20 September 2018

Pakistani nuclear forces, 2018

Hans M. Kristensen,Robert S. Norris, Julia Diamond

The Nuclear Notebook is researched and written by Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project with the Federation of American Scientists, and Robert S. Norris, a senior fellow with the FAS. The Nuclear Notebook column has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987. This issue’s column examines Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, which includes 140 to 150 warheads. The authors estimate that the country’s stockpile could realistically grow to 220 to 250 warheads by 2025, if the current trend continues.


Pakistan continues to expand its nuclear arsenal with more warheads, more delivery systems, and a growing fissile materials production industry. Analysis of a large number of commercial satellite images of Pakistani army garrisons and air force bases shows what appear to be mobile launchers and underground facilities that might be related to nuclear forces.

We estimate that Pakistan now has a nuclear weapons stockpile of 140 to 150 warheads (See Table 1). This stockpile exceeds the projection made by the US Defense Intelligence Agency in 1999 that Pakistan would have 60 to 80 warheads by 2020 (US Defense Intelligence Agency 1999US Defense Intelligence Agency. 1999. The Decades Ahead: 1999-2020, A Primer on the Future Threat, in Scarborough R (2004) Rumsfeld’s War: The Untold Story of America’s Anti-Terrorist Commander, 194–223. Washington, DC: Regnery. [Google Scholar], 38).

With several delivery systems in development, four plutonium production reactors, and its uranium enrichment facilities expanding, however, Pakistan has a stockpile that will likely increase further over the next 10 years. The size of the increase will depend on many factors. Two key factors will be how many nuclear-capable launchers Pakistan plans to deploy, and how much the Indian nuclear arsenal grows. Speculation that Pakistan may become the world’s third-largest nuclear weapon state – with a stockpile of some 350 warheads a decade from now – are, we believe, exaggerated, not least because that would require a buildup two to three times faster than the growth rate over the past two decades. We estimate that the country’s stockpile could more realistically grow to 220 to 250 warheads by 2025, if the current trend continues. If that happens, it would make Pakistan the world’s fifth-largest nuclear weapon state. But unless India significantly expands its arsenal or further builds up its conventional forces, it seems reasonable to expect that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal will not continue to grow indefinitely but might begin to level off as its current weapons programs are completed.

Nuclear policy developments

Pakistan is modifying its nuclear posture with new short-range nuclear-capable weapon systems to counter military threats below the strategic level. The efforts seek to create a full-spectrum deterrent that is designed not only to respond to nuclear attacks, but also to counter an Indian conventional incursion onto Pakistani territory.11. For insightful analysis of Pakistan’s nuclear policy, see Siddique and Faisal (2016Siddique, F., and M. Faisal. 2016. “Pakistan’s Strategic Nuclear Policy and Implications for Deterrence Stability.” CISS Insight: Quarterly News and Views IV (1): 1–17. Center for International Strategic Studies, March.http://ciss.org.pk/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/1-Article-Farzana-Faisal.pdf [Google Scholar]) and Dalton and Krepon (2015Dalton, T., and M. Krepon. 2015. A Normal Nuclear Pakistan, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace/Stimson Center, August. Available at:http://www.stimson.org/sites/default/files/file-attachments/NormalNuclearPakistan.pdf [Google Scholar]).View all notes This development has created considerable concern in other countries, including the United States, which fears that it lowers the threshold for nuclear use in a military conflict with India.

In the Worldwide Threat Assessment for 2018, US Director of National Intelligence Daniel R. Coats said, “Pakistan continues to produce nuclear weapons and develop new types of nuclear weapons, including short-range tactical weapons, sea-based cruise missiles, air-launched cruise missiles, and longer-range ballistic missiles. These new types of nuclear weapons will introduce new risks for escalation dynamics and security in the region” (Coats 2018Coats, D. R. 2018. Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community, Director of National Intelligence. March 6, p. 8. Available at:https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Coats_03-06-18.pdf [Google Scholar]).

Pakistan’s National Command Authority, which includes all government agencies involved in the nuclear mission, held its 23rd meeting on 21 December 2017, under the chairmanship of then-Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. The group reviewed a study of “certain destabilizing actions” occurring in the region around Pakistan, including “the massive arms build-up in the conventional domain, nuclearization of the Indian Ocean Region and plans for development/deployment of [ballistic missile defense].” The National Command Authority had paid similar attention to conventional weapons development at its meeting in 2016.

At the 2017 meeting, according to a Pakistani Inter Services Public Relations press release, the command authority “reiterated Pakistan’s policy of developing and maintaining Full Spectrum Deterrence, in line with the policy of Credible Minimum Deterrence and avoidance of arms race,” while expressing confidence in the country’s “capability to address any form of aggression” (ISPR 2017dISPR. 2017d. Press Release No. PR615/2017ISPR, December 21.https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=4459 [Google Scholar]). The National Command Authority also reviewed the “Nuclear Security Regime” of the nuclear arsenal and expressed “full confidence” in both Pakistan’s command and control systems and existing security measures meant to “ensure comprehensive stewardship and security of strategic assets and materials.” It lauded the nuclear arsenal’s “high standards of training and operational readiness.”

The December 2017 meeting emphasized that Pakistan strives for “peaceful coexistence in [South Asia] and will endeavor to work with its neighbors to ensure strategic stability” there (ISPR 2017dISPR. 2017d. Press Release No. PR615/2017ISPR, December 21.https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=4459 [Google Scholar]). As in 2016, the National Command Authority’s latest statement on security and safety was, in part, a response to international concern that Pakistan’s evolving arsenal – particularly its growing inventory of short-range nuclear weapon systems – could lead to problems with warhead management and command and control during a crisis. Satellite images show that security perimeters around many bases and military facilities have been upgraded over the past seven years in response to terrorist attacks.

Over the past decade, the US assessment of nuclear weapons security in Pakistan appears to have changed considerably from confidence to concern, particularly as a result of the introduction of tactical nuclear weapons. In 2007, a US State Department official told Congress that, “we’re, I think, fairly confident that they have the proper structures and safeguards in place to maintain the integrity of their nuclear forces and not to allow any compromise” (Boucher 2007Boucher, R. A. 2007. “Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Testimony before Senate Foreign Relations Committee.” In U.S. Foreign Assistance to Pakistan (U.S. Government Printing Office: December 6, 2007), 31. [Google Scholar]). In stark contrast, the Trump administration assessment in 2018 was: “We are particularly concerned by the development of tactical nuclear weapons that are designed for use in battlefield. We believe that these systems are more susceptible to terrorist theft and increase the likelihood of nuclear exchange in the region” (Economic Times 2017Economic Times. 2017. “US Worried Pakistan's Nuclear-weapons could land up in Terrorists' Hands: Official.” August 25. Available at:https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/us-worried-pakistans-nuclear-weapons-could-land-up-in-terrorists-hands-official/articleshow/60220358.cms [Google Scholar]). Upon unveiling his South Asia strategy on 21 August 2017, Trump urged Pakistan to stop sheltering terrorist organizations, and noted the need to “prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists” (The White House 2017The White House. 2017. “Remarks by President Trump on the Strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia.” August 21. Available at:https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-strategy-afghanistan-south-asia/ [Google Scholar]). US concern over the security of Pakistan’s tactical nuclear weapons precedes the Trump administration. In 2016, US Undersecretary of State Rose Gottemoeller told members of the US Congress, “Reinstate full original statement: “Battlefield nuclear weapons, by their very nature, pose [a] security threat because you're taking battlefield nuclear weapons to the field where, as you know, as a necessity, they cannot be made as secure” (Economic Times 2016Economic Times. 2016. “US Expresses Concern over Pakistan's Deployment of Nuclear Weapons.” March 19. Available at:https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/us-expresses-concerns-over-pakistans-deployment-of-nuclear-weapons/articleshow/51465040.cms [Google Scholar]).

