How India's BMD program forced Pakistan to develop 'MIRV capable' Ababeel missile

Vikas SV

New Delhi, June 24: Ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons are capable of causing widespread devastation if used. Any country which develops these, does so for deterrence, which means that the enemy would think a million times before attacking, fearing that the retaliation could be catastrophic.

Both India and Pakistan have been developing a variety of missiles to assert supremacy in the subcontinent. These missiles can carry both conventional and nuclear warheads, but the primary aim to develop these are to serve as deterrents.

Pakistan's surface-to-surface nuclear-capable missile Ababeel was developed with the aim to beat India's Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) system. Ababeel can carry both conventional and nuclear warheads, and has a range of up to 2,200 kms. More than the range, the stand out feature of this missile is that it boasts of Multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle (MIRV) technology.

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Ballistic missiles equipped with MIRVs release their warheads typically in the post-boost phase, and reduces the effectiveness of a missile defence system, which relies on intercepting individual warheads. It works like this, a BMD system has a radar which first tracks the incoming ballistic missile, then the computer system predicts the trajectory that the missile would follow, and based on this an interceptor is launched to meet the incoming missile mid-air. While an MIRV equipped attacking missile can have multiple warheads, interceptors have a single warhead.

India has a two-tier homegrown interceptor missiles system to block hostile aerial attacks. The double-tiered system consists of Prithvi Defence Vehicle (PDV), capable of destroying incoming targets at high altitude, while the Advanced Air Defence (AAD) Missile for lower altitude interception. India's ballistic missile defence system provides a two-layered shield - 'exo' and 'endo'. What this effectively means is that the system provides protection both against ballistic missiles that are outside (exo) as well as inside (endo) the earth's atmosphere.

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If Ababeel is equipped with full-fledged MIRV capability, then it is a cause of concern for India. It is not known how advanced is Ababeel's MIRV capability or how many warheads can it actually release. The best way to stop an MIRV equipped missile is to intercept it before the warheads separate from main cone, but that is extremely difficult. Once multiple warheads enter the atmosphere, then it is just too difficult to track them separately and launch interceptors to block them.

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