Strategic Weapons: March 22, 2004

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Pakistan announced the first successful test of its Shaheen 2 ballistic missile. With two stages and a range of 2,000 kilometers, and capable of carrying a half ton warhead, the Shaheen 2 can reach all of India. The Shaheen 2 appears to be based on the Chinese M-18 ballistic missile. The M-18 first appeared in the late 1980s, as a replacement for the older liquid fueled missile designs (like the SCUD). Unlike the SCUD, the M-18 uses a solid fuel rocket motor. The M-18 has a range of 1,000 kilometers and carries a half ton warhead. The Shaheen 2 has increased range (over the M-18) by being longer and heavier. The Pakistani Shaheen 1 appears to be a copy of the shorter (one stage) Chinese M-11 (with a range of 300 kilometers). China exports these M-series missiles with conventional warheads, to Pakistan despite the protests of the United States. China has apparently secretly exported the plans for building  nuclear warheads for the M series missiles. This is not the same as showing someone how to build a nuclear weapon. China simply points out the physical requirements for getting a nuclear warhead to work in a missile warhead (that undergoes a lot of stress during takeoff and re-entry.) The M-11 weighs about four tons, while the M-18 weighs closer to ten tons. China had earlier given Pakistan technology to build liquid fueled ballistic missiles (that weigh at least twice as much as a solid fuel missile with the same range.) A major disadvantage with liquid fuel missiles is that it takes hours to get them ready for launch. This makes you more vulnerable to enemy attack on your missiles before they can be used. A solid fuel missile like the Shaheen 2 makes it easier to get involved in a nuclear war, as you can fire your nukes at the enemy more quickly. 

 


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