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Pakistanís Long Range Ballistic Missiles: A View From IDEAS

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by Richard Fisher, Jr.
Published on November 1st, 2004

With the October 11 test firing of its Ghauri (Hatf 5), the Pakistan Army Strategic Forces Command within about a year has test-launched all of its major ballistic missiles.[1] Although exact production numbers for its major missiles have not been revealed, the latest launch cycle confirms that Pakistan has in place a two-tiered missile force based on short-range (SRBMs) and medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs). For Islamabad, its nuclear capable missiles are the ultimate deterrent to its larger and long-feared neighbor India. Pakistan has also used the threat of nuclear attack to deter a conventional Indian attack.[2] Pakistan also enjoys status within the Islamic world for being its only nuclear missile-armed member.

New information on Pakistanís missiles came to light recently, during the September 14-17 International Defense Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS) in Karachi, the third such arms exhibition. In fact, the Pakistan Army Strategic Forces Command has used the all of the IDEAS shows to display its nuclear capable missiles. This yearís show, however, was the sole opportunity, given that their appearance had been canceled-on the basis of security concerns-for the usual Republic Day military parade. The solid-fueled Ghaznavi and longer range Shaheen 1 and Shaheen 2 missiles are all widely reported to be based on either Chinese missiles or missile technology. The Ghauri is widely reported to be based on the North Korean liquid-fueled Nodong missile. The Strategic Forces Command did not entertain questions about these missiles, but did offer a video that both summarized previously released missile test footage and provided new information.

High Accuracy

One useful new data point was that the Chinese-source missiles were capable of very high accuracy. Published reports have noted that Pakistanís Shaheen 1, Shaheen 2 and Ghaznavi missiles may have a post-separation booster system to provide course corrections to improve accuracy, or maneuver capability for evading missile defenses. The video confirmed that there is such a system. It was at the Zhuhai Airshow in 1996 that a Chinese source inadvertently disclosed that China was developing a terminal and satellite-navigation-assisted guidance system for its short- to medium-range missiles. The PLA also developed a post-separation warhead attitude correction system for its DF-15 short-range missile. This consists of small thrusters that can adjust the warhead trajectory for greater accuracy or for out-foxing early U.S. Patriot PAC-2 interceptors. This system very likely is also on the DF-11 Mod 1 SRBM.

Shaheen 2 Warhead Stage: May use a post-separation course correction system that enables very high accuracy. Photo: RD Fisher

If Pakistanís missiles are so equipped, the prospect of their not requiring nuclear warheads to achieve "strategic" results against military targets is more likely. While this might be slightly comforting to some, the capability might also increase the temptation to use such missiles, inasmuch as Pakistani leaders might view their use as carrying a diminished risk of Indian nuclear retaliation.

Possible antennae on a Shaheen-1 warhead stage: The black patches near the small stabilizing fins may be antennae intended to service very accurate satellite navigation systems. Photo: RD Fisher

However, such a terminal guidance capability would also require a sophisticated targeting system capable of providing real-time image or electronic target location data to missile commanders. Pakistan will soon have short-range unmanned reconnaissance aircraft capable of supplying such data. Pakistan can be assumed to be a consumer of commercially available high-resolution satellite imagery. And when China soon launches its constellation of 1-meter or better resolution Russian-influenced electro-optical and radar image satellites, it is a safe assumption that Pakistan will gain useful access to their data. The irony here is that Indian space officials have disclosed that China had offered India the opportunity to invest in this satellite constellation.[3] India wisely refused, because its investment might have amounted to a "subsidy" benefiting Chinaís and Pakistanís missile targeting capabilities.

