Pakistan's ballistic response

Print edition : April 24, 1999

India's National Magazine from the publishers of THE HINDU

Pakistan's ballistic missile development programme, which started as a response to India's missile programme, has followed a twin-track approach - of importing missile systems and subsystems and pressing ahead with indigenous development.

PAKISTAN'S prompt response on April 14 to India's testing of its 2,500-km range Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) Agni-II was only to be expected considering its longstanding missile development programme, which reached a high point on April 6, 1998, with the testing of the 1,000-km range IRBM, Ghauri-1. The missile tested on April 14 was called Ghauri-2, claimed to be an improved version of Ghauri-1. This was followed the very next day by the launch of a 600-km range surface-to-surface Short Range Ballistic Missile (SRBM), Shaheen (Eagle).

Pakistan has followed a twin-track and a twin-institutional approach for the development of its missile capability. It has resorted to import - in terms of complete missile systems and subsystems - as well as indigenous development. The two institutions involved are the Khan Research Laboratories (KRL), under the guidance of the father of the Pakistani nuclear weapons programme, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, and the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), which is under Dr. Samar Mubarakmand. Indeed, some analysts have said that the traditional rivalry between the two organisations has also spurred the missile programme. While Ghauri was a project of the KRL, Shaheen come from the PAEC.

Ghauri-2 is a liquid-fuel, two-stage missile while Ghauri-1 is a liquid-fuel, single-stage missile. The former is stated to have a range of 2,300 km but the test itself was designed for a range of only 1,500 km. The actual range achieved may have been less as in the case of Ghauri-1 where the claimed range was 1,000 km but the range achieved seems to have been 700 to 800 km.

However, the photograph of Ghauri-2 that was released officially is not distinguishable from that of Ghauri-1, in terms of the dimensions and the structure. For example, the two stages of Ghauri-2 cannot be discerned. Interestingly, Pakistan has used the Hatf-5 label for both Ghauri-1 and 2. Hatf is the name given to the family of missiles planned when Pakistan started its indigenous missile development programme. This now appears to have given way to borrowed technology and a new nomenclature.

An analysis by Dr. S. Chandrashekar, formerly a scientist with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), of the data on the Ghauri-1 launch released by Pakistan (in the scientific journal Current Science of February 10, 1999) has conclusively established that Ghauri-1 is nothing but the North Korean No Dong-1 missile. This is the conclusion of many Western analysts as well, notably Dr. David Wright, a missile technology analyst for the Defence and Arms Control Study Programme at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). This missile has been deployed by North Korea in large numbers along its northeastern coast.

North Korea is believed to have supplied to Pakistan 12 No Dong-1 missiles and equipped it with the means to manufacture more. The bought-off missiles would be deployable in the next couple of years or so. If means to manufacture them in Pakistan have also been transferred, it will, of course, take five to seven years before indigenous production can begin and the missiles can be validated and deployed. The Washington Post reported on May 14 that North Korea had earned "millions of dollars from this sale to Pakistan".

The short-range Shaheen surface-to-surface missile, which was launched from an undisclosed location near Karachi on April 15.-REUTERS

Another missile from the North Korean stable that would match Ghauri-2's claimed range and characteristics would be the Taepo Dong-1, but it is still to be fully validated by North Korea. According to Wright, the "satellite launch" claimed by North Korea in August 1998 was the maiden launch of Taepo Dong-1. It is, therefore, unlikely that Taepo Dong-1 would have been exported to Pakistan. Given the actual range of 1,500 km during the test (assuming that the claim is correct), it is possible that Ghauri-2 is actually No Dong-2, which is a variant of No Dong-1 with a weight-reducing aluminium structure. However, from a strategic point of view it would make more sense for Pakistan to buy Taepo Dong-1, and the claim made that it was a new missile Ghauri-2, may have been meant just for domestic political consumption.

ON the other hand, Shaheen, the single-stage, solid-fuel SRBM, which was fired on April 15 over a range of 600 km, is most likely to be based on the Chinese M-9 missile (which has a range of 600 km for a 500-kg payload) or a variant of the two-stage, solid fuelled 300-km range M-11 (but with a reduced payload). A typical nuclear warhead would have a weight of around 500 kg. Shaheen is perhaps the same missile that was called Hatf-3 when it was first launched in mid-1997. The launch was widely believed to have been a failure.

