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Pakistan Showed Off A New Missile System

February 6, 2019

Via Inter Services Public Relations.

On January 24 the official news agency of Pakistan’s armed forces released photos and video promoting the “Nasr” short-range ballistic missile. This particular weapon system was shown off in the beginning of the decade but its operational use with the army is unclear. The hype surrounding the Nasr that launched four rockets at a designated target at a firing range joins a growing array of ground-launched precision weapons Pakistan is keen on deploying to offset India’s overwhelming military strength.

Despite its name, the Nasr is based on Chinese technology and is further proof of how far advanced its export ready battlefield rockets are.

The press release from the ISPR explained how the Nasr test is meant to prove its usefulness as a “high precision shoot-and-scoot weapon system with the ability of in-flight maneuverability.” Its role with the Army Strategic Forces Command is confusing, however, being described as adding to “full spectrum deterrence…within the precincts of policy of credible minimum deterrence.”

An interesting detail about the Nasr, whose alternate designation is “Hatf 9,” is its adoption as a short-range ballistic missile. But its characteristics puts it somewhere between the army’s conventional long-range rocket artillery acquired from China and genuine short-range ballistic missiles such as the Ghaznavi (290 kilometer range) and the older Shaheen I (700 km range). The Pakistan army’s deadliest battlefield rockets are the Chinese-made PHL-03’s that are comparable to Russia’s BM-30 Smerch or the Belarusian Polonez with its range estimated at below 100 km.

But a bothersome detail about the Nasr is an alleged range of either 60 or 70 km, which is extreme for a rocket but inadequate for a contemporary road mobile ballistic missile, and it’s possible the figures need verification. Cursory analysis of the Nasr reveal its basis on Norinco’s large caliber long-range rocket artillery and these possess an extreme range beyond 100 km. Whatever the truth is about the Nasr’s effectiveness and reach, it does add another layer of deterrence for Pakistan’s ill-equipped army in its prolonged confrontation with India.

The ballistic missile arsenal at Pakistan’s disposal is quite limited but its variety has flourished in the last two decades. The best estimates peg its stockpile at less than 200 units of various types. An even smaller number consists of actual nuclear tipped medium-range ballistic missiles–the rest have conventional warheads. One of the more dangerous missiles in the army’s possession is the Babur, named after the historical Afghan warlord who founded the Mughal Empire, that’s widely believed to have borrowed technology from the US Tomahawk cruise missile.

Pakistan’s military does boast of the Babur having “state of the art navigational technologies of Terrain Contour Matching (TERCOM) and all time Digital Scene Matching and Area Co-relation (DSMAC) which enables it to engage various types of targets with pinpoint accuracy even in the absence of GPS navigation.” This makes the Babur “an important force equalizer for Pakistan’s strategic deterrence.” This suggests its main use in a future conflict is for defending the country’s limited coastline and the vulnerable land border with India.

As for the Nasr, its mobile platform is a Chinese-made 8×8 transporter similar to what’s used for the PHL-03. But the quartet of missiles it carries on its bed are loaded in factory sealed containers by a separate vehicle equipped with a crane. Whether it ends its testing that has lasted several years now is up to Pakistan’s military, whose budget constraints have dampened its efforts at fully modernizing its hardware.

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