Col. Vinayak Bhat (retd)11 August, 2018
Pakistan keeps moving its missiles and launchers from place to place to conceal their whereabouts, according to evidence analysed by ThePrint.
For years now, Pakistan has sought to overcome its disproportionately smaller conventional military capability against India by amassing scores of nuclear weapons and delivery systems. In 1965, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the country’s foreign minister at the time, had said: “We will eat grass and leaves, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own (nuclear bomb).”
Later, as prime minister, Bhutto established the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) to fulfil his dream mission of possessing a missile programme.
Pakistan also created the Kahuta Research Laboratories (now known as Khan Research Laboratories) soon after its defeat in the 1971 war. The efforts to gain nuclear technology by illegal means increased after India’s Pokhran blast in 1974.
But Islamabad also resorts to bluff and bluster on its nuclear weapons programme. In January 2017, this author had exposed Pakistan when it used Photoshop and special effects to fake the launch of its Babur missile.
After almost 18 months, now there is undeniable evidence on Google Earth satellite imagery exposing Pakistan’s unknown, secretive missile launches.
Pakistan’s closest ally has been China, with whom it shares an inseparable friendship. Since the 1980s, Pakistan has made strong efforts to acquire an indigenous capability in missile production, assisted by China and North Korea with their technological and other assistance.
China’s role in the sale of M-11 missiles to Pakistan, along with the blueprints of the U235 nuclear implosion device has been documented earlier. In the 1990s, many Chinese and North Korean vessels were raided to find and confiscate tons of ammonium perchlorate bound for SUPARCO.
China has also been providing transporter erector launchers or TELs for Pakistan’s missile programmes. The Wanshan Special Vehicles Factory has been providing its WS51200 vehicles for the Shaheen-III missiles to be made more mobile.
More recently, China has provided powerful and high performance tracking system for Pakistan’s missile development programme.
These are highly accurate spatial measurement systems known as cinetheodolites. They use high-speed cameras and laser tracking, enabling collection of trajectory and performance data obtained during testing to assist the missile development programmes.
As per the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a set of four systems has been provided with training and guidance of Chinese engineers and technicians.
Pakistan is paranoid that Indian armed forces will know exactly where its missiles and weapons are located. So, it adopts a system of keeping the nuclear weapons and missiles moving so that no one ever knows their exact location.
This brings in the crucially important aspect of transport security, especially from an internal threat. The so-called “jihadists” or “good terrorists” may get to know how and when Pakistan moves its missiles and nuclear weapons from one location to another.
Pakistan has assembled at least 10 special trucks for transporting possibly weapons and missiles from KRL in Kahuta and the National Defence Complex, Fatehjang, to various locations, especially to Winder, near Karachi.
The civilian truck, which US commentators call a “1-800-FLOWERS” truck, has been observed at Fatehjang, Hyderabad (Sindh) and Winder.
These trucks have been seen on highways near Hyderabad and Karachi with seemingly no security cover.
The Shaheen-III missile was developed by Pakistan in response to the so-called threat posed by India’s Agni-III. The first service test was carried out in December 2017.
Since then, Pakistan’s former Strategic Plans Division chief Lt Gen. Khalid Kidwai has been boasting about capability to hit India as far away as the Andaman and Nicobar Islands with nuclear weapons.
The satellite images of 1 December, 2017, cover the launch site of Pakistan’s premier facilities at Winder.
The images clearly display a missile horizontally placed on some kind of stand. The size and shape of the missile suggest that it is a Shaheen-III missile.
The launch pad has a tractor erector system for the missile to be raised to vertical firing position.
The movable shed has been shifted, possibly to place the missile on the erector system.
A large number of vehicles is observed near the command and control centre. They are possibly special instrumentation vehicles.
Indian scientists successfully tested the Agni-V missile in January 2018. The Indian missile has range of 5,000 km, which covers nearly all of Pakistan from any part of India. But the Agni-V is not a Pakistan-specific missile.
Pakistan is equally involved in the missile race. Its India-centric missile programme was readied for a repeat test of its of Ababeel missile.
Satellite images of Winder launch site show a white missile in erected position with a number of support vehicles around it. The movable shed has been moved to its end.
The size and shape of this missile suggests it is an Ababeel. Its position suggests it is ready to be fired and countdown has begun.
The presence of army tents in huge numbers along with the VIP tent suggests that this Ababeel launch was probably user trials for the Pakistan Army.
The MIRV (multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle) technology of the Ababeel missile reportedly uses the Chinese cinetheodolite tracking system to track multiple targets to develop a perfect multiple re-entry for its weapons.
NOTAMs — international warning notifications that are issued before testing flying objects — for Pakistan’s December launch could not be traced. They were possible issued a long time ago, and expired on the day of launch.
The NOTAMs issued by Pakistan for the 28 January 2018 launch cover a distance of 2,900 km into the Arabian Sea.
The distance is almost 700 km greater than the earlier-claimed 2,200 km by the director-general of Inter-Services Public Relations, the media wing of the military, after the first test on 24 January 2017.
The range indicated in the NOTAMs suggests very strongly that this particular Ababeel could be a variant with longer range.
In its zest to keep up with India, the new government, with Imran Khan as its leader, is unlikely to bring in any positive change to Pakistan’s military and nuclear establishments.