Strategic Weapons: Pakistan Goes Mobile

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May 14, 2007: Satellite photos of a Pakistani factory 30 kilometers southwest of the capital show transporter erector launchers (TELs) being assembled for the Shaheen 2 ballistic missile. It appears that fifteen of the fifty foot long, six axle vehicles are in various stages of completion.

The Shaheen 2 is believed to be an upgraded Pakistani version of the Chinese M-18, which was originally shown at the 1987 Beijing air show as a two-stage missile with a 1,000 km range and carrying a 900-1100 pound payload. This M-18 missile has the longest range of any of the current M/DF-series missiles. The mobile, two-stage missile is said to be able to carry a 2,200-pound payload (one 35 kiloton yield nuclear warhead.) There have been four successful test launches of the Shaheen 2 in the last three years. The missiles 2,000 kilometer range puts Bombay, New Delhi, Lucknow, and Jaipur, as well as all military targets in northern India, within range.

Last November, Pakistan conducted another successful test of its Shaheen 1 (Hatf IV) missile. Weighing 9.5 tons, and carrying a one ton warhead, the missile has a range of 700 kilometers. The Shaheen 1 entered service in 2003, and is apparently a variant of the Chinese DF-9 missile. Pakistan is believed to have received the solid fuel DF-9 in the 1990s, and has modified it somewhat.

What's remarkable about Pakistan is that it now has a full range of solid fuel rockets. The 1.5 ton Hatf I, which appeared in 1989, has a range of 80 kilometers and a half ton warhead. Also showing up in 1989, the 2.5 ton Hatf II has a range of 180 kilometers, and also carries a half ton warhead. The four ton Hatf III, which was first tested earlier this year, appears to be based on the Chinese DF-11. China has long been selling military technology to Pakistan. This missile has a range of some 300 kilometers and also carries a half ton warhead.

Pakistan began producing the Hatf IV in the late 1990s, although it was not tested until 1999. The design appears to be well thought out, for the Hatf IV has had several successful tests. It's not known if Pakistan has a nuclear warhead of equal reliability. Such warheads are difficult to design, manufacture and test.

 


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