Since the United States had imposed only Category II MTCR (Missile Technology Control Regime) related sanctions on China and Pakistan in 1993 for missile transfers, Pakistan, in all likelihood, procured subsystems and engineered Shaheen on its own with perhaps some Chinese assistance. Indeed, evidence gathered by U.S. spy satellites and intelligence agencies suggest that China has helped Pakistan set up an M-11 fabrication plant near Rawalpindi. According to Pakistani media reports, 84 M-11s with 12 to 20 mobile launchers cost $185 million and the technology cost another $516 million.

This would seem plausible given the capability that Pakistan has built up in solid propellant technology (akin to India) from the sounding rocket programme. Without a well-developed civilian launch vehicle programme, Pakistan may be lacking in an industrial base for liquid fuel technology, on which the North Korean missiles (whose lineage comes from the liquid-fuel Scud B missiles of the 1950s from the Soviet Union) are based, and hence may have opted to buy entire missile systems from North Korea. Indeed, the MTCR-related sanctions imposed on North Korea and Pakistan on April 17, 1998, following the Ghauri-1 launch, would also corroborate that assumption.

THE Pakistani missile programme can be traced to the time-frame 1986-87 after the French transferred sounding rocket technology for atmospheric research in the mid-1980s. Pakistan's quest for ballistic missiles could have been triggered by India's own Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) that got under way in 1982-83. The programme began with the development of three solid-fuelled missiles, Hatf-1, 2 and 3, with ranges (for a 500-kg payload) of 60 km, 280 km and 800 km respectively. Contrary to the opinion widely expressed then, which is still being held in some quarters in the wake of M-11 transfers, the initial Pakistani efforts would seem to have been wholly indigenous, based on the sounding rocket technology acquired from the French company Aerospatiale.

Hatf-1, a single-stage vehicle, and Hatf-2, a two-stage vehicle (with Hatf-1 as the upper stage), were successfully developed and tested in 1989 and deployed during the 1992-93 time-frame. However, Hatf-3 would seem to have run into difficulties in the staging of the missile with its large diameter motor required for the greater envisaged range. With the imminent induction of Prithvi across the border, Pakistan shopped for missile technology and acquired it from China first and North Korea in recent years. While Ghauri has been called Hatf-5, there does not seem to be a Hatf-4 in the series.

According to a study of early Pakistani missiles by Chandrashekar (Missile Monitor, March 1993), the dimensions and capabilities of Hatf-1 indicated that it was based on the French Dauphin or Dragon-III. Since Hatf-1 and 2 had a diameter of 0.55 metre, the study argued that it could not have been based on the Chinese M-series which has a diameter of 1 m. Shaheen/Hatf-3 has a diameter of 1 m. According to Chandrashekar, Pakistan is likely to have built up an infrastructure for solid propellant manufacture, evolved capabilities in re-entry technology, critical raw materials, guidance systems and telemetry technology on its own as well as with some external assistance, including from China.

Immediately following the Ghauri test, Pakistani leaders and scientists claimed that they were working on another series of missiles and specifically named them "Ghaznavi", "Babri" and "Abdali". Ghaznavi has been described as having a range of 2,000 km. No other details have been made public except for Khan stating that the development of these missiles "is going on in full swing". This also seems to suggest that Ghauri-2 probably does not have a range of 2,000 km as claimed and that Ghauri-2 is either the same as Ghauri-1 or a minor variant of it. It is also possible that the North Korean Taepo Dong-1, once fully validated, will be renamed Ghaznavi. According to a July 19, 1998, report in Islamabad's Urdu daily, Al-Akhbar, Abdali has a range of 3,500 km. Abdali could also be drawing on North Korean technology; for example, it could be Taepo Dong-2, which is under development in North Korea.

In terms of strategic implications, Ghauri-1, assuming a range of 700 km with a payload of one tonne, the reach for a south and southeastern launch from Pakistan's border is already as far as Hyderabad, the Andhra Pradesh capital. With the acquisition of Taepo Dong-1 capability (Ghaznavi), which seems imminent once North Korea validates the missile, nearly the whole of India could be reached.

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