Chinaís Future HJ-1 and HJ-1C reconnaissance satellites: These Russian influenced satellites are due to be launched soon, and could provide Pakistan with all-weather 1-meter imagery. India wisely chose not to participate in this program.Photo: RD Fisher


All of the SRBMs and MRBMs on display at IDEAS were said to be capable of carrying nuclear and non-nuclear warheads. Pakistanís capability to build small plutonium warheads is widely reported to have developed thanks to the assistance of the PRC. China is very likely the source for a range of non-nuclear warheads for the Shaheen 2, Shaheen 1 and Ghaznavi missiles. For its DF-11 Mod 1 SRBM, China is reported to have developed high-explosive cluster warheads, which use a large number of small warheads for attacking soft targets, and thermobaric warheads, which destroy by producing fantastic heat and pressure. And according to a U.S. source, Pakistan is a suspected recipient for new Chinese radio-frequency (RF) missile warheads.[4] These can produce a large electromagnetic pulse via a conventional explosion and are used to attack electronic infrastructure.

Shaheen 2. Pakistanís largest and most capable ballistic missile is the two-stage Shaheen 2, or Hatf 6, reported by the U.S. intelligence community to have been developed with Chinaís assistance. To date, this missile has no publicly identified counterpart in the Chinese missile arsenal, but one possibility might be the DF-25, a reported two-stage 1,700-2,500km range solid-fuel missile. Revealed during the 2000 Republic Day parade, it was not launched for the first time until March 9, 2004. Before that it had been displayed with two sets of guidance fins for each stage. But the missile tested in March, and the one displayed at IDEAS, had no fins at the second stage. Pakistani placards stated its range is 2,000km, but other sources note that this might be extended to 2,500km with a lighter warhead.[5] While published sources give this missile an accuracy measured in circular error probability (CEP) of 350m,[6] a Pakistani video claims it is capable of "surgical precision." This may indicate that it incorporates a warhead post-separation correction system and/or a satellite navigation update system, which may indicate a CEP of much less than 300m. Reports also indicate there may be a 4,000km range Shaheen 3 in development that would also serve as a space launch vehicle.[7]

Shaheen 2
Re-entry vehicle Weight:
Nuclear, HE
Tech Source:
Photo: RD Fisher

Shaheen 1. First revealed in 1999, the Shaheen 1, or Hatf 4, also has no known Chinese equivalent, but its Chinese origins are more apparent than the Shaheen 2. The nose section is very clearly a copy of that seen on the Chinese DF-11 Mod 1 missile first revealed in their October 1999 military parade. But the Shaheen 1 is longer and, at 750km, has a longer range than the 300-500km of the Chinese missile. The warhead stage has what a Pakistani video calls a "post-separation attitude correction system," meaning that the Shaheen-1 is capable of high accuracy and some degree of maneuvering to evade missile defenses. In addition, both the Shaheen I and its relation, the Ghaznavi, employ stealthy warhead shaping to delay detection and complicate targeting.

Shaheen 1
Warhead Weight:
Nuclear, HE
Tech Source:
Photo: RD Fisher

Ghaznavi. The latest Pakistani missile is the Ghaznavi, or Hatf 3, which was formally adopted by the Strategic Forces Command on February 22, 2004. This appears to be an exact copy of the latest version of the DF-11 Mod 1. Like more recent versions of the Chinese missile, the Ghaznavi employs an "aerospike" on the tip of the nose cone. This serves to push away air, creating less aerodynamic drag for the remainder of the missile, and is useful for extending the range of the missile if it employed a "depressed trajectory" or low altitude flight profile, where denser air would create more drag. It is also suspected of using a "depressed trajectory" to evade missile defenses. A Pakistani video also notes that this missile uses a "post-separation attitude correction system" to ensure accuracy. It also features flat antenna arrays near the warhead stage, all indications that it uses highly accurate satellite navigation assisted guidance systems. And, like the DF-11 Mod 1, the Ghaznavi very likely uses a range of warheads, including nuclear, high explosives, cluster munitions, thermobaric and RF.

