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Pakistan tests nuclear capable Shaheen 1A missile

16 Dec 2015 | By Gaurav

Pakistan successfully test fired the Shaheen 1A, a nuclear capable Short Range Ballistic Missile (SRBM) with a a range of 900 km.

Last week, Pakistan conducted the second test of the Shaheen III Medium Range Ballistic Missile (MRBM) with a range of 2750 km, bringing all major Indian cities within striking distance.

Pakistan does not have Intermediate range or Intercontinental ballistic missile technology yet.

In context: The Indo-Pak Nuclear Saga

1960s The start of the Indo-Pak nuclear saga

In 1962, India suffered heavy casualties in the Sino-Indian war.

In 1964, China tested nuclear weapons and by 1968, demonstrated full thermonuclear capability. This was the primary driver for India to begin testing nuclear weapons technology.

India's first successful nuclear weapons test was in 1974, under Indira Gandhi.

Pakistan subsequently began ramping up its own nuclear weapons technology with assistance from China.

1980s Pakistan enters the nuclear race

Reports emerged in the 1980s, that China had given Pakistan design specifications for a fully tested nuclear weapon.

Pakistan was a crucial supply line for US forces in Afghanistan during the Cold War, so the US turned a blind eye to Pakistan's nuclear weapons program.

This also marks the phase when control over Pakistan's nuclear weapons program was taken over by the military.

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Nuclear weapons controlled by the military

To this day, Pakistan is the only country in the world, whose nuclear weapons program is under full control of the military and not the civilian government.

1998Tests, a short war and deterrence

India conducted five nuclear weapons tests from 11-13 May 1998, under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and declared itself a nuclear armed nation.

Pakistan subsequently demonstrated its nuclear capabilities in six tests conducted from 28-30 May 1998.

In 1999, the Kargil conflict broke out, but neither country used nuclear weapons despite issuing numerous threats to do so, demonstrating first-hand the concept of nuclear deterrence.

What is nuclear deterrence?

Nuclear deterrence describes the relationship between two nuclear adversaries. One will not use nuclear weapons against the other for fear (deterred) that a retaliatory strike could cause Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).

Delivery Delivery systems for nuclear weapons

A nuclear weapon requires a delivery system to be a credible threat.

These systems comprise of aircraft, ballistic missiles, ships and submarines.

The range and physical maneuverability of these delivery systems determines their potency.

Countries try to diversify their delivery systems to maintain a credible deterrent posture. If one system is compromised due to an attack, the other must be available for retaliation.

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Types of Ballistic Missiles

There are four types of ballistic missiles, classified based on their range: Short Range (SRBM, 0-1000 km), Medium Range (MRBM, 1000-3000 km), Intermediate Range (IRBM, 3000-5500 km) and Intercontinental (ICBM, 5500 km+).

Pakistan Pakistans nuclear capabilities

Pakistan currently has 110-130 nuclear warheads.

Pakistan has eight land-based missile systems of which five are SRBMs and three are MRBMs.

Pakistan's F-16 and Mirage-III planes make up the backbone of their nuclear delivery system.

In 2012, the Pakistani navy established the Naval Strategic Forces Command for development and deployment of a sea based nuclear force. Pakistan does not have sea launch capability yet.

India India's nuclear forces

India has 110-120 nuclear warheads.

India has six land-based ballistic missiles of which two are SRBMs, one MRBM and three IRBMs.

India also has three sea launched ballistic missiles, of which 2 are SRBMs and one MRBM.

The Indian Air Force's Mirage 2000 and Jaguar planes are the primary delivery mechanisms, while an unknown number of submarines carry nuclear warheads as well.

Doctrine India, Pakistan and their nuclear doctrine

India's nuclear doctrine defines a strict 'no first use' policy.

It further states that India will use all its nuclear forces in full scale, for a "massively disproportionate response" to a nuclear attack.

Pakistan defines spatial, military, economic and political thresholds which will evoke a nuclear attack.

These include heavy casualties on the Pakistani military, or economic and political interference in Pakistan's policy making.

10 Mar 2015Pakistan has India covered and vice-versa

With the development of Pakistan's Shaheen III missile, all major Indian cities are within striking range of Pakistani nuclear weapons.

India's Agni III ensures full coverage of Pakistan's land mass as well.

However, since Pakistan does not possess sea-launch capability yet, India's submarine-launched K-15 Sagarika missile ensures that India has the upper hand in the Indo-Pak nuclear deterrence scenario, despite having fewer nuclear warheads.

16 Dec 2015Pakistan tests nuclear capable Shaheen 1A missile