ISLAMABAD: The army on Wednesday announced successful ‘training launch’ of an improved version of short-range nuclear-capable Nasr missile, saying it would bolster strategic deterrence against India.
“Pakistan has successfully undertaken a series of training launches and tests/trials during the current week for validation of new technical parameters of ‘NASR’,” the ISPR said in a statement on the training launch carried out in Sindh.
Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Bajwa witnessed the event.
It was the first time in nearly three years that the military announced the tests of Nasr missile.
The tested version has 10 kilometres enhanced range and flight manoeuvrability. The missile now has a 70km range, compared to the previous 60km. The added feature of manoeuvrability would enable it to defeat the ballistic missile defence being developed by India.
Improved version of nuclear-capable missile launched
The missile can carry both conventional and nuclear warheads, but it is known more for its capability to carry nuclear warhead of suitable yield. Nasr is launched from a multi-tube launcher, capable of launching four successive missiles. It is considered as the high-precision weapon system that can be prepared for launch in a short time.
Looking at the video clip that accompanied the press statement, it was evident that the tests and training were aimed at establishing the precision of the system.
“This weapon system will augment credible deterrence against prevailing threat spectrum,” the ISPR said.
Introduced in April 2011, Nasr was developed in response to India’s cold start doctrine, whose existence was officially confirmed by Indian Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat earlier this year. The tactical nuclear weapon system, it is said, is meant to deny space to India for conventional conflict below the nuclear threshold.
Gen Bajwa, while witnessing the launch, said: “Nasr has put cold water on cold start.” The capability, he said, was meant to make it clear to the adversary that war was not an option. The army chief maintained that Pakistan’s strategic capability was a guarantee for peace against a highly militarised and increasingly belligerent neighbour. Pakistan, he said, would ensure regional peace and stability.
The military has over the years been emphasising that Nasr contributed to “full spectrum deterrence” against evolving threats.
Notwithstanding Pakistan’s assertions that Nasr is a “weapon of peace”, its detractors have criticised its development and claimed that it could lower the threshold of nuclear use.
Critics also feared about its security. The government has been under pressure, particularly from the United States, to limit the Nasr programme. The pressure was, however, rejected by the National Command Authority and the programme continued.
Gen Bajwa dismissed the concern and said he had “complete confidence in effective command, control, safety and security of all strategic assets and measures being taken to augment these”.
Former head of the Strategic Plans Division retired Lt Gen Khalid Kidwai had at a lecture at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad said: “We are not apologetic about the development of tactical nuclear weapons. They are here to stay and provide the third (tactical) element of our full spectrum deterrence.”
Analysts believe that the military’s assertion that it has conducted training launch of the missile implies that it has been operationally inducted into the army’s strategic forces command.
Gen Bajwa praised the “training and operational preparedness of Army Strategic Force”.
Commander of the Army Strategic Force Command Lt Gen Mian Muhammad Hilal Hussain was among those present at the event.
Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2017