have dual purpose.
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  1. 0
    25 September 2023 05: 43
    Only one thing is interesting. How did it happen that nuclear weapons were created in India and Pakistan almost simultaneously? It couldn’t have happened otherwise without a wizard on a blue helicopter, who showed the movie to both parties for free. recourse recourse
  2. +5
    25 September 2023 06: 25
    It was not created almost simultaneously; India created nuclear weapons there much earlier than Pakistan and in 1998 only demonstratively carried out a series of tests of long-existing nuclear warheads in response to a series of similar tests by Pakistan.
    Well, in general, India conducted its first nuclear test (“Smiling Buddha”) back in 1974, only declaring then that the nuclear test was carried out for peaceful purposes. After which India, which even then had a significant superiority over Pakistan in conventional weapons, quietly and calmly refined its nuclear weapons and, most importantly, the carriers for such weapons.
    1. +1
      25 September 2023 19: 11
      You're a little confused here. In 1998, India was the first to conduct underground nuclear tests. In response to this provocation, Pakistan carried out its own.
      1. 0
        26 September 2023 12: 14
        Thank you for correcting me, I really got the details mixed up over the years; first, India conducted a series of tests on May 11 and 13, 1998, and in response, Pakistan did so on May 28 and 30, 1998.
        But the main thing here is that by 1998, both countries had long had nuclear weapons and India conducted the first nuclear test in 1974. In turn, Pakistan, although it did not conduct tests until 1998, but in principle they were still in the mid-1980s. x years were able to accumulate enough weapons-grade uranium for the first nuclear charges, then tested them without actually carrying out a nuclear explosion, as far as this could be done. So the first tests could potentially have been carried out not in 1998, but ten years earlier.
  3. +3
    25 September 2023 07: 56
    Great article. Excellent coverage of all aspects of Pakistan's nuclear weapons.
  4. +2
    25 September 2023 08: 19
    Having such a giant neighbor, it is simply necessary to have a deterrent factor.
    In general, this is so far from us that it is not perceived as something.
  5. -2
    26 September 2023 06: 48
    “I strongly believe that by bringing diversity in tactical nuclear weapons to Pakistan's arsenal and to the debate on strategic stability.
    What was he convinced of?

    The Babur missile has a smaller midsection (520 mm) than Pakistani ballistic missiles (1,5–1,8 m), suggesting some success in miniaturizing nuclear warheads.
    Firstly, not the midsection, but the diameter. And secondly, what are 1,5-1,8 meters for ballistic ones? The same Abdali (2002) had a diameter of 560 mm, and Nasr (2011) - about 400 mm. Miniaturization was carried out much earlier. And the larger Shaheen and Ghauri are already missiles of a different class, where the diameter depends not so much on the size of the warhead, but on the required parameters of the missile in terms of range (fuel mass), aerodynamics (required ratio of diameter to length) and, possibly, the need to retrofit the warheads with an ablative thermal protection.

    In general, the article looks like a clumsy machine translation with very superficial editing.
  6. +1
    26 September 2023 16: 24
    Great article

    Missile base

    including countermeasures, counterforce and battlefield targets

    The content is good, but there are too many errors. In some places it hurts the eyes.
  7. 0
    28 December 2023 18: 18
    I wonder how long the warhead has been in Iran?