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Pakistan tests MIRV-capable Ababeel ballistic missile
September 21, 2017
Photo credit: Inter Services Public Relations

Pakistan tests MIRV-capable Ababeel ballistic missile

The Pakistani military’s media relations wing Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) reports that the armed forces had tested a new surface-to-surface ballistic missile capable of using multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle (MIRV) technology.

Designated the Ababeel, the medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) has a maximum range of 2,200 km.

As per ISPR, “the test flight was aimed at validating various design and technical parameters” of the Ababeel, which was designed and developed to ensure the “survivability of Pakistan’s ballistic missiles in the growing regional Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) environment.”

With MIRV, countries can deploy multiple warheads from a single ballistic missile. Each warhead is equipped with an inertial navigation system (INS), enabling the user to target different locations using the same payload. This enables the single ballistic missile to stress a BMD’s ability to simultaneously intercept multiple targets, thereby increasing the scope for a warhead to strike its target.

The Ababeel MRBM test comes at the heels of the Babur 3 submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM), which was recently tested from an underwater mobile platform. Where the Babur 3 SLCM represents a clear step in building Pakistan’s assured second-strike capability, the Ababeel is a major step towards strengthening Pakistan’s first-strike element.

Notes & Comments:

Earlier, Quwa noted that while Pakistan may not extend the range of its ballistic missile capability (e.g. by pursuing inter-continental ballistic missiles), it will improve the qualitative aspects of its ballistic missiles. Warhead delivery, e.g. “improved inertial navigation systems (INS) and maneuverable warheads” were viewed as possible areas of further development.

The Ababeel is an example of that qualitative development. Granted, in hindsight of India’s desire to build a strong BMD umbrella coupled with deeply layered air defence coverage (e.g. S-400), Pakistan pursuing MIRV technology is not surprising. In 2010, the BBC reported that Pakistan was developing a MIRV solution with Chinese assistance, indicating that this program is not recent.

This is merely speculation, but it is possible that Pakistan has extended its usage of miniature plutonium warheads (e.g. developed for SLCMs) to the Ababeel program. The Shaheen-series, which is the mainstay of Pakistan’s MRBM arsenal, may be serving as the core rocket platform for the Ababeel.

The Ababeel also opens the question of how much further Pakistan intends to improve its ballistic missiles, e.g. could maneuverable re-entry vehicles (MARV) be on the development roadmap?

Discussion: Incentive for Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBM)?

Note: This is not a news story, but a piece for discussion. The details offered in this section are not authoritative pieces of information, but simply perspectives of the author.

The introduction of the Ababeel is significant, but could Pakistan extend MIRV technology to its second-strike portfolio as well? Currently, the second-strike element is centered on cruise missiles, which can be deployed from land, sea and air. In this respect, MIRV-enabled SLBMs would be a significant addition.

Although Pakistan is unlikely to procure nuclear-powered ballistic submarines, conventionally-powered air-independent propulsion submarines (SSP) that happen to be sufficiently large enough to carry and deploy SLBMs do have precedence, albeit as a one-time test platform (i.e. the Chinese Type 032 Qing-class SSP). The notion of building upon such a platform is not implausible, though it would unique.

Regarding multiple warheads, could Pakistan also imbue its conventional arsenal with similar attributes? For example, a solution analogous to the U.S. CBU-97 Sensor Fuzed Weapon could involve the Ra’ad air-launched cruise missile dispensing guided bomblets. A dispenser could enable Pakistan to engage multiple and dispersed targets, such as, among others, air fields, air defence sites, shipyards and dockyards.

  • Hashim Rasheed

    A significant technological achievement. However, is there any word on the number and size of the warheads that the missile can carry??

    • Ali

      its 3 warheads for now, but it can be increased, hard work has been done

    • vinsin

      Three.

  • Shakeel

    This is a majestic move from Pakistan.This move will deflate our enemies and put an end to their haughty bravado.The BMD systems seems more exposed and porous than ever before.Would suggest they remove their cattarach from their eyes before they claim that this is another fake.No room for complacency for Pak.Well done.

  • Shakeel

    The demonstration of Ababeel,leaves me to ponder why Pak is not willing to invest in it’s own SAM system.Surely this must be a priority right now?

    • Donny G

      It will be tested randomly someday without us knowing it was under development for 5 years.

      • Faran Sohaib

        How do you say that? Do you have any good source showing Pakistan is working for BMD systems?

    • Arif Iftikhar

      Just my thoughts Shakeel….Two ways of doing things….Attack and defence
      We are good at attack, we should stick with this approach and further develop it. This way we are thinking and spending in one direction while our enemy has to do in two different directions.