Pakistani officials reject such concerns and insist that nuclear weapons security is adequate. Samar Mubarik Mund, the former director of the country’s National Defense Complex, explained in 2013 that a Pakistani nuclear warhead is “assembled only at the eleventh hour if [it] needs to be launched. It is stored in three to four different parts at three to four different locations. If a nuclear weapon doesn’t need to be launched, then it is never available in assembled form” (World Bulletin 2013World Bulletin. 2013. “Pakistan Refutes Saudi Funding, Weapons Claims.” November 9. [Google Scholar]).

As for the unique effect of tactical nuclear weapons, other Pakistani officials insist that the weapons are neither destabilizing nor lower the nuclear threshold. In 2015, General Khalid Kidwai, a member of Pakistan’s National Command Authority, explained: “Pakistan opted to develop a variety of short-range, low-yield nuclear weapons, also dubbed tactical nuclear weapons,” as a “defensive, deterrence response to an offensive doctrine” by India (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace 2015Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 2015. “A Conversation With Gen. Khalid Kidwai.” Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference 2015. Transcript. March 23, pp. 4–5. Available at:http://carnegieendowment.org/files/03-230315carnegieKIDWAI.pdf [Google Scholar], 4).

Kidwai said the NASR short-range weapon specifically “was born out of a compulsion of this thing that I mentioned about some people on the other side toying with the idea of finding space for conventional war, despite Pakistan nuclear weapons.” Pakistan’s understanding of India’s Cold Start strategy was, he said, that Delhi envisioned launching quick strikes into Pakistan within two to four days with eight to nine brigades simultaneously (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace 2015Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 2015. “A Conversation With Gen. Khalid Kidwai.” Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference 2015. Transcript. March 23, pp. 4–5. Available at:http://carnegieendowment.org/files/03-230315carnegieKIDWAI.pdf [Google Scholar], 8, 9). Such an attack force might involve roughly 32,000–36,000 troops.

“I strongly believe that by introducing the variety of tactical nuclear weapons in Pakistan’s inventory, and in the strategic stability debate, we have blocked the avenues for serious military operations by the other side,” Kidwai explained (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace 2015Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 2015. “A Conversation With Gen. Khalid Kidwai.” Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference 2015. Transcript. March 23, pp. 4–5. Available at:http://carnegieendowment.org/files/03-230315carnegieKIDWAI.pdf [Google Scholar], 4–5).

After Kidwai’s statement, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry publicly acknowledged the existence of Pakistan’s “low-yield, tactical nuclear weapons,” apparently the first time a top government official has done so (India Today 2015India Today. 2015. “We have Low-yield N-weapons to Ward off India's War Threat: Pakistan.” October 20. Available at:http://indiatoday.intoday.in/articlePrint.jsp?aid=503185 [Google Scholar]). But the New York Times reported that although an unknown number of the tactical weapons had been built, they had not yet been deployed with warheads in the field (Sanger 2015Sanger, D.E. 2015. “U.S. Exploring Deal to Limit Pakistan’s Nuclear Arsenal.” The New York Times, October 15. Available at:https://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/16/world/asia/us-exploring-deal-to-limit-pakistans-nuclear-arsenal.html [Google Scholar]).

In September 2016, in an interview on Geo News, Pakistani defense minister Khawaja M. Asif said, “We are always pressurised [sic] time and again that our tactical (nuclear) weapons, in which we have a superiority, that we have more tactical weapons than we need. It is internationally recognized that we have a superiority and if there is a threat to our security or if anyone steps on our soil and if someone’s designs are a threat to our security, we will not hesitate to use those weapons for our defense” (Scroll 2016Scroll. 2016. “No, Pakistan's Defence Minister did not Threaten Nuclear Strikes after the Uri Attacks.” September 19. Available at:https://scroll.in/video/816903/no-pakistans-defence-minister-did-not-threaten-nuclear-strikes-after-the-uri-attacks [Google Scholar]).

Nuclear weapons production complex

Pakistan has a well-established and diverse fissile material production complex that is expanding. It includes the Kahuta uranium enrichment plant east of Islamabad, which appears to be growing with the addition of what could be another enrichment plant, as well as the enrichment plant at Gadwal to the north of Islamabad (Albright, Burkhard, and Pabian 2018Albright, D., S. Burkhard, and F.Pabian. 2018. Pakistan’s Growing Uranium Enrichment Program, Institute for Science and International Security, May 30. Available at:http://isis-online.org/isis-reports/detail/pakistans-growing-uranium-enrichment-program/12 [Google Scholar]). Four heavy-water plutonium production reactors appear to have been completed at what is normally referred to as the Khushab Complex some 33 kilometers (20 miles) south of Khushab in Punjab province. Three of the reactors at the complex have been added in the past 10 years. The addition of a publicly confirmed thermal power plant at Khushab provides new information for estimating the power of the four reactors (Albright et al. 2018aAlbright, D., S. Burkhard, C. Chopin, and F. Pabian. 2018. New Thermal Power Estimates of the Khushab Nuclear Reactors, Institute for Science and International Security, May 23. Available at:http://isis-online.org/isis-reports/detail/new-thermal-power-estimates-of-the-khushab-nuclear-reactors/12 [Google Scholar]). The New Labs Reprocessing Plant at Nilore, east of Islamabad, which reprocesses spent fuel and extracts plutonium, has been expanded. Meanwhile, a second reprocessing plant located at Chashma in the northwestern part of Punjab province may have been completed (Albright and Kelleher-Vergantini 2015Albright, D., and S. Kelleher-Vergantini. 2015. Pakistan’s Chashma Plutonium Separation Plant: Possibly Operational, Institute for Science and International Security, February 20. Available at:http://isis-online.org/uploads/isis-reports/documents/Chashma_February_20_2015_Final.pdf [Google Scholar]).

Nuclear-capable missiles and their mobile launchers are developed and produced at the National Defence Complex (sometimes called the National Development Complex) in the Kala Chitta Dahr mountain range west of Islamabad. The complex is divided into two sections. The western section south of Attock appears to be involved in development, production, and test-launching of missiles and rocket engines. The eastern section north of Fateh Jang is involved in production and assembly of road-mobile Transporter Erector Launchers (TELs), which are designed to transport and fire missiles. Satellite images show the presence of launchers for Shaheen I and Shaheen II ballistic missiles and Babur cruise missiles. The Fateh Jang section has been expanded significantly over the past 10 years, with several large launcher assembly buildings. Other launcher and missile-related production and maintenance facilities may be located near Tarnawa and Taxila.

Little is publicly known about warhead production, but experts have suspected for many years that the Pakistan Ordnance Factories near Wah, northwest of Islamabad, serve a role. One of the Wah factories is located near a unique facility with six earth-covered bunkers (igloos) inside a multi-layered safety perimeter with armed guards. The security perimeter was expanded significantly between 2005 and 2010, possibly in response to terrorist attacks against other military facilities.

