ISLAMABAD — Pakistan has test-fired an Ababeel missile capable of carrying multiple warheads that can attack different targets.

Pakistan last tested the multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles-capable weapon on Jan. 24, 2017.

The military’s media branch, Inter Services Public Relations Pakistan, stated Wednesday’s test was meant to revalidate “various design, technical parameters, and performance evaluation of different sub-systems” and was “aimed at strengthening deterrence and enhancing strategic stability in the region.”

The Strategic Plans Division, which handles Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent, did not respond to Defense News’ request for information about the latest test.

In 2017, the public relations organization stated the Ababeel had a 2,200-kilometer (1,367-mile) range and was developed to ensure the “survivability of Pakistan’s ballistic missiles” in a region in which state actors are bolstering countermeasures.

An expert on Pakistan’s nuclear program, Mansoor Ahmed, said the long time between tests was likely due to efforts to improve “technical and performance parameters.”

Ahmed, now in academia at the Australian National University, told Defense News that the Ababeel missile is the “most important engineering milestone for Pakistan’s nuclear triad in almost two decades and a major breakthrough in improving the survivability of land-based strategic forces against a preemptive Indian counterforce strike.”

Former Pakistan Army officer Naeem Salik, who served with the Strategic Plans Division and is now executive director at the Islamabad-based Strategic Vision Institute think tank, said the Ababeel “enhances Pakistan’s targeting choices.”

“Ababeel gives the advantage of engaging several targets at a time, with each delivery vector providing a cost-effective solution while complicating the job of India’s [ballistic missile defense],” he told Defense News. “In this context, it also fits well into [full-spectrum deterrence] by affording the ability to hit from amongst a wide variety of targets.”

Atia Ali Kazmi, a research director at the Islamabad-based Center for International Strategic Studies think tank, said the nuclear imbalance between India and Pakistan is pronounced, citing the expansion and technological leaps in India’s missile programs over the last two decades.

It’s the Ababeel, she told Defense News, that maintains deterrence vis-à-vis India.

Usman Ansari is the Pakistan correspondent for Defense News.

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