  • Farooq Hussain Toor

    Thumbs up to Pakistan and Pakistan armed forces

  • mazhar

    Last time I checked Indian defense forums a few hours ago, there was a “KOHRAM” there and typical denial, but who cares. AlhamdoLilah, we reached the milestone of MIRV, next step should be MARV. We should not unnerve west but keep the ICBM/TIPU in our back pocket, just in case cuz you never know, showcase that when it is required. In my opinion MIRV can be the first step towards an ICBM. A few months ago Bilal unequivocally explained regarding SSBN that it was not our need but you never know when our scientists come up with a miniature nuclear power plant which can be fitted into Type 032 Qing-Class SSP, Just like Ababeel, which appeared out of no where. I was following some tips on the net that work was being done on MIRV but no timeline, I read that MIRV project started in 1997, took 20 years to achieve it. Currently Ababeel has three warhead capacity, which I am sure can be increased. Who ever came up with name is a genius. “Alam tara Kaifa fa aala Rabuka bey Eshabil feel”. Great achievement.

    • Raja Khalid

      ? kohram long live Pakistan

    • Arif Iftikhar

      Ababeels, in the incident mentioned in Quran, carried three stones. Likewise the missile carries three warheads.

      • mazhar

        Surah Al-Feel

    • MT

      Well Pak ll b first country to never ever develop a civil nuclear plant and be able to miniaturize a nuclear reactor.

      The so called missile is not mirv but it just holds proper shape to keep three RV.

      An ICBM program requires basic minimal space program;high alloy composite nd much advanced control system .

      • Headstrong

        Absolutely. This Shaheen-clone is MRV capable, not MIRV. There’s a difference

      • Salman Khan

        Listen, what about India’s miniaturized warheads? Are they ready yet to fit into the very ready Agnis?

        • MT

          Well India have been manufacturing nuclear reactors since 1970’s. As of now its among top 5 fabricator of nuclear reactors in NTI ranking

          Indian SLBM K15,4 & K4 are 5th gen missiles with length in range from 10-12 meter. K-15 and K-4 fits in current arihant class submarine
          K-5 will fit in the next gen of SSBN

  • Yasir Abbas Khan

    AlhamdoLILLAH

  • Steve

    Everyone pay your taxes and overseas people sent remittances. This is not cheap!

  • Headstrong

    Curious wording of the press release. It is as yet unclear if Pakistan has mastered MIRV technology, given that it merely mentions that the missile is “capable” of being fitted with a MIRV warhead, rather than announcing that it has mastered the technology and developed MIRV payloads.
    And, even if true, this doesn’t really change anything in the region. Pakistan’s insecurities and paranoia will demand further provocation and escalations. The nuclear threshold has been crossed decades ago. But if Pakistan believes this gives them license for further 26/11 type attacks, they’ve got another think coming.

    • Shakeel

      Our beloved neighbor is manipulating words to brew an element of doubt.His pokered expression signals high degree of impotency – hence has gone into denial mode regarding MIRV. Take some medicure – it will help with withdrawal symptoms.

      • Headstrong

        You’re trying hard to convince yourself, I see ?

        • Shakeel

          Rich talk from yourself trying to sell made in India brand.Stop this false pretence or you might start choking on your own words. This is called a apoplectic fit..There is no cure for that.

          • Headstrong

            Where does Made in India come in here? I’m merely pointing out the hypocrisy being displayed in ample quantity here. After all, the same set of people were ridiculing the Indian claim of the surgical strike, merely on statements. How different is this? Instead of resorting to rhetoric, please refute what I have stated in my OP. Other than stating that Pakistan has tested a missile ‘capable of being fitted with an MIRV warhead’, what exactly has got you people into raptures?
            Or am I crediting you people with too much intelligence?

          • Shakeel

            Tweedledum (Headstrong) and tweedledee (MT) are both here, trying to subvert people attention from the core topic of Ababeel. The latter missile was launched to pre-empt any eastern aggression. My commrnents regarding the Made in India Brand was in principle put forward to stop these nursery rhyms from spewing recycled material over & over again.
            Your assertion of surgical strikes are a figment of your spin-doctors imagination, because I live in Azad Kashmir (& proudly Pakistani) & we know how to defend every nook & cranny from our eastern aggressors. Perhap you have been watching the Bollywood movie called ‘Border’, inspiring you with false hopes of grandeur or ‘supapuwa’ illusions.
            This symptons are systemmatic of post grandeur trauma. The induction of Ababeel will help alleviate you from this trauma.
            You will do me a huge favour by spewing your clutter to a more gullible audience.

          • Abdul Rashid

            Great to see someone from Azad Kashmir. I have Azad Kashmir roots too and like you I consider myself a Pakistani first, before Kashmiri.