Estimating the size of the Pakistani nuclear warhead stockpile is fraught with uncertainty. A frequent mistake is to derive the estimate directly from the amount of weapon-grade fissile material produced. As of the end of 2016, the International Panel on Fissile Materials estimated that Pakistan had an inventory of approximately 3,400 kilograms (kg) of weapon-grade (90 percent enriched) highly enriched uranium (HEU), and about 280 kg of weapon-grade plutonium. This material is theoretically enough to produce between 236 and 283 warheads, assuming that each first-generation implosion-type warhead’s solid core uses either 15 to 18 kg of weapon-grade HEU or 5 to 6 kg of plutonium.22. These estimates are based on Table A.1 of the International Panel on Fissile Materials, Global Fissile Materials Report 2015International Panel on Fissile Materials. 2015. Global Fissile Material Report 2015. Available at:http://fissilematerials.org/library/gfmr15.pdf [Google Scholar]: Nuclear Weapon and Fissile Material Stockpiles and Production report, 44. Available at: http://fissilematerials.org/library/gfmr15.pdf.View all notes

However, calculating stockpile size based solely on fissile material inventory is an incomplete methodology that tends to produce inflated numbers. Instead, warhead estimates must take several factors into account, including the amount of weapon-grade fissile material produced, warhead design choice and proficiency, warhead production rates, numbers of operational nuclear-capable launchers, how many of those launchers are dual-capable, nuclear strategy, and statements by government officials.

Estimates must assume that not all of a country’s fissile material ends up in warheads. Like other nuclear weapon states, Pakistan probably maintains a reserve. Moreover, Pakistan simply lacks enough nuclear-capable launchers to accommodate 200 to 300 warheads; furthermore, all of Pakistan’s launchers are thought to be dual-capable, which means that some of them, especially the shorter-range systems, presumably are assigned to non-nuclear missions as well. Finally, official statements often refer to “warheads” and “weapons” interchangeably, without making it clear whether it is the number of launchers or the warheads assigned to them that are being discussed.

The amount of fissile material in warheads can be reduced, and their yield increased, by using tritium to “boost” the fission process. But Pakistan’s tritium production capability is poorly understood. A German company allegedly provided Pakistan with a small amount of tritium and some tritium-processing technology in the late 1980s (Kalinowski and Colschen 1995Kalinowski, M. B., and L. C.Colschen. 1995. “International Control of Tritium to Prevent Horizontal Proliferation and to Foster Nuclear Disarmament.” Science and Global Security 5: 147. doi:10.1080/08929889508426422.[Taylor & Francis Online], [Google Scholar]),33. See also Gordon (1989Gordon, M. 1989. “German Concern Said to Aid Pakistan A-Weapons.” New York Times, January 29. Available at:https://www.nytimes.com/1989/01/29/world/german-concern-said-to-aidpakistan-a-weapons.html [Google Scholar]).View all notes and China allegedly shipped some tritium directly to Pakistan (Kalinowski and Colschen 1995Kalinowski, M. B., and L. C.Colschen. 1995. “International Control of Tritium to Prevent Horizontal Proliferation and to Foster Nuclear Disarmament.” Science and Global Security 5: 147. doi:10.1080/08929889508426422.[Taylor & Francis Online], [Google Scholar], 147, 181). The Khushab complex for years has been rumored to produce tritium,44. For references to tritium production at Khushab, see Cirincione, Wolfsthal, and Rajkumar (2005Cirincione, J., J. B. Wolfsthal, and M.Rajkumar. 2005. Deadly Arsenal: Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Threats. 2nd ed. Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. [Google Scholar]) and FAS (2000bFAS. 2000b. “Khushab/Khusab.” Federation of American Scientists, March 15. Available at:https://fas.org/nuke/guide/pakistan/facility/khushab.htm [Google Scholar]).View all notes and the PINSTECH complex near Nilore may do so as well (FAS 2000aFAS. 2000a. “Rawalpindi/Nilhore, PINSTECH/New Labs.” Federation of American Scientists, March 18. Available at:https://fas.org/nuke/guide/pakistan/facility/rawalpindi.htm [Google Scholar]). However, one rumored tritium extraction plant at Khushab turned out to be a coal-fired power plant (Burkhard, Lach, and Pabian 2017Burkhard, S., A. Lach, and F. Pabian. 2017. “Khushab Update.” Institute for Science and International Security, September 7. Available at:http://isis-online.org/uploads/isis-reports/documents/Khushab_Update_September_2017.pdf [Google Scholar]). Pakistan claimed that all its nuclear tests in 1998 were tritium-boosted HEU designs, but the yields detected by seismic signals were not sufficient to substantiate such a capability. Nonetheless, Thomas Reed and Danny Stillman conclude in The Nuclear Express that the tests included two designs, the first of which was an HEU device that used boosting. The second test involved a plutonium device (Reed and Stillman 2009Reed, T. C., and D. B. Stillman. 2009. The Nuclear Express: A Political History of the Bomb and Its Proliferation. Minneapolis: Zenith Press. [Google Scholar], 257–258).

If Pakistan has produced tritium and uses it in second-generation single-stage boosted warhead designs, then the 3,400 kg HEU and 280 kg weapon-grade plutonium would potentially allow it to build between 339 and 353 warheads, assuming that each weapon used either 12 kg of HEU or 4 to 5 kg of plutonium.

Despite these uncertainties, Pakistan is clearly engaged in a significant build-up of its nuclear forces and has been for some time. In 2008, Peter Lavoy, then a US intelligence officer for South Asia, told NATO that Pakistan was producing nuclear weapons at a faster rate than any other country in the world (US NATO Mission 2008US NATO Mission. 2008. “Subject: Allies Find Briefing on Afghanistan NIE ‘Gloomy’.” USNATO 000453, December 5, paragraph 12.http://www.theguardian.com/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/181529 [Google Scholar]). Six years later, in 2014, Lavoy described the purpose of the “expansion of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program to include efforts to significantly increase fissile material production to design and fabricate multiple nuclear warheads with varying sizes and yields, [and] to develop, test and ultimately deploy a wide variety of delivery systems with a wide range to include battlefield range ballistic delivery systems for tactical nuclear weapons” (Gul 2014Gul, A. 2014. “As Pakistan Expands Nuclear Program, China Seen as Most Reliable Partner.” Voice of America. May 12. Available at:https://www.voanews.com/a/as-pakistan-expands-nuclear-program-china-seen-as-most-reliable-partner/1912529.html [Google Scholar])55. One year after providing this description of the Pakistani nuclear warhead program, Lavoy was appointed as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for South Asia at the National Security Council.View all notes(Emphasis added.)

