Pakistan's army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani was onhand to witness the test of Pakistan's Hatf-IX/Vengeance-IX missile, otherwise known as 'Nasr,' on Oct. 5. (Aamir Qureshi / Getty Images)
ISLAMABAD — The Oct. 5 test of Pakistan’s Hatf-IX/Vengeance-IX missile, otherwise known as ‘Nasr,’ shows its development has been completed and the command-and-control systems are in place, allowing it to be deployed, say analysts.
A press release by the military’s Inter Service Public Relations (ISPR) media branch stated the successful test was “conducted with successive launches of 4 x missiles (salvo) from a state of the art multi tube launcher.”
Nasr is a mobile, quick-reaction, four-round weapon system capable of delivering its nuclear-armed, short-range ballistic missiles up to 60 kilometers.
The test was witnessed by the Chief of the Army Staff, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kiyani; the director general of the Strategic Plans Division (which handles all aspects of the non-conventional program) Lt. Gen Khalid Ahmad Kidwai; and the chairman of the National Engineering and Scientific Commission (which designed the Nasr missile system), Muhammad Irfan Burney.
Mansoor Ahmed from Quaid-e-Azam University’s Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, who specializes in Pakistan’s national deterrent and delivery program, says the test signified the commitment to enhancing the Nasr’s effectiveness, but that two aspects stand out.
“It was the second test of a salvo fired from a four-round launcher, and its in-flight maneuver capability is being improved to defeat potential Indian missile defenses against artillery rockets and short-range ballistic missiles, such as the Israeli Iron Dome system,” he said.
Ahmed said this means Nasr has “passed the initial R&D phase and has been accepted and possibly been inducted into service by the Pakistan Army’s Strategic Forces.”
The ISPR statement’s mention of full-spectrum deterrence at tactical and strategic level, Ahmed believes, means the Nasr missile system has been “fully integrated into the centralized command-and-control structure through round the clock situational awareness in a digitized network centric environment to decision makers at National Command Center.”
Nasr is obviously India-specific, he said, and the salvo launch capability is a key ability in stopping Indian armored thrusts into Pakistani territory.
“The salvo launch demonstrates that Pakistan is steadily improving its counterforce capabilities against Indian armored thrusts as part of the Indian ‘Cold Start’ doctrine with the option of using low-yield, boosted fission, plutonium warheads in the possible range of 0.5 to 5 kilotons in case of a breakdown of conventional defenses,” he said.
It also “implies Pakistan has fully integrated the concept,and procedures to employ tactical nuclear weapons when, and if, required against the enemy, as part of its flexible force posture in the face of emerging and evolving threats,” says Ahmed.
Pakistan’s switch to the production of plutonium and stockpiling fissile material has been very topical, and Ahmed says the test show “Pakistan appears to have increased confidence in continuing to build sophisticated, miniaturized warheads for the Nasr missiles.
“Such tests are also designed re-enforce the message that Pakistan’s capabilities to produce miniaturized warheads for battlefield nuclear weapons have progressively matured,” Ahmed added.
However, Ahmed points out that “tactical nuclear weapons used to supplement conventional defenses would be only employed in case of deterrence failure.”
Given a paucity of funds as a result of Pakistan’s economic downturn, much of the military’s modernization plans have been postponed or even abandoned.
If the development of Nasr is complete, and if there are no other major non-conventional related programs in need of funds, it could mean finances could be freed up for conventional programs.
Analyst Haris Khan of the Pakistan Military Consortium think tank said Nasr’s development has not yet finished. However, there nevertheless could be some movement in bringing the conventional modernization programs back on track.
He highlights the Army’s tank fleet, which has seen mixed fortunes. The T-80UD upgrade appears to have been postponed, but further development of the Al-Khalid MBT has continued and development of the Al-Khalid II is nearing completion.
“The Al-Khalid II is to be equipped with a Chinese 1,200 HP diesel engine with a German or South Korean gear box, and the Army has also evaluated the Ukrainian Kombat tandem-warhead gun fired anti-tank guided missile,” he said.
Generally however, the government has recently released a small amount of “much needed procurement funds for all three services” that should keep their modernization/procurement programs alive until the economy can improve further allowing for deals to be finalized.
“The Army is exploring acquiring a new wheeled APC [the Serbian Lazar 2], a general utility helicopter, and an attack helicopter from Turkey or the USA. The Navy is hoping to finalize a deal to manufacture four more improved F-22P frigates plus, if enough funds are available, new subs from China and/or Germany.
“The Air Force, on the other hand, hopes to acquire more F-16s, seal a deal for J-10 aircraft from China, and more transport aircraft, plus a new SAM system also from China”, he said.