Submarines: Pakistan Pretends

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April 18, 2018: In March 2018 Pakistan announced another successful test of its Babur 3 cruise missile from an underwater platform. Sometimes described as a submarine launched cruise missile, official announcements from the Pakistani military always mention Babur 3 operating from a “mobile underwater platform” never a submarine. Underwater barges are typically used to test ballistic or cruise missiles designed to be launched from submarines. It appears Pakistan has got Babur 3 to work when launched from an underwater test barge but not yet (or perhaps ever) from ones of its French designed Agosta submarines. These subs are designed to use underwater launched (from torpedo tubes) Exocet anti-ship missiles. These missiles weight 680 kg (1,500 pounds) and have a max range of 70 kilometers. Launching a larger (1.5 ton) cruise missile from a submarine involves a different technology and the Americans find it more effective to design their submarines to carry special cells just for launching cruise missiles.

The underwater barges are mobile in that they can be towed and they usually are anchored along the coast for test firings. The Pakistan Navy does not list any mobile underwater platforms in service. Such barges are normally considered “test equipment” maintained and operated by research and development organizations that design and test underwater launched missiles.

Pakistan announced that “submarine launched” Babur 3 entered service in January 2017. It was then, and subsequently, officially described as launched from a “mobile underwater platform” and never a submarine. This version of Babur has a range of 450 kilometers and can carry a nuclear warhead. Babur uses 1980s era technology pioneered by the United States with their Tomahawk. This novel 1.3 ton American cruise missile entered service in 1983 and air and sea launched versions are still used. The GLCM (ground launched cruise missile) version never entered service. Ranges varied from 1,300 t0 2,500 kilometers. The Tomahawk is widely imitated because it does not use any exotic tech breakthroughs.

In March 2o17 Pakistan showed off the Raad 2 ALCM (air launched cruise missile) for the first time. It appeared to be the same size and shape of the original Raad but with a longer range of 550 kilometers. The original Raad had a range of 350 kilometers. Also called Hatf 8, Raad is a 1.1 ton, 4.85 meter (16 foot) long missile that entered service in 2007. Raad did not use pop-out wings like Western cruise missiles and its design is based more on Russian Cold War era ASMs (air-to-surface missiles).

A more familiar cruise missile is the original Babur (Hatf 7), which entered service in 2005. This is a larger 1.5 ton, 7 meters (23 foot) long GLCM with a 500 kilometers range and by 2007 range was extended to 700 kilometers. Like the American Tomahawk Babur used terrain following and GPS for guidance. In late 2016 Babur 2 entered service. It had a range of 750 kilometers and an improved guidance system that could be used without GPS and was able to attack ships at sea. Raad and Babur can both carry nuclear warheads.

 


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