Kidwai acknowledged in March 2015 that Pakistan “possesses a variety of nuclear weapons, in different categories. At the strategic level, at the operational level, and the tactical level” (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace 2015Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 2015. “A Conversation With Gen. Khalid Kidwai.” Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference 2015. Transcript. March 23, pp. 4–5. Available at:http://carnegieendowment.org/files/03-230315carnegieKIDWAI.pdf [Google Scholar], 6). In December 2017 he provided more details, saying Pakistan’s nuclear strategy required the “full spectrum of nuclear weapons in all three categories – strategic, operational and tactical, with full range coverage of the large Indian land mass and its outlying territories.” He further explained that the stockpile should have “appropriate weapons yield coverage and the numbers to deter the adversary’s pronounced policy of massive retaliation.” The weapons would give the Pakistani leadership the “liberty of choosing from a full spectrum of targets, notwithstanding the [Indian] Ballistic Missile Defence, to include counter-value, counter-force, and battlefield” targets. He added this implied that “counter-massive retaliation punishment will be as severe if not more” (Dawn 2017Dawn. 2017. “Rare Light Shone on Full Spectrum Deterrence Policy.” December 7. Available at:https://www.dawn.com/news/1375079/rare-light-shone-on-full-spectrum-deterrence-policy [Google Scholar]).

How far Pakistan plans to go in terms of developing a full-spectrum deterrent posture is unclear. It has provided no public statements about its intent. In 2015, however, Kadwai said that “the program is not open ended. It started with a concept of credible minimum deterrence, and certain numbers [of weapons] were identified, and those numbers, of course, were achieved not too far away in time. Then we translated it, like I said, to the concept of full spectrum deterrence” in response to India’s Cold Start doctrine. As a result, he went on, “the numbers were modified. Now those numbers, as of today, and if I can look ahead for at least 10 to 15 more years, I think they are going to be more or less okay.” He further noted, “we’re almost 90, 95 percent there in terms of the goals that we had set out to achieve” 15 years ago (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace 2015Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 2015. “A Conversation With Gen. Khalid Kidwai.” Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference 2015. Transcript. March 23, pp. 4–5. Available at:http://carnegieendowment.org/files/03-230315carnegieKIDWAI.pdf [Google Scholar], 6, 12).

We estimate that Pakistan currently is producing sufficient fissile material to build 14 to 27 new warheads per year,66. These estimates are based on reprocessing and uranium enrichment plant capacities in International Panel on Fissile Materials, Global Fissile Materials Report 2015: Nuclear Weapon and Fissile Material Stockpiles and Production report, Appendices 2 and 3, 48–49. Available at: http://fissilematerials.org/library/gfmr15.pdf.View all notes although we estimate that the actual warhead increase in the stockpile is probably around 10 warheads per year.

Nuclear-capable aircraft

Pakistan probably assigns a nuclear strike mission to select F-16A/B and Mirage III/V fighter squadrons. The F-16 was probably the first aircraft in the nuclear role, but the Mirage quickly joined the mission.

The F-16A/Bs were supplied by the United States between 1983 and 1987. After 40 aircraft had been delivered, the US State Department told Congress in 1989: “None of the F‐16s Pakistan already owns or is about to purchase is configured for nuclear delivery” and Pakistan “will be obligated by contract not to modify” additional F-16s “without the approval of the United States” (Schaffer 1989Schaffer, T. 1989. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia. U.S. Department of State. Proposed Sale of F‐16s to Pakistan: Hearings before the Committee on Foreign Relations. U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, August 2. [Google Scholar]). Yet there were multiple credible reports at the time that Pakistan was already modifying US-supplied F-16s for nuclear weapons, including West German intelligence officials reportedly telling Der Spiegel that Pakistan had already developed sophisticated computer and electronic technology to outfit the US F‐16s with nuclear weapons” (Associated Press 1989Associated Press. 1989. “Pakistani Jets Said to be Nuclear-Capable.” [Google Scholar]). Delivery of additional F-16s, including the more modern F-16C/D version, was delayed by concern over Pakistan’s emerging nuclear weapons program. The United States withheld delivery in the 1990s. But the policy was changed by the George W. Bush administration, which supplied Pakistan with the more modern F-16s.

The F-16A/Bs are based with the 38th Wing at Mushaf (formerly Sargodha) Air Base, 160 kilometers (100 miles) northwest of Lahore. Organized into the 9th and 11th Squadrons (“Griffins” and “Arrows” respectively), these aircraft have a range of 1,600 km (extendable when equipped with drop tanks) and most likely are equipped to each carry a single nuclear bomb on the centerline pylon. Security perimeters at the base have been upgraded since 2014. Nuclear bombs are probably not stored at the base itself but could potentially be kept at the Sargodha Weapons Storage Complex 10 km to the south. In a crisis, the bombs could quickly be transferred to the base, or the F-16s could disperse to bases near underground storage facilities and receive the weapons there.

The newest F-16C/Ds are based with the 39th Wing at Shahbaz Air Base outside Jacobabad. The wing upgraded to F-16C/Ds from Mirages in 2011, and so far has one squadron: the 5th Squadron (known as the “Falcons”). The base has been under significant expansion, with numerous weapons bunkers added since 2004. If the base has a nuclear mission, we suspect the weapons are stored elsewhere in special storage facilities. There are also F-16s visible at Minhas (Kamra) Air Base northwest of Islamabad, although that might be related to aircraft industry at the base.

Some of the Mirage III and/or Mirage V aircraft apparently have been equipped for nuclear weapons and have been used in test-launches of the nuclear-capable Ra’ad air-launched cruise missile. The Pakistani Air Force is adding aerial refueling capability to the Mirage, a capability that would greatly enhance a nuclear strike mission.

The Mirage fighter-bombers are focused at two bases. Masroor Air Base outside Karachi houses the 32nd Wing with three Mirage squadrons: 7th Squadron (“Bandits”), 8th Squadron (“Haiders”), and 22nd Squadron (“Ghazis”). A possible nuclear weapons storage site is located five km (three miles) northwest of the base (Kristensen 2009Kristensen, H. M. 2009. “Pakistani Nuclear Forces, 2009.” FAS Strategic Security Blog, August 28.http://fas.org/blogs/security/2009/08/pakistan2009/ [Google Scholar]), and since 2004, unique underground facilities have been constructed at Masroor that could potentially be designed to support a nuclear strike mission. This includes a possible alert hangar with underground weapons-handling capability.77. For analysis of possible nuclear facilities at Masroor Air Base, see Kristensen (2016Kristensen, H. M. 2016. “Pakistan’s Evolving Nuclear Missile Infrastructure.” FAS Strategic Security Blog, November 1.https://fas.org/blogs/security/2016/11/pakistan-nuclear-infrastructure/ [Google Scholar]).View all notes

The other Mirage base is Rafiqui Air base near Shorkot, which is home to the 34th Wing with two Mirage squadrons: the 15th Squadron (“Cobras”) and the 27th Squadron (“Zarras”).

