Imtiaz Ahmad, Hindustan Times
30 March 2018
Pakistan has conducted a test of its nuclear-capable, submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM), Babur, which has a range of 450 km, with the country’s military saying the weapon system provides it a “credible second strike capability”. Pakistan has been working hard on developing this capability -- to carry out a retaliatory nuclear strike even after an enemy’s nuclear attack destroys or neutralises its land-based nuclear arsenal -- which India already has. The Pakistan military’s media arm described Thursday’s test of the indigenously developed missile as successful. The missile is capable of delivering various types of payloads and incorporates advanced technologies, including underwater controlled propulsion and sophisticated guidance and navigation features. “SLCM Babur provides Pakistan credible second strike capability, augmenting the existing deterrence regime,” the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement. There was no official word on the development from India’s defence ministry or the military.
Strategic affairs expert Kapil Kak, a retired air vice marshal, said Pakistan has been determinedly endeavouring to attain this capability with China’s help. “We have to see if their claim is authentic,” Kak added. The first test of the Babur missile in January 2017 only “demonstrated ... scientific capability”, the Dawn newspaper reported. Later tests confirmed the missile’s “technical parameters” and the military’s claim of a credible second strike capability indicated the Babur had “entered into service” in the Pakistan Navy as an “operational missile system”, the report said. India, which has a no-first use policy for its nuclear arsenal, began working on second strike capability soon after its nuclear tests in 1998. It has completed its nuclear triad and has the capability to launch strategic weapons from land, air and sea.
Without naming India, the Pakistan military also sought to blame New Delhi for disturbing the strategic balance in the region by acquiring nuclear submarines and nuclear-capable missiles. The development of second strike capability “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 statement said. The Babur missile was fired “from an underwater dynamic platform” and “successfully engaged its target with precise accuracy, meeting all the flight parameters”, the statement said. A brief video posted on the ISPR website showed the red and white missile emerging from water and cruising over the sea before hitting a target on land.
At the time of its launch from the underwater platform, the missile was within a capsule which was jettisoned when the Babur rose above the sea surface. The military did not say where the test was conducted. The test was witnessed by director general of the Strategic Plans Division (SPD), which is responsible for managing Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, the commander of the Naval Strategic Force Command, senior officials, and scientists and engineers from strategic scientific organisations. This is only the second time that Pakistan has announced a test of the submarine launched Babur-III missile, with the first test being conducted in January 2017. During the first test, the Babur-III was launched from an unidentified “underwater mobile platform”. The Babur-III is the naval variant of the land-based Babur-II, which was tested in December 2016.