ISLAMABAD — Despite the official announcement that the Nov. 28 test of the Ghauri/Hatf V (Vengeance V) ballistic missile was successful, reports in the local media indicate the missile in fact disintegrated.
The reports were accompanied by images of the missile debris that fell in and around villages in the district of Dadu in the southern province of Sind. They were reportedly quickly secured by the police and then removed by the military.
One piece of the debris was clearly marked “‘Flight Control Computer.’’ Other images show a mass of wires among tubular metal pieces.
The military’s Inter Service Public Relations (ISPR) media branch admitted the debris were part of the Ghauri, but reiterated its earlier claim that the test was a “complete success.”
“The missile during its flight remained within the designated flight path and corridor. The metal parts found in a remote area of Dadu, as reported in media today, were part of the motor body, which separated from the missile as planned, well within the safety corridor,” it stated.
Though the incident caused some distress, but not any casualties or damage to property, the ISPR statement concluded, “It was ensured that at no point, would human life or property be at risk. There is no cause for alarm or concern.”
The missile may have originated from the Tilla missile test-firing range near the Punjabi city of Jhelum. Its trajectory seems to indicate it was heading for impact in Balochistan province, (possibly the Sonmiani firing range), or the Arabian Sea.
Analyst Haris Khan of the Pakistan Military Consortium think tank does not accept the military’s version of events.
“It seems there was some kind of failure here,” he said.
“I’m not sure if the Ghauri has a separating warhead, but it is possible. However, the missile body clearly disintegrated and fell over a wide area. The missile was a single-stage weapon. This is unusual. The body should have stayed intact even if the warhead did separate,” he added.
He does not see any reason why disintegration would be planned.
“There’s no advantage to the missile body breaking up unless it was over the target to confuse an ABM defense radar. Also, I don’t think the Army would choose to have pieces of missile fall out of the sky over a populated area, even if not many people were living there.”
“This has never reported to have happened in any previous missile test”, he said.
If this is indeed a failure, Khan says it would mark the third known incident of this kind involving the Ghauri since it was purchased from North Korea by disgraced metallurgist and former administrative head of the then-Khan Research Laboratories, Abdul Qadir Khan.
The first test in 1998 led to the missile breaking up, and in a later test the Ghauri is known to have fallen in Iranian territory, leading to a diplomatic protest from Tehran.
Khan says because the design was outdated when purchased, the considerable modernization work done by the National Engineering and Scientific Commission and the National Defence Complex may not have been wholly effective.
Ultimately, he says the Ghauri missile system needs to be retired.