ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Tuesday carried out a successful test of the nuclear-capable Air-Launched Cruise Missile Raad-II.

The test was praised by director general of the Strategic Plans Division (SPD), Lt Gen Nadeem Zaki Manj, as “a major step towards complementing Pakistan’s deterrence capability”.

The missile was launched from a Pakistan Air Force Mirage-III aircraft.

Raad-II, which was officially unveiled by the SPD in March 2017 at the March 23 parade, is an improved version of Raad missile. It has a range of 600km; Raad had a 300-kilometre range. There is, however, not much difference in the appearance of the two missiles. The missile can engage targets with high level of accuracy because of its advanced guidance and engagement systems.

The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said its enhanced range has increased its strategic standoff capability on land and at sea.

The enhanced standoff range means the missile can hit deep into India as it brings several Indian cities, including Delhi, within striking range of the cruise missile. It can potentially beat a Ballistic Missile Defence Shield, which India is developing, because of its “low-altitude, terrain hugging” flight profile and its ability to evade radars due to its design.

The standoff range also improves the safety and survivability of the launch aircraft as it does not need to enter the enemy’s airspace. The missile would also provide greater depth in targeting naval platforms, particularly aircraft carriers from Pakistani territorial waters.

Another implication of Raad-II is that despite possessing an array of land-based missiles system, aerial strike and deterrent capability remains a key element of Pakistan’s nuclear strategy.

Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2020