Nuclear, HE, Cluster, Thermobaric, Radio Frequency
Tech Source:
Photo: RD Fisher

Ghauri 2. Also on display was the Ghauri, or Hatf 5, widely reported to be based on North Koreaís Nodong liquid fueled missile. It has a range of 1,500km that it can cover in about 10 minutes. It is said to be armed with nuclear and high explosive warheads. But, being liquid fueled, it does not have the rapid response capability of solid-fueled missiles. The need to spend considerable time fueling Ghauri makes it vulnerable. There are reports of a Ghauri 3 in development, a two-stage liquid fuel missile with a range of 3,500km.[8] This program may benefit from North Koreaís Russian technology derived Makeyev R-27-based MRBMs.

Warhead Weight:
Nuclear, HE
Tech Source:
North Korea
Photo: RD Fisher

Possible Missile Defenses

Pakistani sources interviewed before the IDEAS show, as well as some recently published information, indicates that Pakistanís leadership is very interested in a limited missile defense capability. This appears to be inspired mainly by the desire to match any prospective Indian missile defenses that might be obtained from Israel or the United States. This impression was confirmed by sources interviewed at the IDEAS show, though there was general reluctance to discuss the details of any future missile defense system. Published sources indicate that Pakistan is considering buying or co-producing the FT-2000A surface-to-air missile (SAM).[9] In 1998 Chinese sources disclosed that this SAM, originally designed with a passive seeker intended to attack electronic warfare aircraft, would eventually feature an active-guidance system with antitactical ballistic missile (ATBM) capability.[10] In 2003 a Malaysian defense journal revealed that the FT-2000A did have a new active phased-array radar for long-range missile guidance.[11]

FT-2000A SAM: Pakistan is showing great interest in its own ATBM capability, and a future missile-intercept capable version of the Chinese FT-2000A appears to be the most likely choice.
Photo: RD Fisher via CPMIEC

The FT-2000 program is believed to stem from the HQ-9 program, which in turn has been described by U.S. and Russian sources as having benefited from Russian S-300 and U.S. Patriot PAC-2 SAM technology. In its active guided configuration, the HQ-9/FT-2000A might be as capable as early 1980s versions of the S-300 or early versions of the Patriot PAC-2. It will definitely feature the very difficult to jam "Track Via Missile" system pioneered by the Patriot, and then reportedly stolen by the Russians. This uses a missile seeker to home in on reflected energy from a narrow-beam ground-based phased array radar signal. Such radar and missile seekers are very difficult to jam.

H-200 Phased Array Radar: This phased array radar is associated with the KS-1A SAM. The sets of secondary radar phase shifters on the top and bottom are strong indications this radar also has a missile guidance function, leading to the possibility that both the KS-1A and the active guided FT-2000A use a ďtrack-via-missileĒ technology.
Photo: RD Fisher

Impact on India

For Delhi, Pakistanís missile force sustains a strategic preoccupation with its larger political-military challenge. Pakistanís emphasis on increased accuracy, maneuverability and the apparent range of non-nuclear warheads, at least for the Ghaznavi, point to an edge over India, especially concerning SRBMs. While the Indian Prithvi SRBM is reported to have high accuracy and some maneuver capability, its use of liquid fuels might also limit its flexibility. This has led India to develop may push greater Indian interest in the Russian Iskander-E solid-fueled SRBM, which is capable of low, maneuvering trajectories, and has an optical seeker for attacking moving targets. Meanwhile, India has a clear superiority in the development of indigenous electro-optical and future radar satellites that can aid missile targeting. But Pakistan could quickly catch up if given access to information from imminent Russian-influenced Chinese electro-optical and radar satellites.

If acquired by Pakistan, the HQ-9/FT-2000A ATBM might be useful only against short-range Indian missiles like the Prithvi or Dhanush, not against the faster and longer-range Agni missiles. This points to a possible emerging Pakistani advantage: it may be in the process of developing a better defense against Indian SRBMs, and challenging possible future Indian ATBMs to take down a maneuvering and low-altitude Ghaznavi/DF-11 Mod 1. However, possible future Indian high-altitude ATBMs like the Israeli Arrow 2 might pose a credible defense against the lower-tech Ghauri or the Shaheen 2-if attacked early enough in the flight cycle.

