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Bluffer's Guide - Pakistani Nuclear Forces
Amateur research and illustrations by me. Feedback welcome. This does not form an exhaustive or authoritative text on the subject and is politically unbiased.
Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent is primarily shouldered by Army Strategic Force Command (ASFC) although the Air Force (PAF) and Navy (PN) may develop nuclear capabilities in the near future.
Key ranges, relative to Pakistani territory:
Hatf-1 Short Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBM)
Range: 80km (110km Hatf-Ia), Payload: 500kg
The Hatf-1 (Deadly-1) is a battlefield rocket in a similar class to the Soviet FROG. It is allegedly developed from the French Eridan rocket. It was developed by Pakistan in the 1980s and was in service by 1990. The system may still be operational, but is unlikely to carry nuclear warheads. Unusually for a ballistic missile the launch rail, which elevates to about 70degrees for launch, is mounted on a recycled WWII anti-aircraft gun platform.
Hatf-II (first version) Short Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBM)
Range: 280km, Payload: 500kg
The original Hatf-II project was simply a two-stage Hatf-I. The range was claimed to be more than tripled. Although the system was paraded, the project appears to have been abandoned about the time Pakistan bought the more sophisticated M-11 type from China. A new “Hatf-II” missile is now entering service and although it fulfills the same role, it is quite distinct.
M-11 Short Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBM) (China: DF-11)
Range: 300km, Payload: 500kg
Although Pakistan had started development of the Hatf-I and Hatf-II during the 1980s the acquisition of foreign missile technology during the early 1990s was crucial to the future development of more capable missiles. The key technology transfer during this time was the purchase of M-11 short-range missiles which became operational by 1993 and are still in service. It is possible that China was reluctant to supply longer range missiles due to the 300km limit agreed in the 1987 Missile Technology Control Regime. Although development of the M-11 had started in the 1970s it was in 1992 still very modern, and it demonstrates the strength of Pakistan-Chinese relations because a) by exporting this technology China must have known that they were providing Pakistan with the means to develop rockets that would one day range over their own cities and b) it entered service with Pakistan years before it did with China’s own forces.
Ghaznavi Short Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBM) (Hatf III)
Range: 290km, Payload: 500kg
The Hatf-III is essentially the locally built equivalent to the M-11, although the design is distinct. The missile is solid fuelled for enhanced mobility/shoot and scoot. The final missile was handed over to the Pakistani military in 2007.
Abdali Short Range Ballistic Missile (SRBM) (Hatf II)
Range: 200km, Payload: 500kg.
Years after abandoning the Hatf-II, the designation was recycled for a similar but more modern (and presumably more successful) design. The system is probably a replacement for the increasingly obsolete Hatf-I.
Shaheen I Medium Range Ballistic Missile (MRBM)(Hatf IV)
Range: 750km, Payload: 750kg
The Shaheen-I represents Pakistan’s indigenous MRBM program, and can potentially strike Mumbai and New Delhi from Pakistani soil. It is almost certainly nuclear capable. Being solid fuelled it is far harder to detect prior to launch than the SCUD or other liquid fuelled systems.
Ghauri Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM)(Hatf V)
Range: 1,500km (2,500km Hatf-Va), Payload: 700-1,200kg
Although the 750km range of the Shaheen-I was ample to assure nuclear deterrence against India, being able to threaten New Delhi, and even reach Mumbai from the South Eastern tip of Pakistan, Pakistan wanted a longer ranged missile. The 1,500km (some source 1,400km) ranged Ghuari-I missile could range over most of India from Pakistani territory. This was promptly followed up by an enhanced version capable of firing 2,500km.
The Ghauri family is essentially the North Korean NoDong type and represents the technological safeguard against the more advanced indigenous Shaheen program. Having said that, the Ghauri appears to have got the spotlight relative to its more potent stable mate.
Shaheen II Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM)(Hatf VI)
Range: 2,500km, Payload: 1,000kg
Although the name implies a close relative of the Shaheen-I, the Shaheen-II is in fact quite different in almost every detail, though most noticeable is the fact that it is much larger being divided into two stages. The fins are also completely different and the TEL is necessarily much longer.
The 2,500km range Shaheen-II is in my estimation the most potent ballistic missile in Pakistani service, being able much quicker to ready and fire than the Ghauri because of its solid-fuel motor.
Babur Cruise Missile (Hatf VII)
Range: 700km, Payload: 300-500kg
Developed from technology acquired when several US Tomahawk cruise missile enroot to Taliban targets in Afghanistan crashed in Pakistan, the Babur appears to be a very credible cruise missile.
The initial trials version was launched from a single rail trailer mounted launcher that elevated to nearly vertical for firing. This launcher was also displayed at IDEAS06 defense exhibition with a dummy missile.
Although it is possible that this design is also used for some in-service units, the folding tail fins of the Bubar prove that it was always intended for compact box or tube launch. The main in-service Bubar unit carries four missiles mounted on an off-road truck chassis similar to those used by Pakistan’s ballistic missiles, although in this case the cab is similar to that of the Chinese M-11. Although it’s not yet clear whether the missile will be fired vertically, I don’t think that is the case after looking at the launcher in more detail. The framework around the box launchers appears to be for some form of hording.
