NBC Weapons: Disaster In Disguise

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NUCLEAR, BIOLOGICAL AND CHEMICAL WEAPONS

June 12, 2011: Indian and Pakistani war plans are changing, in ominous ways, as India improves its mechanized forces faster than Pakistan can. In response, Pakistan has developed better short range ballistic missiles, armed with nuclear warheads. India also has short range missiles, but they also have a "Cold Start" capability for their non-nuclear forces. This was something the Russians developed during the Cold War. What it came down to was the ability to launch an attack on Western Germany, with a dozen or more mechanized divisions, with only a few hours warning. NATO improved its ability to quickly respond to such an attack, and that included having nuclear weapons ready to be used if the Russian Cold Start forces got too far into West Germany. This use of "tactical" (shorter range and less powerful) nuclear weapons turned out to be disaster in disguise.  It was eventually realized that "going nuclear" would likely lead to escalation, and ultimately a large-scale use of nuclear weapons, and the destruction of the world as we knew it.

Pakistan is doing the same thing NATO did, developing more reliable short range nuclear missiles. This does not bode well for efforts to prevent nuclear war between India and Pakistan.

The best example of Pakistani "tactical nukes" is the Hatf 9, which was successfully tested earlier this year. This is the latest model in the Hatf line of nuclear armed missiles. With a range of only 60 kilometers, Hatf 9 is small enough for two to be mounted on one vehicle. It's trajectory is flatter than most ballistic missiles, making it more difficult for anti-missile systems to hit. The apparent size and range of the Hatf 9 is similar to the Russian OTR-21 (SS-21). Introduced in the late 1970s, the two ton, 650mm diameter, 6.4 meter (21 foot) long SS-21 had a range of 70 kilometers and a half ton warhead (large enough for existing Pakistani nuclear warheads). North Korea, a regular supplier of missile technology to Pakistan, had built its own version of the SS-21, and could have provided the needed technical assistance to Pakistan.

Pakistan has a full range of solid fuel rockets. In addition to the Hatf 9, there is the 1.5 ton Hatf 1, which appeared in 1989, has a range of 80 kilometers and a half ton warhead. The Hatf 1 apparently never entered service, due to reliability problems. Thus the Hatf 9 is basically the Hatf 1 done right.

Also showing up in 1989, the 2.5 ton Hatf 2 has a range of 180 kilometers, and also carries a half ton warhead. Then there is the four ton Ghaznavi (Hatf 3), which was first tested four years ago, and appears to be based on the Chinese DF-11. This missile has a range of some 300 kilometers and also carries a half ton warhead. The Shaheen 1 (Hatf 4), which weighs 9.5 tons, and carries a one ton warhead, has a maximum range of 700 kilometers. The Shaheen 1 entered service in 2003, and is apparently a variant of the Chinese DF-9 missile. Pakistan is believed to have received the solid fuel DF-9 in the 1990s, and has modified it somewhat. Pakistan began producing the Hatf 4 in the late 1990s, although it was not tested until 1999. The design appears to be well thought out, for the Hatf 4 has had several successful tests. It's not known if Pakistan has a nuclear warhead of equal reliability. Such warheads are difficult to design, manufacture and test. China has long been selling military technology to Pakistan, but it appears that nuclear warhead technology has not been offered.

 


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