ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday carried out another successful test of the nuclear-capable Submarine Launched Cruise Missile (SLCM) Babur and claimed to have attained ‘Credible Second Strike Capability’.

Announcing the test through a media release, ISPR said the 450-km-range Babur missile was test-fired from “an underwater dynamic platform, which successfully engaged its target with precise accuracy, meeting all the flight parameters”.

SLCM Babur III was originally tested in January 2017 and it is a sea-based variant of ground-launched cruise missile Babur-II, which was successfully tested in December 2016. The military had at the time of Babur-III’s first test claimed the second strike capability.

The second strike capability, which is believed to be the peak of deterrence strategy, means the possession of the ability to retaliate to a nuclear attack even after a country’s nuclear arsenal has been neutralised. It has long been a goal of Pakistan’s nuclear planners. But, attaining the assured or credible capability was even a bigger challenge. The armed forces now say that they have attained a ‘credible second strike capability’ and in doing so they strengthened “the existing deterrence regime”.

The first test of Babur in early 2017, therefore, demonstrated presence of a scientific capability. Later tests confirmed technical parameters of the Babur SLCM. The current test claiming presence of credible second strike capability indicates that Babur SLCM has entered into service of the Pakistan Navy. It has now been deployed as an operational missile system.

The second strike deterrent is normally placed on a nuclear submarine, but since Pakistan does not have one it is generally believed that the missile would be deployed on Agosta 90-B/Khalid Class diesel-electric submarines. Israeli had earlier done the same.

“The missile is capable of delivering various types of payloads and incorporates state of the art technologies including underwater controlled propulsion, advanced guidance and navigation features,” the ISPR said.

“Development of this capability also reflects Pakistan’s response to provocative nuclear strategies and posture being pursued in the neighbourhood through induction of nuclear submarines and ship-borne nuclear missiles, leading to nuclearisation of Indian Ocean Region,” the ISPR said.

“Pakistan eyes this landmark development as a step towards reinforcing the policy of Credible Minimum Deterrence through indigenisation and self-reliance,” it added.

The test, the ISPR said, was carried out at an undisclosed location and it was witnessed by DG of the Strategic Plans Division, NESCOM chairman, Commander of Naval Strategic Force Command, senior officials, scientists and engineers from Strategic Scientific Organisations.

Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2018