There are also rumors that Pakistan intends to make the Chinese-supplied JF-17 fighter nuclear-capable. According to the Pakistani Senate Defense Committee on National Defence, the pursuit of the JF-17 program was partially triggered by US military export sanctions in response to Pakistan’s nuclear program, including the withholding of F-16 aircraft. “With spares for its top-of-the-line F16s in question, and additional F-16s removed as an option, Pakistan sought help from its Chinese ally” for the JC-17/FC-1 jet (Senate Committee on National Defense 2016Senate Committee on National Defense. 2016. “Pakistan & China’s JF-17 Fighter Program.” n.d. [accessed 8 September].http://www.senatedefencecommittee.com.pk/production-detail.php?pageid=news-detail&pid=MTc= [Google Scholar]). A nuclear role could potentially involve the dual-capable Ra’ad air-launched cruise missile (ALCM), although plans are uncertain.88. See Fisher (2016Fisher, R. 2016. “JF-17 Block II Advances with New Refuelling Probe.” Jane’s Defence Weekly, January 27. A copy of the original article is available at:https://defence.pk/pdf/threads/jf-17-block-ii-advances-with-new-refuelling-probe.419865/ [Google Scholar]) and Ansari (2013Ansari, U. 2013. “Despite Missile Integration, Nuke Role Unlikely for Pakistan’s JF-17.” Defense News, February 7. [Google Scholar]).View all notes

Land-based ballistic missiles

Pakistan appears to have six currently operational nuclear-capable land-based ballistic missiles: the short-range Abdali (Hatf-2), Ghaznavi (Hatf-3), Shaheen-1 (Hatf-4), and NASR (Hatf-9), and the medium-range Ghauri (Hatf-5) and Shaheen-2 (Hatf-6). Three other nuclear-capable ballistic missiles are under development: the medium-range Shaheen-1A, Shaheen-3, and the MIRVed Ababeel.

The Pakistani road-mobile ballistic missile force has undergone significant development and expansion over the past decade-and-a-half. This includes possibly eight or nine missile garrisons, including four or five along the Indian border for short-range systems (Babur, Ghaznavi, Shaheen-1, NASR) and three or four other garrisons further inland for medium-range systems (Shaheen-2 and Ghauri).99. For analysis of possible missile facilities, see Kristensen (2016Kristensen, H. M. 2016. “Pakistan’s Evolving Nuclear Missile Infrastructure.” FAS Strategic Security Blog, November 1.https://fas.org/blogs/security/2016/11/pakistan-nuclear-infrastructure/ [Google Scholar]).View all notes

The short-range, solid-fuel, single-stage Abdali (Hatf-2) has been in development for a long time. The Pentagon reported in 1997 that the Abdali appeared to have been discontinued, but flight-testing resumed in 2002 and it was last reported test launched in 2013. The 200-km (124-mile) missile has been displayed at parades several times on a four-axel road-mobile Transporter Erector Launcher (TEL). The three-year gap in flight-testing indicates the Abdali program may have encountered technical difficulties. After the 2013 test, Inter Services Public Relations stated that Abdali “carries nuclear as well as conventional warheads” and “provides an operational-level capability to Pakistan’s Strategic Forces.” It said the test launch “consolidates Pakistan’s deterrence capability both at the operational and strategic levels” (ISPR 2013aISPR. 2013a. Press Release No PR20/2013ISPR, February 15.https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=2242Available at [Google Scholar]).

The short-range, solid-fuel, single-stage Ghaznavi (Hatf-3) was last reported test launched in 2014, after which Inter Services Public Relations said the missile was capable of delivering nuclear and conventional warheads, and that the test was “the culminating point of the Field Training Exercise of Army Strategic Forces Command which was aimed at testing the operational readiness of a Strategic Missile Group besides up gradation [sic] of various capabilities of Weapon Systems” (ISPR 2014aISPR. 2014a. Press release No. PR98/2014-ISPR, May 8.https://www.ispr.gov.pk/front/main.asp?o=t-press_release&date=2014/5/8 [Google Scholar]). Its short range of approximately 300 km (186 miles) means that the Ghaznavi cannot strike Delhi from Pakistani territory, and Army units equipped with the missile are probably based relatively near the Indian border (Kristensen 2016Kristensen, H. M. 2016. “Pakistan’s Evolving Nuclear Missile Infrastructure.” FAS Strategic Security Blog, November 1.https://fas.org/blogs/security/2016/11/pakistan-nuclear-infrastructure/ [Google Scholar]).

The Shaheen-1 (Hatf-4) is a single-stage, solid-fuel, dual-capable, short-range ballistic missile with a maximum range of 750 km (466 miles) that has been in service since 2003.

The Shaheen-1 is carried on a four-axle, road-mobile TEL similar to the one used for the Ghaznavi. Since 2012, Shaheen-1 test-launches have involved an extended-range version widely referred to as Shaheen-1A. The Pakistani government, which has declared the range to be 900 km (560 miles), has used both designations. The Shaheen-1A was most recently reported test launched in 2015 (ISPR 2015bISPR. 2015b. Press Release No PR382/2015/ISPR, December 15.https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=3129 [Google Scholar]). Potential Shaheen-1 deployment locations include Gujranwala, Okara, and Pano Aqil.1010. For analysis of possible missile facilities, see Kristensen (2016Kristensen, H. M. 2016. “Pakistan’s Evolving Nuclear Missile Infrastructure.” FAS Strategic Security Blog, November 1.https://fas.org/blogs/security/2016/11/pakistan-nuclear-infrastructure/ [Google Scholar]).View all notes

One of the most controversial new nuclear-capable missiles in the Pakistani arsenal is the NASR (Hatf-9), a short-range, solid-fuel missile originally with a range of only 60 km (37 miles) that has recently been extended to 70 km (43 miles) (ISPR 2017aISPR. 2017a. Press Release No PR344/2017-ISPR, July 5.https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=4097 [Google Scholar]). With a range too short to attack strategic targets inside India, NASR appears intended solely for battlefield use against invading Indian troops.1111. For an excellent analysis of the doctrine and Pakistan’s potential use of battlefield nuclear weapons, see Nayyar and Mian (2010Nayyar, A. H., and Z. Mian. 2010. The Limited Military Utility of Pakistan’s Battlefield Use of Nuclear Weapons in Response to Large Scale Indian Conventional Attack, Pakistan Security Research Unit (PSRU), Brief Number 61, November 11. Available at:http://spaces.brad.ac.uk:8080/download/attachments/748/Brief61doc.pdf [Google Scholar]).View all notes According to the Pakistani government, the NASR “carries nuclear warheads of appropriate yield with high accuracy, shoot and scoot attributes” and was developed as a “quick response system” to “add deterrence value” to Pakistan’s strategic weapons development program “at shorter ranges” in order “to deter evolving threats,” including evidently India’s so-called Cold Start doctrine (ISPR 2011bISPR. 2011b. Press release No. PR94/2011-ISPR, April 19.https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=1721 [Google Scholar], 2017aISPR. 2017a. Press Release No PR344/2017-ISPR, July 5.https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=4097 [Google Scholar]). The four-axle, road-mobile TEL appears to use a snap-on system that can carry two or more launch-tube boxes. The system has been tested in the past using a road-mobile quadruple box launcher. The US intelligence community has listed the NASR as a deployed system since 2013 (National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) 2013National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC). 2013. Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat.http://fas.org/programs/ssp/nukes/nuclearweapons/NASIC2013_050813.pdf [Google Scholar]), and with a total of 13 tests reported so far, the weapon system appears to be well-developed. Potential deployment locations include Gujranwala, Okara, and Pano Aqil.1212. For analysis of possible missile facilities, see Kristensen (2016Kristensen, H. M. 2016. “Pakistan’s Evolving Nuclear Missile Infrastructure.” FAS Strategic Security Blog, November 1.https://fas.org/blogs/security/2016/11/pakistan-nuclear-infrastructure/ [Google Scholar]).View all notes

