Pakistan continued to boost its deterrence capabilities Tuesday with a test of the Ghaznavi short-range, nuclear-capable ballistic missile. Here, an earlier test of the missile is conducted in 2010. (Agence France-Presse)
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan on Tuesday conducted a successful test launch of its Hatf III/Vengeance III Ghaznavi short-range ballistic missile as it continues to strengthen its deterrent capabilities against archrival India.
A statement by the Pakistan military’s Inter Service Public Relations (ISPR) stated that a “successful training launch” had been carried out of the 290-kilometer-range Ghaznavi, which is capable of carrying conventional and nuclear warheads.
Ghaznavi is a solid-fueled, single-stage missile possibly deriving some of its technology from the Chinese M-11/CSS-7.
A missile test had been expected since last week by analysts.
Though ISPT did not state the location of Tuesday’s test, analysts said it was most likely conducted at the Sonmiani Ranges.
According to the ISPR statement, “The successful launch concluded the Field Training Exercise of Strategic Missile Group of Army Strategic Forces Command.”
It also stated the test launch had been witnessed by a number of military and civilian officials, including Gen. Rashad Mahmood, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee; Lt. Gen. Zubair Mahmood Hayat, director of the General Strategic Plans Division; Lt. Gen. Obaid Ullah Khan, commander of Army Strategic Forces Command; and the chairman of the National Engineering and Scientific Commission (NESCOM), Muhammad Irfan Burney.
NESCOM is responsible for the design and production of a number of weapon and defense systems, including missiles.
Mahmood “expressed his satisfaction over the training goals achieved during the exercise and expected that the officers and men entrusted with the task of deterring aggression would continue to maintain professional excellence.”
Brian Cloughley, a former Australian defense attache to Islamabad, said the launch is a “routine test,” but an indication of continued preparation for a conventional war.
“The ongoing concentration on short-range and battlefield missile systems is interesting, because it shows that [Pakistan’s] Army continues to prepare for the land battle, and obviously believes that the Indians have not in any way modified the short, sharp-thrust policy, the so-called ‘Cold Start’ concept,” he said.
Similarly, Mansoor Ahmed, from Quaid-e-Azam University’s Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, who specializes in Pakistan’s national deterrent and delivery program, said the test was a “routine training exercise designed to test operational readiness, procedures and integration of this short-range ballistic missile system” under the Armed Forces Strategic Command.
“This test underscores Pakistan’s continued emphasis on achieving greater effectiveness of counterforce targeting potential of its strategic forces as part of the country’s operational-level strategic capability,” he added.
The ongoing development and testing of Pakistan’s short-range ballistic missile arsenal is partially to match India’s own efforts in this area, Ahmed said.
“Ghaznavi is Pakistan’s response to India’s ongoing R&D and improvement of short-range ballistic missile systems such as Prithvi [undergoing flight tests to improve its operational effectiveness], Prahaar and Pragati,” he said.
“Ghaznavi’s test appears to incorporate improved guidance, control and accuracy parameters in real-time conditions,” Ahmed said.
However, Pakistan has a range of short-range missile systems, some with overlapping capabilities. In the case of Ghaznavi, though, Ahmed rates it as a flexible weapon system.
“Ghaznavi is aimed at improving Pakistan’s readiness to deal with all kinds of counterforce attacks at the theater level during a crisis,” he said.
“It is a dual-use system that can carry nuclear and conventional warheads, and would be a potent weapon to deter India from engaging in proactive military operations/Cold Start strategy below Pakistan’s nuclear thresholds,” he added.
Cloughley pointed out an obvious drawback to the use of Ghaznavi.
“Nuclear [surface-to-surface missiles] are designed specifically to destroy large armored formations, but of course, there would be dreadful collateral damage,” he said. ■