The Pakistani military on Wednesday said it had carried out a trial-launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile that landed in the Indian Ocean after a successful flight, Reuters reported (see GSN, March 5).
The nuclear-ready Shaheen 1A is able to strike territories in India, though Pakistani officials would not disclose its top flight distance.
In 2011, U.S. intelligence officials projected that Islamabad possesses some 90 to 110 nuclear arms. Issue experts believe the South Asian nation is growing its strategic deterrent at a more rapid pace than any other nuclear-weapon country.
The Pakistani missile launch occurred less than a week after India test-fired its new Agni 5 ballistic missile, which has a near-ICBM flight range (Sardar/Nauman, Reuters, April 25).
Pakistani officials and defense experts said the Wednesday missile launch was not a reaction to the Agni 5 test. Though the majority of India's nuclear arms are aimed at deterring longtime rival Pakistan, the development of the nuclear-capable Agni 5 is seen as a message to China, the New York Times reported.
Pakistani Strategic Plans Division chief Khalid Ahmed Kidwai said the Shaheen 1A was enhanced to "further strengthen and consolidate Pakistan's deterrence capabilities."
Islamabad-based defense expert Mansoor Ahmed said the Shaheen 1A could have a top flight distance of between 466 and 620 miles. The intermediate-range weapon could also be outfitted with warheads intended to defeat antimissile systems, he added.
"The test signifies Pakistan’s resolve and capability to modernize its nuclear delivery systems," according to Ahmed, who insisted it was not a reaction to the successful trial of the Agni 5.
"Pakistan is only concerned with maintaining a minimum credible deterrent capability vis-à-vis India and does not harbor regional or global ambitions," the analyst stated.
Islamabad, though, is reportedly worried by an assertion from New Delhi that the Agni 5 is road-transportable, which would make the missile harder to detect and destroy (Salman Masood, New York Times, April 25).
The Agni 5's maiden flight last week demonstrated it could reach its top designed range of roughly 3,100 miles. Two additional planned trials of the missile, though, are to focus on reaching shorter distances, the Times of India reported on Tuesday (see GSN, April 20).
The second trial-firing of the missile is to occur near the end of 2012 and a third launch is to be conducted sometime in 2013. Indian officials would subsequently make a determination on whether to begin mass manufacturing of the weapon.
V.K. Saraswat, head of the Indian Defense Research and Development Organization, rejected claims from China that the Agni 5 was designed with a top flight distance of nearly 5,000 miles. He said, though, that India could produce such a weapon.
"The fact ... is that the Agni 5 that we test-fired recently has a reach of a little over 5,000 kilometers only and not what Chinese researchers are claiming. India, I must add, does have the technological capability for any reach. The only question is whether we actually want to develop an ICBM which will have a longer reach and whether the country feels the need for it," Saraswat told the newspaper (Times of India, April 24).