Pakistan Test-Fires Medium-Range Ballistic Missile

By Usman Ansari
Posted: Thursday Nov 29, 2012


ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan test-fired its Ghauri/Hatf-V (Vengeance V) medium-range ballistic missile Nov. 28, a liquid-fueled missile that some observers say is not well-suited to Pakistan's needs.

According to the military's Inter Service Public Relations (ISPR) media branch, the Ghauri/Hatf-V was test-fired "by a Strategic Missile Group of the Army Strategic Force Command on the culmination of a field training exercise that was aimed at testing the operational readiness of the Army Strategic Force Command."

The test was monitored at the National Command Center by the National Command Authority's fully automated Strategic Command and Control Support System (SCCSS).

"The SCCSS enables robust command and control capability of all strategic assets, with round-the-clock situational awareness in a digitized, network-centric environment to decision-makers at the National Command Centre," the ISRP said.

Analysts claim the Ghauri, with a range of 1,300 kilometers, is based on the North Korean Nodong-1 ballistic missile, but it is not Pakistan's most capable delivery asset. They doubt its continuing suitability for Pakistan's needs.

Mansoor Ahmed, a lecturer in the Department of Defence and Strategic Studies at Quaid-e-Azam University here, said the Ghauri is not a particularly effective weapon or suited to Pakistan's operational requirement.

"Unlike solid-fueled missiles, liquid-fueled ballistic missiles cannot store the fuel for long periods and have to be refueled prior to launch, which takes several hours, thus making them vulnerable to first strikes," said Ahmed, an expert on Pakistan's nuclear program and its delivery systems. "Given the relative lack of Pakistan's strategic depth, such systems are not the first choice in missile systems for nuclear warhead delivery, which explains why the Ghauri remains the only liquid-fueled system in its missile inventory."

Ahmed said he agrees the launch was more a test of the readiness of the Army Strategic Force Command and the SCCSS than of the missile itself.

He also highlighted the missile's checkered history.

Despite being announced as a success, the first test of the missile on April 6, 1998, was a failure, with the missile burning up on re-entry. It had to be heavily redesigned and improved by the National Engineering and Scientific Commission, and the National Defense Complex, before it could enter service again.

"However, the missile's range has remained constant at 1,300 kilometers over the years, indicating that Pakistan has only one Ghauri system with eight other solid-fueled missile systems," Ahmed said. "Moreover, a solid-fueled alternate system in the form of Shaheen-1A was recently tested."

But the Ghauri is cheaper than solid-fueled missiles, and therefore more expendable when testing launch and control systems, Ahmed said, and it may offer Pakistan a "possible springboard for a space launch vehicle," akin to the British Blue Streak ballistic missile.

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