How Pakistan, China are developing nuclear triad

 | Updated: Jun 16, 2020, 07:36 PM IST

In a report produced by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute(SIPRI), Pakistan has produced mainly HEU but is increasing its ability to produce plutonium. The country now has 160 nuclear warheads, which is more than India which has 150 warheads.


Pakistani military personnel stand beside the Short range turbojet powered subsonic cruise Missile, Babur

SIPRI says that Pakistan is believed to be gradually increasing its military missile material holdings, which include both weapons-grade plutonium and highly enriched uranium 

Pakistan continues to prioritize the development and deployment of new nuclear weapons and delivery systems as part of its "full spectrum deterrence posture" vis-à-vis India, the report states.


Pak's nuclear missiles

The report notes that Pakistan is expanding its nuclear-capable ballistic missile arsenal which consists of short-and medium-range systems.

The arsenal currently includes two types of medium-range ballistic missile: the liquid-fuelled, road-mobile Ghauri (Hatf-5), with a range of 1250 km; and the two-stage, solid-fuelled, road-mobile Shaheen-II (Hatf-6) with a range of 2000 km.


File Photo: Pakistan nuclear weapons

Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) Mirage III and Mirage V aircraft is most likely to have a nuclear delivery role, according to the defence think-tank.

The Mirage III has been used for developmental test flights of the nuclear-capable Ra’ad (Hatf-8) air-launched cruise missile, while the Mirage V is believed to have been given a strike role with nuclear gravity bombs, the report says.

(Photograph:Zee News Network)

Plans to buy additional Mirage

PAF currently operates about 160 Mirage aircraft, of which approximately 120 are fighter-bombers. According to reports, Pakistan plans to buy an additional 36 Mirage V aircraft from Egypt.

The nuclear capability of Pakistan’s F-16 fighter-bombers is unclear but many analysts continue to assign a potential nuclear role to the aircraft, SIPRI says.


JF-17 Thunder

In fact, Pakistan has acquired a significant number of JF-17 aircraft, jointly developed with China, to replace the ageing Mirage aircraft. Pakistan currently operates about 100 JF-17s in four to six squadrons, according to SIPRI.

The report says the Ra’ad ALCM is intended to provide the PAF’s fighter-bombers with a standoff nuclear capability.

It has been flight-tested seven times since 2007. The last reported flight test was in 2016.

An improved version, the Ra’ad-II, was displayed for the first time in 2017 and is reported to have a range of 600 kilometres.



Shaheen II

The Shaheen-II was test launched in May 2019. A longer-range variant, the Shaheen-III is currently in development, the think tank says.

As part of its efforts to achieve a secure second-strike capability, Pakistan is seeking to create a nuclear triad by developing a sea-based nuclear force.

The Babur-3 submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM) appears to be intended to develop a nuclear capability for the Pakistan Navy’s three diesel-electric Agosta class submarines.

The Babur-3 was first test launched in 2017 and was tested for the second time in 2018.

Pakistan has ordered eight air-independent propulsion-powered conventional submarines from China, the first of which is expected to be delivered in 2022.


China to modernize their nuclear facility

As far as China is concerned, the report says the country is modernizing and diversifying its nuclear forces as part of a long-term programme to develop a more survivable and robust deterrence posture consistent with its nuclear strategy of assured retaliation.

China’s shift towards more survivable mobile missiles has been motivated by concerns that US advances in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities.

(Photograph:Zee News Network)

China missile

China continues to pursue its long-standing strategic goal of developing and deploying a sea-based nuclear deterrent.

According to the US DOD’s 2019 annual report on Chinese military developments, the PLA Navy has commissioned four Type 094 nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines.

Also, the PLA Air Force (PLAAF) had been "re-assigned a nuclear mission".

China possesses a small number of H-6K bombers that may have been given a nuclear weapon delivery role as an interim measure until a new bomber is available.

The PLAAF is currently developing its first long-range strategic bomber known as the H-20.