Thunder (Ra’ad ) Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM)(Hatf-VIII)
Range: 350kg, Payload: 300-500kg (est)
The Ra’ad is significantly smaller than the Babur, at approximately 5.25m in length, making it much better suited to combat aircraft.
Although the Babur could be carried by aircraft it is too large for most in an operational setting. The Hatf-VIII is likely to be carried by Mirage-III fighter bombers on the centerline hardpoint, but cold be carried by F-16s and potentially JF-17s in the future. It’s too large for the PAF’s F-7s and A-5s. The Hatf-VIII is the PAF’s first serious long ranged standoff weapon, giving them reach over most of India, albeit under resistance from Indian forces. It is not clear whether it will carry nuclear warheads – conventional seems more likely – but it may get nuclear warheads simply for political purposes with the Air Force playing their role in Pakistan’s deterrence.
Point defenses of Pakistan’s strategic facilities.
Pakistan relies heavily on its Air Force’s fleet of F-16, F6, Mirage III and soon JF-17 and F-10 fighters for air defense. Also, although the Pakistani Army is among the largest in the World, and heavily involved in counter-terrorism along the Afghani boarder and years of skirmishes with India, it is in fact not a particularly militarized country in terms of permanent defenses. – there are relatively few air defense sites except at air bases etc.
Few Pakistani nuclear facilities have full-time air defenses, indeed when you have nuclear weapons just a red telephone away who needs them? – but two key nuclear sites do and several air bases and militarized areas are worth a browse on Google earth.
Khushab Nuclear Reactor
Pakistan’s most well known nuclear site is also the most strongly defended with two rings of AAA positions around the main structures and an unidentified system, perhaps a medium range SAM, deployed on the south side of the complex. The AAA positions appear to be 35mm AAA.
Only ring around the main reactor is occupied in Google Earth satellite imagery. Example sites:
There is also an unidentified system on the south of the site.
It is not consistent with any known Pakistani air defense system and the fact that all the units are aligned suggests that they may actually be buildings. But they sure look like missile batteries. If they are SAMs, then the three positions furthest north would be the primary firing units, and the ones to the south in the trees next to the river would be reserves. The vehicle in the centre appears to be a radar.
Kahuta nuclear site also has some AD positions but better SkyGuard examples are found at Dera Ghaza Khan uranium enrichment plant:
Point air-defense equipment
Pakistan operates 200 aging Oerlikon GDF-002 35mm AAA guns and an unknown quantity of the more modern GDF-005 version:
Although both are potent against helicopters and low flying aircraft they are not fitted with the advanced AHEAD anti-missile rounds and do not present a credible defense against missile attack. These weapons are radar controlled with SkyGuard I fire control radars. Pakistan also recently procured at least 6 more SkyGuard radars although the exact version of these is unclear. Pakistan also has a number of Swedish Giraffe 75 mast mounted radars although it is not clear if these are integrated with the SkyGuard systems.
Pakistan also deploys around 700 Chinese Type-74 37mm AAA guns, some of which have been upgraded with an enhanced sighting system . The Type-74 is not well suited to anti-missile role.
There are also persistent rumors that Pakistan acquired a small number of Chinese DK-9 (PL-9C) short range SAMs off China in the early 1990s but these are unconfirmed and the system is not thought to have been very successful. It is now clear that rumors that the Anza-III is in some way related to the DK-9 is wrong, it is instead a QW-4 relative. The DK-9 was designed to be integrated with either both the Chinese Type-74 AAA and the SkyGuard 35mm AAA (which China also operates).
Additional air defense units Pakistan could employ round nuclear facilities at times of tension
Pakistan has a widely recognized weakness in ground based air defenses instead relying on its Air force for this purpose. But it does deploy large quantities of short range systems such as AAA and MANPAD SAMs, including the indigenous Anza (based on Chinese QW-2) missiles, and the famous Swedish RBS-70 laser guided SAM which is locally produced. Pakistan also uses several French systems including the Mistral SAM and the Crotale radar guided SAM, which is operated by the Air Force.
The Crotale-4000 is not suitable for defending against cruise missiles and is becoming out dated against combat aircraft, but its planned replacements are much more capable; the Italian SPADA-2000 SAM system for the Air Force, and the Swedish BAMSE system for the Army (below):
It is probable that the BAMSE will be integrated with Pakistan’s existing Ericsson Giraffe mast mounted radars, and the SPADA with the SkyGuard system, and mast mounted MPDR radars. The deployment of these two systems and their integration into Pakistan’s excellent radar/air defense network will be a quantum leap in key site defense. One area, anti-ballistic-missile defense (ABM) will remain nonexistent however, instead relying on nuclear deterrence.
..Other sites of interest
The town of Sui is better known for its gas plant, which is in some regards a strategic target, but the airfield is home to several military units operating tanks, SkyGuard and artillery. Their emplacements give us an illustration of Pakistani military in field deployment:
Sahgodha missile site
Sahgodha is normally associated with the M-11 missile but is essentially a large ammo dump consisting of bunkers and tunnels complexes. There are however two large structures, conspicuously camouflaged, which may well be missile silos for long range missiles such as the rumored Ghauri-III liquid fuelled IRBM.