Columnist Col (retd)
ballistic missile programme is much less integrated than the Indian programmes - which are
highly sophisticated and wherein there is a specific officer in charge of each programme
and the overall programmes are overseen by the Indian missile wizard Dr Kalam. We are
lucky to have Dr AQ Khan - NI, who may well be considered as Von Braun of Pakistan.
At the very best our missile programme is hesitant, procrastinating, electic, full of constraints and of course terribly reactive. We move only when we are moved and have to move. Here is an interesting1 letter from the father of Pakistani missiles to the writer of this short article. Some of the constraints - especially the lack of political will has been clearly brought out by Dr Khan.
Under these circumstances and lack of infrastructure not withstanding (like availability of Space Launch Vehicles - which are still not available in Pakistan). Dr Khan has been instrumental in producing 'Anza', 'Bakter Shikan' and the'Hatf' series of ballistic missiles, the last feather in his cap being the 06 April 1998 test firing of the'Ghauri' which has a range of 1500 Kilometers. Much has been written about this missile ever since its first test firing.
With the firing of 'Ghauri' Pakistan has entered the file of the elite group of countries who possess missiles with ranges above 1000 Km- and who also possess Space Launch Vehicles (SLVs). From the press reports it appears that the next target Dr Khan has is the production and fabrication of an SLV in Pakistan. The list of the elite countries with their products is as below: 2, 3
Characteristics and the areas covered by some of the more important and relevant missiles are shown in the inset with a special reference to the Indian programmes.
From the above discourse it is quite apparent that India has a voracious missile programme and for one Pakistan can never match India missile for missile. So in that sense the first trial launch of 'Ghauri' hardly if ever disturbs the military balance in South Asia which still remains tilted in favour of India.
As would be known to discerning readership on military affairs- India has already launched a highly sophisticated state of the art and accurate programme of Cruise Missile (CM) - Pakistan hopes to start this programme. The indigenously built Indian UAV/RPV'Lakshya' technology would form the basis of this new technology. It is known that work has already started on the development of an Indian ICBM 'Surya' with an expected range of 12,000 Kilometers (Km) which could be later extended to a distance of 20,000 Km, thus outranging the farthest firing Chinese missile.4
Yet other Indian ventures include submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) 'Sagarika' which is a surface skimming missile like the French'Exocet' and its improved versions. The programme also includes an improved version of'Nag' (anti tank missile) and ' Parakash', a missile with multiple warhead to shoot down an AWACS aircraft.
In the heat of frenzy and euphoria much has been published about 'Ghauri - both in the Pakistani and Indian Press after 6 April 1998. Some of the more knowledgeable writers like Dr Lodhi5 (News - 12 April 1998), Gen Lodhi6 Nation 18 April 1998) and Ikram Sehgal7 (Pakistan Observer 18 April 1998) have provided scintillating insight about 'Ghauri' and the rationale for its fabrication.
But for some reasons (may be security reasons) or pure nonchallance some of the more important parameters in which a Ballistics buff like me may be interested have not been spelled out. Some of these are discussed below:
General Aslam Beg8 has been most pragmatic and practical and has pointed out that no figures of the probable error (CEP - Circular Error of Probability) has been given. I know it is not easy to establish this with the very first test flight, yet there must be a designated measure of accuracy. It is all the more important that a missile which is so costly must be reasonably accurate. I suppose such a missile as'Ghauri' should cost as much as 2 x Fighter aircraft - and if it is not accurate enough its mission may be infructuous as once on its flight towards a designated target it cannot be called back whereas an aircraft is reusable.
Most of the modern missiles in the Third world use'Strapped Down' computers for missile guidance, but the most accurate and widely used guidance is obtained through what is called 'Inertial guidance' I am not sure which type of guidance has been used in'Ghauri'.
Of sure a missile which must cover a distance of some 1500 Km - must have at least two boosters / rockets. The Indians - as has come out in the open press use two rockets in their much publicised'Agni' - one of these is Liquid fueled and the other is Solid fueled. No such details appear to have been provided.
A missile buff would like to know if the missile has been launched from a static or a mobile launch vehicles. The Indians'Prithvi' can be launched off a mobile launch too, yet it has the handicap of using a liquid fueled booster and storage of such a propellant is somewhat cumbersome under field conditions.
We are far away - perhaps many years from the'series' production of the missile (Like al-Khalid which was first unveiled in 1989) but we should think ahead and the problem of putting a large number of such missile on the'same grid' by modern survey methods should have been spelled out. Some of higher level Indian artillery officers are still doubtful about the deployment, survey and communication arrangements of' Prithvi' when deployed from Kashmir to Rajputana. Such a gargantuan problem has never been faced by the Indians before.
Finally, I should think that it is too early, notwithstanding that the launch of 'Ghauri' has achieved its political aims, the technical refinements are still to be honed and incorporated. The first flight is just a technological breakthrough and this has yet to be exploited. I have a feeling that without proper Space Launch vehicles (which are also necessary for our satellite launches and which are ambling along for many years for lack of political will and funds) and for which work is now in hand, a further development of 'Ghauri' - and beyond may not be possible.
'Ghauri' - A Profile.