The medium-range, two-stage, solid-fuel Shaheen-2 (Hatf-6) apperars to be operational after many years of development. Pakistan’s National Defense Complex has assembled Shaheen-2 launchers since at least 2004 or 2005 (Kristensen 2007Kristensen, H. M. 2007. “Pakistani Nuclear Forces, 2007.” FAS Strategic Security Blog, May 9.http://fas.org/blogs/security/2007/05/article_pakistani_nuclear_forc/ [Google Scholar]), and a 2017 US intelligence community report states that there are “fewer than 50” Shaheen-2 launchers deployed (National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) 2017National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC). 2017. Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat.https://www.nasic.af.mil/Portals/19/images/Fact%20Sheet%20Images/2017%20Ballistic%20and%20Cruise%20Missile%20Threat_Final_small.pdf?ver=2017-07-21-083234-343 [Google Scholar]). The Pakistani government described the most recent Shaheen-2 test-launch, in November 2014, as a “training launch” marking “the culminating point of the Field Training Exercise of Army Strategic Forces Command which was aimed at ensuring operational readiness of a Strategic Missile Group” (ISPR 2014bISPR. 2014b. Press release No. PR248/2014-ISPR, November 13.https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=2701 [Google Scholar]). After the November 2014 test the Pakistani government reported the range as only 1,500 km (932 miles), but the US National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) continues to set the Shaheen-2’s range at 2,000 km (1,243 miles). The Shaheen-2 is carried on a six-axle, road-mobile TEL.

Pakistan conducted two test launches of the medium-range Shaheen-3 in 2015. The Pakistani government said the missile was capable of delivering a nuclear or conventional warhead, and NASIC estimates a range of 2,750 km (1,709 miles) (National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) 2017National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC). 2017. Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat.https://www.nasic.af.mil/Portals/19/images/Fact%20Sheet%20Images/2017%20Ballistic%20and%20Cruise%20Missile%20Threat_Final_small.pdf?ver=2017-07-21-083234-343 [Google Scholar]). The Shaheen-3 is carried on an eight-axle TEL supplied by China and was displayed publicly for the first time at the 2015 Pakistan Day Parade. The Shaheen-3 will still require several more test-launches before it becomes operational.

The range of the Shaheen-3 is sufficient to target all of mainland India from launch positions in most of Pakistan south of Islamabad. But apparently the missile was developed to do more than that. According to Gen. Kidwai, the range of 2,750 km was determined by a need to be able to target the Nicobar and Andaman islands in the eastern part of the Indian Ocean that are “developed as strategic bases” where “India might think of putting its weapons” (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace 2015Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 2015. “A Conversation With Gen. Khalid Kidwai.” Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference 2015. Transcript. March 23, pp. 4–5. Available at:http://carnegieendowment.org/files/03-230315carnegieKIDWAI.pdf [Google Scholar], 10). But for a 2,750-km range Shaheen-3 to reach the Andaman and Nicobar islands, it would need to be launched from positions in the very Eastern parts of Pakistan, close to the Indian border. If deployed in the Western parts of Balochistan province, however, the range of the Shaheen-3 would for the first time bring Israel within range of Pakistani nuclear missiles.

Pakistan’s oldest nuclear-capable medium-range ballistic missile, the road-mobile, single-stage, liquid-fuel Ghauri (Hatf-5), was test-launched on 15 April 2015. The government said the “launch was conducted by a Strategic Missile Group of the Army Strategic Forces Command” for the purpose of “testing the operational and technical readiness of Army Strategic Forces Command” (ISPR 2015aISPR. 2015a. Press release No. PR92/2014-ISPR, April 15.https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=2835 [Google Scholar]). The Pakistani government announced a range of 1,300 km (807 miles), while NASIC has stated it to be 1,250 km (776 miles) (National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) 2017National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC). 2017. Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat.https://www.nasic.af.mil/Portals/19/images/Fact%20Sheet%20Images/2017%20Ballistic%20and%20Cruise%20Missile%20Threat_Final_small.pdf?ver=2017-07-21-083234-343 [Google Scholar]). The extra time needed to fuel the missile before launch makes the Ghauri more vulnerable to attack than solid-fuel missiles, so it is possible that the longer-range versions of the Shaheen may eventually replace the Ghauri.1313. The Ghauri MRBM is based on North Korea’s No Dong missile.View all notes Potential deployment areas include the Sargodha Central Ammunition Depot area.1414. For analysis of possible missile brigade locations, see Kristensen (2016Kristensen, H. M. 2016. “Pakistan’s Evolving Nuclear Missile Infrastructure.” FAS Strategic Security Blog, November 1.https://fas.org/blogs/security/2016/11/pakistan-nuclear-infrastructure/ [Google Scholar]).View all notes

On 24 January 2017, Pakistan test launched a new medium-range ballistic missile – Ababeel – that the government says is “capable of carrying multiple warheads, using Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicle (MIRV) technology” (ISPR 2017bISPR. 2017a. Press Release No PR344/2017-ISPR, July 5.https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=4097 [Google Scholar]).1515. Note that the correct expansion of MIRV is Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicle.View all notes The three-stage, solid-fuel, nuclear-capable missile, which is currently under development at the National Defense Complex, appears to be derived from the Shaheen-3 airframe and solid-fuel motor and has a range of 2,200 km (1,367 miles). (ISPR 2017bISPR. 2017a. Press Release No PR344/2017-ISPR, July 5.https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=4097 [Google Scholar]; National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) 2017National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC). 2017. Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat.https://www.nasic.af.mil/Portals/19/images/Fact%20Sheet%20Images/2017%20Ballistic%20and%20Cruise%20Missile%20Threat_Final_small.pdf?ver=2017-07-21-083234-343 [Google Scholar]). After the test-launch, the Pakistani government declared that the test was intended to validate the missile’s “various design and technical parameters,” and that Ababeel is “aimed at ensuring survivability of Pakistan’s ballistic missiles in the growing regional Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) environment,” thus “further reinforce[ing] deterrence” (ISPR 2017bISPR. 2017b. Press release No. PR34/2017-ISPR, January 24.https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=3705 [Google Scholar]). Development of multiple-warhead capability appears to be intended as a countermeasure against India’s planned ballistic missile defense system (Tasleem 2017Tasleem, S. 2017. “No Indian BMD for No Pakistani MIRVS.” Stimson Center, Off Ramps Initiative, Paper, October 2. [Google Scholar]).

Ground- and air-launched cruise missiles

Pakistan continues to develop versions of both the ground-launched Babur (Hatf-7) and the air-launched Ra’ad (Hatf-8) nuclear-capable cruise missiles. The country tested the Babur-2/Babur-1(B) GLCM, each stated to be an enhanced version of the original Babur, and the Ra’ad-2 ALCM, an extended-range version of the Ra’ad. The Pakistani government says the Babur and Ra’ad systems both have “stealth capabilities” and “pinpoint accuracy,” and “a low-altitude, terrain-hugging missile with high maneuverability” (ISPR 2011aISPR. 2011a. Press release No. PR40/2011-ISPR, February 10.https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=1666 [Google Scholar], 2011cISPR. 2011c. Press release No. PR104/2011-ISPR, April 29.https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=1732 [Google Scholar], 2016bISPR. 2016b. Press Release No. PR482/2016-ISPR, December 14. Available at:https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=3632 [Google Scholar], 2018aISPR. 2018a. Press Release No PR142/2016ISPR, April 14.https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=4693 [Google Scholar]). The Babur and Ra’ad are both much slimmer than Pakistan’s ballistic missiles, suggesting some success with warhead miniaturization based on plutonium instead of uranium.

