New Delhi, Nov 17: Pakistan's Ababeel ballistic missile is said to be equipped with Multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle (MIRV) technology. If Ababeel is indeed equipped with full-fledged MIRV capabilty, then it is a cause of concern for India. MIRV allows a single missile to deliver multiple warheads that can be programmed to hit different targets.
The reason why India should be concerned is becasue missiles with MIRV technology can decieve missile defence systems.
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.
But now that India has aquired S-400 missiles defence system, the equationb in terms of India ability to defend against incoming attacks changes. S-400 can track multiple projectiles and is capable of neutralising almost 30 aerial attacks concurrently. But then again it is not exactly known how effective it is against a ballistic misile attack, because ballistic missiles travel several times the speed of sound and hence intercepting them mid air is tricky.
Doubts over Pakistan having developed MIRV:
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. 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 scepticism 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.
Some reports also argue that all the MIRV-enabled missiles are Long Range Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles with a minimum strike range of over 6,000km. Therefore, it is difficult to believe that Pakistan has developed an MIRV-enabled missile with a range of just over 2000km.