One hope in the India-Pakistan missile competition is that the interest in missile defense systems might prompt bilateral interest in a stable balance of offensive and defensive systems. At this point it is too early to determine if this will prove the case. Nevertheless, during the Summer of 2004 Pakistan and India took clear and welcome steps to put in place new "confidence building measures" essential to build toward further dialogue.

Dangers of Proliferation

For Delhi, Washington and others, Islamabadís missiles highlight the dangers of Beijingís and Pyongyangís continued proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and possible new dangers of secondary Pakistani proliferation. Washington has repeatedly sanctioned Chinese and Pakistani missile concerns on the basis of their continued cooperation. The ongoing development and deployment of successive Chinese and North Korean-based missiles in Pakistan is a sure indication that all three countries are choosing to ignore Washingtonís concerns.

The last decade has also seen the dangers of Pakistanís participation in nuclear weapons technology trafficking, especially by the "father" of Pakistanís nuclear weapons, Abdul Quadeer Khan. Khanís network was exposed to the world by Libya, when in 2003 it chose to begin dismantling its nuclear and missile systems in return for Western recognition. And while Pakistan may have curtailed Khanís personal involvement in WMD proliferation, there is the continued danger that Khanís associates or other high-level Pakistani nuclear and missile experts may be inspired to follow his example. In the meantime, Pakistanís solid and liquid fuel missile development and production infrastructure point to another potential area of proliferation that.

Patriot PAC-3: Chinaís building and proliferation of ballistic missile technology has generated programs to purchase the Lockheed-Martin Patriot PAC-3 ATBM in Japan and Taiwan, and has led to Indian interest in this missile.
Photo: Lockheed-Martin

While India and Pakistan may continue to strive for missile advantages to serve perceived deterrent objectives, outside actors have some tools for influencing this competition. Encouraging the positive dialogue between Delhi and Islamabad started in mid-2004 is an obvious one. But it is also useful to shift this competition into defensive systems, to help reduce the desirability of ever greater numbers offensive systems. To this end it serves the interests of South Asian stability for the U.S. to continue to engage India in missile defense cooperation. Such cooperation also serves to place positive pressure on China to reconsider its rapid build-up of offensive missiles and its unwillingness to halt its dangerous missile proliferation. While they are not all linked, missile defense cooperation with India can compliment U.S. missile defense cooperation with Australia, Japan and Taiwan. This effort affirms American strategic leadership in this region while demonstrating that Asian democracies will defend themselves against Beijingís growing direct and indirect missile threats.

[1] October 11, 2004: Ghauri/Hatf 5; March 6, 2004: Shaheen 2/Hatf 6; October 11, 2003: Shaheen 1/Hatf 4: October 3, 2003: Ghaznavi/ Hatf 3

[2] On April 6, 2002 Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf stated his readiness to use nuclear weapons against India in the context of the build-up of Indian military forces in Kashmir, in turn a reaction to December 13, 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament by Pakistani-supported terrorists.

[3] Interview, Bangalore, India, June 21, 2004.

[4] Interview, October 4, 2004.

[5] Babar Ahmad, "Pakistan: Tests May Not Include Cruise Missile Tests," Defencetalk, September 8, 2004,

[6] Duncan Lennox, "Hatf 6 (Shaheen 2), Janeís Strategic Weapon Systems, June 15, 2004.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Duncan Lennox, "Hatf 5 (Ghauri)," Janeís Strategic Weapons Systems, June 15, 2004.

[9] Prasun K Sengupta, "Flying High; China's New Air Defense Systems Unveiled," September 8, 2004,; Ahmad, op-cit.

[10] Interview, Zhuhai Airshow, November 1998.

[11] Prasun K. Sengupta, "China's KS-1A and FT-2000A air defence systems unveiled," Tempur, January 1, 2003, in FBIS SEP20030123000046.

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   Report On the International Defense Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS)

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