The Babur is a ground-launched, subsonic, dual-capable cruise missile that looks similar to the US Tomahawk sea-launched cruise missile, the Chinese DH-10 ground-launched cruise missile, and the Russian air-launched AS-15. The original Babur has been test-launched 11 times (last in 2014) and is probably operational with the armed forces. Its road-mobile launcher appears to be a unique five-axle TEL with a three-tube box launcher that is different than the quadruple box launcher used for static display. At different times, the Pakistani government has reported the range to be 600 km (372 miles) and 700 km (435 miles) (ISPR 2011aISPR. 2011a. Press release No. PR40/2011-ISPR, February 10.https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=1666 [Google Scholar], 2012aISPR. 2012a. Press Release PR143/2012-ISPR, June 5.https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=2088 [Google Scholar], 2012bISPR. 2012b. Press release PR204/2012-ISPR, September 17.https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=2150 [Google Scholar]), but the US intelligence community sets the range much lower, at 350 km (217 miles) (National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) 2017National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC). 2017. Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat.https://www.nasic.af.mil/Portals/19/images/Fact%20Sheet%20Images/2017%20Ballistic%20and%20Cruise%20Missile%20Threat_Final_small.pdf?ver=2017-07-21-083234-343 [Google Scholar]).

Pakistan is developing an enhanced version of the Babur known as the Babur-2 or Babur-1(B) GLCM.1616. It is possible that the Babur-2 and the Babur-1B are the same missile. Both names are referenced as “enhanced” versions of the Babur.View all notes The weapon has been test-launched twice: on 14 December 2016, and 14 April 2018 (ISPR 2016bISPR. 2016b. Press Release No. PR482/2016-ISPR, December 14. Available at:https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=3632 [Google Scholar], 2018aISPR. 2018a. Press Release No PR142/2016ISPR, April 14.https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=4693 [Google Scholar]). With a physical appearance and capabilities similar to those of the Babur, the Babur-2/Babur-1(B) apparently has an extended range of 700 km (435 miles), and “is capable of carrying various types of warheads” (ISPR 2016bISPR. 2016b. Press Release No. PR482/2016-ISPR, December 14. Available at:https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=3632 [Google Scholar], 2018aISPR. 2018a. Press Release No PR142/2016ISPR, April 14.https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=4693 [Google Scholar]). The fact that both the Babur and the “enhanced” Babur-2/Babur-1(B) have been noted as possessing a range of 700 km indicates that the range of the initial system was likely shorter. NASIC has not released information on an enhanced system. After the first test, the Pakistani government noted that the system is “an important force multiplier for Pakistan’s strategic defence” (ISPR 2016bISPR. 2016b. Press Release No. PR482/2016-ISPR, December 14. Available at:https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=3632 [Google Scholar]).

Babur TELs have been fitting out at the National Defense Complex for several years and have recently been seen at the Akro garrison northeast of Karachi. The garrison includes a large enclosure with six garages that have room for 12 TELs and a unique underground facility that is probably used to store the missiles.1717. For analysis of possible missile brigade locations, see Kristensen (2016Kristensen, H. M. 2016. “Pakistan’s Evolving Nuclear Missile Infrastructure.” FAS Strategic Security Blog, November 1.https://fas.org/blogs/security/2016/11/pakistan-nuclear-infrastructure/ [Google Scholar]).View all notes

The air-launched, dual-capable Ra’ad (Hatf-8) has been test-launched six times, most recently in February 2016, and might be entering service soon. The test-launches have been conducted from a Mirage III fighter-bomber. The Pakistani government states that the Ra’ad “can deliver nuclear and conventional warheads with great accuracy” (ISPR 2011cISPR. 2011c. Press release No. PR104/2011-ISPR, April 29.https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=1732 [Google Scholar]) to a range of 350 km, and “complement[s] Pakistan’s deterrence capability” by achieving “strategic standoff capability on land and at sea” (ISPR 2016aISPR. 2016a. Press release No. PR16/2016-ISPR, January 19.https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=3163 [Google Scholar]). During a military parade in 2017, Pakistan displayed what was said to be Ra’ad-2 ALCM, apparently an enhanced version of the original Ra’ad. The Ra’ad-2 can reportedly reach targets at a distance of 550 km (341 miles) (Khan 2017Khan, B. 2017. “Pakistan Officially Unveils Extended Range Ra’ad 2 Air-Launched Cruise Missile.” Quwa Defence News & Analysis Group. March 23.https://quwa.org/2017/03/23/pakistan-officially-unveils-extended-range-raad-2-air-launched-cruise-missile/ [Google Scholar]).

A potential deployment site for the Ra’ad is Masroor Air Base outside Karachi, which is home to several Mirage squadrons and includes unique underground facilities that might be associated with nuclear weapons storage and handling.1818. For analysis of possible nuclear facilities at Masroor Air Base, see Kristensen (2016Kristensen, H. M. 2016. “Pakistan’s Evolving Nuclear Missile Infrastructure.” FAS Strategic Security Blog, November 1.https://fas.org/blogs/security/2016/11/pakistan-nuclear-infrastructure/ [Google Scholar]).View all notes

Sea-launched cruise missiles

Pakistan is also developing a sea-launched version of the Babur known as Babur-3. The weapon is still in development and has been test-launched twice: On 9 January 2017, from “an underwater, mobile platform” in the Indian Ocean (ISPR 2017cISPR. 2017c. Press Release No. PR10/2017-ISPR, January 9.https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=3672 [Google Scholar]); and on 29 March 2018 from “an underwater dynamic platform” (ISPR 2018bISPR. 2018b. Pres Release No. PR125/2018-ISPR, March 29.https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=4660 [Google Scholar]). The Babur-3 is said to be a sea-based variant of the Babur-2 GLCM, and to have a range of 450 km (279 miles) (ISPR 2017cISPR. 2017a. Press Release No PR344/2017-ISPR, July 5.https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=4097 [Google Scholar]).

The Pakistani government says the Babur-3 is “capable of delivering various types of payloads … [that] … will provide Pakistan with a Credible Second Strike Capability, augmenting deterrence,” and described it as “a step towards reinforcing [the] policy of credible minimum deterrence” (ISPR 2017cISPR. 2017a. Press Release No PR344/2017-ISPR, July 5.https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=4097 [Google Scholar]). The Babur-3 will most likely be deployed on the diesel-electric Agosta class submarines (Khan 2015Khan, F. H. 2015. “Going Tactical: Pakistan’s Nuclear Posture and Implications for Stability.” Proliferation Papers. No. 53. Institut Français des Relations Internationales (IFRI). September. 41.https://www.ifri.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/pp53khan_0.pdf [Google Scholar]).

Once it becomes operational, the Babur-3 will provide Pakistan with a triad of nuclear strike platforms from ground, air, and sea. The Pakistani government said the Babur-3 was motivated by a need to match India’s nuclear triad and the “nuclearization of [the] Indian Ocean Region” (ISPR 2018bISPR. 2018b. Pres Release No. PR125/2018-ISPR, March 29.https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=4660 [Google Scholar]). The Pakistani government also noted that Babur-3’s stealth technologies would be useful in the “emerging regional Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) environment” (ISPR 2017cISPR. 2017a. Press Release No PR344/2017-ISPR, July 5.https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=4097 [Google Scholar]).

