Skip to content

Pakistan Is Enlarging Its Rocket Artillery Arsenal

September 28, 2021

Asian countries are acquiring long-range rocket artillery for their militaries at a rapid pace. The newest entrant comes from Pakistan and was revealed in August, when a firing test on the 24th was announced by the ISPR, and its official designation is “Fatah-1.” Whether or not its nomenclature suggests a new family of road mobile precision-guided weapons remains to be seen. Few details about the Fatah-1 were revealed except for a short video clip and mentioning the August 24 test used conventional warhead(s). Examining the sole photo of the Fatah-1, which has never been seen in public before, does give clues about its origins.

The layout of its transporter is the same as the ones used for the Pakistan Army’s 300mm rocket launchers that are comparable to the Chinese PHL-03 and the Russian Smerch. In fact, it’s the same truck! So the Fatah-1 is no doubt an 8×8 transporter with rectangular containers for its munitions. This clearly indicates it’s based on a Chinese model but this time it’s possible the vehicle was repurposed to carry improved munitions.

The Fatah-1 resembles the Norinco A100 rocket artillery system and its employment of box launchers evokes parallels with the Polonez, another rocket artillery system made in Belarus, that was also based on Norinco’s technology. It’s safe to assume the Fatah-1 mounts two cells of rectangular box launchers armed with eight 300mm missiles. Not having photos of its munitions leaves everyone in the dark about its pertinent details; what kind of warhead it carried and how it maneuvers toward its targets.

A typical range for an unguided 300mm rocket is 20 kilometers at the minimum and 60-75 km maximum. The advantage of the 300mm caliber–or larger, as with the case of North Korea’s newest rocket artillery–is they carry bigger warheads and these can be adapted for airburst cluster munitions, “bunker buster” munitions, thermobaric munitions, or just high explosive. The Fatah-1 has the potential to be extremely dangerous if its rockets have these critical improvements: a new motor for extending its flight range and a guidance system that switches from inertial/Beidou/GPS. The latter are satellite navigation apps from China and the US, respectively.

Going back to the Polonez made in Belarus, for example, its munitions are suspected of exceeding 200 km in maximum range, blurring the line that separates rockets from ballistic missiles. Pakistan’s army have large diameter rocket artillery systems like the Nasr but the arrival of the Fateh-1 suggests it’s meant for closing a range gap versus India. India’s army have some of the best rocket artillery and tactical surface-to-surface missiles in the world that spans the Pinaka Mk I and Pinaka Mk II, the Prahaar short-range ballistic missile, and the Prithvi 1 and Prithvi 2 SRBMs.

It’s a matter of speculation if the Fateh-1 is supposed to match the Indian Pinaka Mk II, whose maximum range is 75 km, or the Prahaar that is being tested for delivering munitions as far as 150 and 200 km. The difference between 75 km and 200 km is stark but today’s advances in aerospace engineering, especially in composites and propellants, means enhancing a rocket airframe with a 300mm caliber to cover such distances isn’t out of reach. This has been achieved, or almost achieved, by the military industries of China, Israel, and North Korea.

With the arrival of the Fatah-1 the rocket artillery fielded by Pakistan’s ground forces span the deadliest known calibers–122mm, 300mm, and 400mm. In light of its status as a nuclear-armed state with a thriving military-industrial sector this progress is historic and unmissable. Pakistan is on the cutting edge of missile technology.

Comments are closed.