ISLAMABAD — Pakistan has conducted a training launch using its Hatf-V/Ghauri I medium-range ballistic missile that, according to a statement from the military’s ISPR media branch, was “aimed at testing the operational and technical readiness of Army Strategic Forces Command.”
An accompanying compilation clip of Monday’s test was unusual in that it showed the inert re-entry vehicle striking the target area, an aspect not always shown in such tests.
Ghauri I is a liquid-fueled missile with a range of 1,300 kilometers, and despite being described as able to carry nuclear or conventional warheads, analysts agree that the system, which has a mixed reliability record, has essentially been relegated to a training role.
Author, analyst and former Australian defense attache to Islamabad, Brian Cloughley, was attached to an MGR-1 Honest John Regiment when he served with the British Army in Germany from 1967-1969. The MGR-1 was a nuclear capable rocket widely used by NATO forces at the time. He says such tests as the one carried out on Monday must be regularly conducted.
“It’s good training, basically, even with a first-generation system, and the missiles are always there for a final emergency. One of the best aspects of training is the exercising of command and control in real time. That is always most valuable,” he said.
Using the stock of cheaper, less advanced Ghauri missiles for such test purposes leaves the more capable Shaheen series of solid-fuel missiles to be used operationally.
Unlike the Ghauri, the Shaheen series of missiles do not require a large logistics train for carrying fuel, or potentially up to two hours to prepare the missile for launch, and can instead be launched within a matter of minutes.
Even if used operationally, the Ghauri may have some limited operational value, according to Mansoor Ahmed, a former research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Centre and an associate with the Project on Managing the Atom at Belfer from 2018 2019.
“[They] are cheaper, can be used for saturated attacks to overwhelm [ballistic missile defense] systems,” said Ahmed, who specializes in Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent and delivery systems.
In this context, however, he highlighted Pakistan’s latest missile development program, the “MIRV-capable Ababeel” to combat BMD systems, which is more credible than the mass use of Ghauri missiles.
Nevertheless, despite the ISPR news release claiming “the launch consolidates Pakistan’s nuclear capability, which is aimed at peace and stability through a credible deterrence regime,” Ahmed believes Pakistan’s missile program needs to shift up a gear.
“Pakistan should be working on supersonic and hypersonic cruise missile systems” due to Indian missile developments, he said. “The growing imbalance will lead to deterrence failure.”