The future submarine-based nuclear capability is managed by Headquarters Naval Strategic Forces Command (NSFC), which the government said in 2012 would be the “custodian of the nation’s 2nd strike capability” to “strengthen Pakistan’s policy of Credible Minimum Deterrence and ensure regional stability” (ISPR 2012cISPR. 2012c. Press release PR122/2012-ISPR, May 19.https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=2067 [Google Scholar]).

Kidwai in 2015 publicly acknowledged the need for a sea-based second-strike capability and said it “will come into play in the next few years” (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace 2015Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 2015. “A Conversation With Gen. Khalid Kidwai.” Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference 2015. Transcript. March 23, pp. 4–5. Available at:http://carnegieendowment.org/files/03-230315carnegieKIDWAI.pdf [Google Scholar], 16). The Pakistani Ministry of Defence Production in 2015 announced a contract for “the indigenous development of 1 [one] ship-borne system with 1 [one] Land Attack Missile” to be completed by October 2018 (Government of Pakistan 2014Government of Pakistan. 2014–2015. Ministry of Defence Production, Yearbook 2014–2015, p. 12. Available at:http://202.83.164.29/modp/userfiles1/file/Year%20Book%202014-15.pdf [Google Scholar]2015Government of Pakistan. 2014–2015. Ministry of Defence Production, Yearbook 2014–2015, p. 12. Available at:http://202.83.164.29/modp/userfiles1/file/Year%20Book%202014-15.pdf [Google Scholar]).

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Notes


1. For insightful analysis of Pakistan’s nuclear policy, see Siddique and Faisal (2016Siddique, F., and M. Faisal. 2016. “Pakistan’s Strategic Nuclear Policy and Implications for Deterrence Stability.” CISS Insight: Quarterly News and Views IV (1): 1–17. Center for International Strategic Studies, March.http://ciss.org.pk/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/1-Article-Farzana-Faisal.pdf [Google Scholar]) and Dalton and Krepon (2015Dalton, T., and M. Krepon. 2015. A Normal Nuclear Pakistan, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace/Stimson Center, August. Available at:http://www.stimson.org/sites/default/files/file-attachments/NormalNuclearPakistan.pdf [Google Scholar]).

2. These estimates are based on Table A.1 of the International Panel on Fissile Materials, Global Fissile Materials Report 2015International Panel on Fissile Materials. 2015. Global Fissile Material Report 2015. Available at:http://fissilematerials.org/library/gfmr15.pdf [Google Scholar]: Nuclear Weapon and Fissile Material Stockpiles and Production report, 44. Available at: http://fissilematerials.org/library/gfmr15.pdf.

3. See also Gordon (1989Gordon, M. 1989. “German Concern Said to Aid Pakistan A-Weapons.” New York Times, January 29. Available at:https://www.nytimes.com/1989/01/29/world/german-concern-said-to-aidpakistan-a-weapons.html [Google Scholar]).

4. For references to tritium production at Khushab, see Cirincione, Wolfsthal, and Rajkumar (2005Cirincione, J., J. B. Wolfsthal, and M.Rajkumar. 2005. Deadly Arsenal: Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Threats. 2nd ed. Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. [Google Scholar]) and FAS (2000bFAS. 2000b. “Khushab/Khusab.” Federation of American Scientists, March 15. Available at:https://fas.org/nuke/guide/pakistan/facility/khushab.htm [Google Scholar]).

5. One year after providing this description of the Pakistani nuclear warhead program, Lavoy was appointed as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for South Asia at the National Security Council.

6. These estimates are based on reprocessing and uranium enrichment plant capacities in International Panel on Fissile Materials, Global Fissile Materials Report 2015: Nuclear Weapon and Fissile Material Stockpiles and Production report, Appendices 2 and 3, 48–49. Available at: http://fissilematerials.org/library/gfmr15.pdf.

7. For analysis of possible nuclear facilities at Masroor Air Base, see Kristensen (2016Kristensen, H. M. 2016. “Pakistan’s Evolving Nuclear Missile Infrastructure.” FAS Strategic Security Blog, November 1.https://fas.org/blogs/security/2016/11/pakistan-nuclear-infrastructure/ [Google Scholar]).

8. See Fisher (2016Fisher, R. 2016. “JF-17 Block II Advances with New Refuelling Probe.” Jane’s Defence Weekly, January 27. A copy of the original article is available at:https://defence.pk/pdf/threads/jf-17-block-ii-advances-with-new-refuelling-probe.419865/ [Google Scholar]) and Ansari (2013Ansari, U. 2013. “Despite Missile Integration, Nuke Role Unlikely for Pakistan’s JF-17.” Defense News, February 7. [Google Scholar]).

9. For analysis of possible missile facilities, see Kristensen (2016Kristensen, H. M. 2016. “Pakistan’s Evolving Nuclear Missile Infrastructure.” FAS Strategic Security Blog, November 1.https://fas.org/blogs/security/2016/11/pakistan-nuclear-infrastructure/ [Google Scholar]).

10. For analysis of possible missile facilities, see Kristensen (2016Kristensen, H. M. 2016. “Pakistan’s Evolving Nuclear Missile Infrastructure.” FAS Strategic Security Blog, November 1.https://fas.org/blogs/security/2016/11/pakistan-nuclear-infrastructure/ [Google Scholar]).

11. For an excellent analysis of the doctrine and Pakistan’s potential use of battlefield nuclear weapons, see Nayyar and Mian (2010Nayyar, A. H., and Z. Mian. 2010. The Limited Military Utility of Pakistan’s Battlefield Use of Nuclear Weapons in Response to Large Scale Indian Conventional Attack, Pakistan Security Research Unit (PSRU), Brief Number 61, November 11. Available at:http://spaces.brad.ac.uk:8080/download/attachments/748/Brief61doc.pdf [Google Scholar]).

12. For analysis of possible missile facilities, see Kristensen (2016Kristensen, H. M. 2016. “Pakistan’s Evolving Nuclear Missile Infrastructure.” FAS Strategic Security Blog, November 1.https://fas.org/blogs/security/2016/11/pakistan-nuclear-infrastructure/ [Google Scholar]).

13. The Ghauri MRBM is based on North Korea’s No Dong missile.

14. For analysis of possible missile brigade locations, see Kristensen (2016Kristensen, H. M. 2016. “Pakistan’s Evolving Nuclear Missile Infrastructure.” FAS Strategic Security Blog, November 1.https://fas.org/blogs/security/2016/11/pakistan-nuclear-infrastructure/ [Google Scholar]).

15. Note that the correct expansion of MIRV is Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicle.

16. It is possible that the Babur-2 and the Babur-1B are the same missile. Both names are referenced as “enhanced” versions of the Babur.

17. For analysis of possible missile brigade locations, see Kristensen (2016Kristensen, H. M. 2016. “Pakistan’s Evolving Nuclear Missile Infrastructure.” FAS Strategic Security Blog, November 1.https://fas.org/blogs/security/2016/11/pakistan-nuclear-infrastructure/ [Google Scholar]).

18. For analysis of possible nuclear facilities at Masroor Air Base, see Kristensen (2016Kristensen, H. M. 2016. “Pakistan’s Evolving Nuclear Missile Infrastructure.” FAS Strategic Security Blog, November 1.https://fas.org/blogs/security/2016/11/pakistan-nuclear-infrastructure/ [Google Scholar]).

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