Mystery surrounding Pakistan's nuclear capable Ababeel missile and its MIRV capability

Vikas SV

New Delhi, Oct 17: Pakistan has been trying its best to match up with India's formidable missile arsenal. India's successful test firing of Agni-5, which has a range of 5,000 kms, has left Pakistan uncomfortable and Islamabad has been trying hard to come up with an answer for India's ace missile.

Agni-5 can carry both conventional and nuclear warheads and can hit all parts of Pakistan. Agni-5 is not a Pakistan-centric missile and the testimony to this is the fact that several foreign defence observers have claimed that it can hit targets as far as 8,000 kms away. The official range Agni-5, as claimed by the DRDO, remains 5,000 kms.

Also Read | From Babur to Ghaznavi: About names of Pakistani missiles

Paksitan's answer to this is Ababeel surface-to-surface ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead up to 2,200 kms. More than the range, the stand out feature of this missile is that it boasts of being equipped with Multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle (MIRV) technology.

MIRV allows a single missile to deliver multiple warheads that can be programmed to hit different targets. Now, it is not clearly known if Agni-5 is equipped with MIRV technology. Some reports claim that India is thought to be pursuing MIRV technology to match advances being made by Pakistan. Others claim that India first tested a MIRV capable missile in 2012 with the successful launch of the Agni-V.

The Pakistani military first announced its test of the MIRV capable missile on January 24, 2017. With the 2017 test, Ababeel became the first ballistic missile in South Asia which is equipped with MIRV.

Also Read | Pakistan way behind India in cruise missile technology: Babur vs Nirbhay

However, many experts have questioned whether Pakistan really had developed or tested a MIRV. A report published in nationalinterest.org quoted the Center for Strategic and International Studies' as saying, "Some experts have expressed skepticism as to whether Pakistan has indeed surmounted the various technological hurdles required for MIRVed missiles. MIRV warheads are typically much smaller than unitary warheads, and thus require greater miniaturization. It is unclear if the country has manufactured a miniaturized nuclear warhead small enough to use in a MIRV."

A BBC report claims that Pakistan may have developed MIRV capable missile with the help from China, Islamabad's 'all-weather' friend. A report published in delhidefencereview.com claims that the Ababeel thermal fairing (heat shield) has a larger diameter than its core vehicle. The extra volume thus available is consistent with the requirements for MIRV capabilities. The report, however, says that a number of other factors must to considered before inferring that Pakistan has succeeded in developing MIRV capability.

Also Read | Pakistan successfully test-fires 1,300 kms range Ghauri missile

Coming to the question whether India has developed MIRV technology or not, there is no clear answer as there is no official confirmation. As per the information available in the public domain, India is working on a four-stage intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) - Agni VI - which may have a strike range of 8,000 km to 12,000 km. Agni-VI is expected to be capable of Multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle as well as Maneuverable re-entry vehicle (MaRV).

Also Read:

China says it has a better missile than BrahMos and Pakistan would buy it

'Mystery range' Agni 5 to be inducted soon: How far can it strike in Chinese territory?

Patriot missile losing market to S-400: Is that the real worry of US?