          • Headstrong

            As expected, more rhetoric. Your own government tells you that it is an ‘MIRV capable’ missile being tested. And everyone goes ga ga 🙂
            Whatever helps you sleep at night. Although, as I said in my OP, even if true, this will do nothing for the state of paranoia you people have worked yourselves into. There will still be convulsions whenever India makes any deals on anything, demands for ‘strategic parity’, a ‘balance of power on the sub continent’ et al. The siege mentality you people have willingly accepted on the say so of a Deep State isn’t going anywhere soon.

      • Steve

        I agree Shakeel but let’s be kind and gentle with them. Our neighbours are splitting hairs in the hope of reassuring themselves. Fear is the biggest problem our eastern neighbours have and this will increase it many fold. Fear of the people that held Delhi for a millennium and their historical perceived single minded savagery. It has left an indelible imprint on their racial memories. We should say this is only to enhance peaceful negotiations and facilitate a just settlement of the Kashmir dispute. It should usher in true MAD once we have thermonuclear warheads to mount on Ababeel. I hope this is 1st version with 3 warheads, and later heavier versions will mount more.

        • MT

          Pak can’t negotiate with such 70 era missiles as long as your economic situations is moribund with debt rising and more debt being added to pay old debt

          Pak can’t change status quo nd force his type of settlement in most possible scenarios on Kashmir against India. It couldn’t do despite being nuke power and addition of such missile will not add any bargaining capabilities.

          India have 9times more federal budget so it can push Pak into deep arms race which ll hurt Pak economy.

          • Steve

            That remains to be seen of course. Game on!

          • mazhar

            Good for you.

  • Türker Demircan

    Congrats from Turkey…Well done! Pakistan has no other chance to be in that game…

    • Steve

      If there is one ‘natural ally’ Pakistan has, it is Turkey

    • jamshed_kharian_pak

      We Love Our Turk Brothers

  • SP

    An important step in maintaining deterrence and making defence shield ineffective. However I feel the range of the missiles should be enhanced as India is a big country and Pakistan should be able to hit it from anywhere at any point of India. What the wirld says is irrelevant as defence of Pakistan should come first.

  • Asif

    There is a complete silence in India who says “Babar 3” test is fake. Now, they are stunned. HHHH

  • Arif Iftikhar

    Alhamdulilah, great work by all concerned. Considering the fresh threats from the eastern side, nice timing for showing not one but two new cards that we have up our sleeves, that will give their planners some sleepless nights.

    Question for Bilal:

    Can the technology of MIRV or MARV be used in cruise missiles? Like multiple targets for a single missile. Is there any example ? If not with nukes, then perhaps with censor fused weapons…….

  • Faran Sohaib

    Please anyone tell me: Are MIRV Missiles heavy on all “Missile Defence Systems”?
    Is there any “MDS” that can easily counter incoming these missiles.

  • MT

    It sounds more of hyped up prototype missile with similar Chinese origin missile like Shaheen if one sees the diameter and length of missile.

    The only change is with RV shape which can probably hold 3 RV.

    Just claiming mirv capable is nt same as delivering mirv. Agni 3 onwards are mirv capable but it’s not possible to test mirv projectiles for mrbm/irbm

    From every Specifications;an ICBM is the only entitled to be MIRV.
    Pak is probably first country to develop cruise missile before solid rocket Shaheen nd MIRV capabilities before a naive Marv technology.

    Pak doesn’t have a basic space program so it’s impossible to test capabilities which are being in-use by 6space power’s : USA Russia France china japan India with more than dozens launches of multiple satellites from dual adapter’s with single SLV from different orbits.

    • Headstrong

      Let’s give credit where it’s due. The message has reached its intended audience – which is entirely within Pakistan’s borders 🙂

      • MT

        The so called wanna be MIRV missile test allows India to test Agni VI which is the 1st MIRV ICBM in south asia as open message to nuclear/missile proliferator china.

        India must also look into transfer some 70-80 era missiles(agni1/2) with similar interstage separation tech used in shaheen/ababeel to vietnam.

        If I am nt wrong then Agni 1/2 have better specific fuel impulse than Long march1 rockets & their variants such as shaheen

  • M.Umair Masood

    Using SLBMs from a non nuke platform does not make any sense from a survivability, detection & persistence point of view. An AIP sub has to show itself some time. Maybe later than a conventional diesel electric but it has to. The whole idea of putting BMs on SSBNs is to provide the deterrent with stealth, dispersal & increased persistence giving it enhanced survivability & plausibility. Putting SLBMs on conventional subs does not give your deterrent that advantage. There is a reason why the only nuclear state to use SSBs, USSR quit the SSB approach after the Zulu & Golf classes & like other nuclear powers switched to SSBNs.

  • Mudassar Fida

    I have been following quwa since months now and I will thank contributors specially Bilal for his posts. That provide us with a forum

  • OSD

    What a name for the missile! Love it! Brilliant!!

  • jamshed_kharian_pak

    2016-2017 very fruitful years, many happy defence related news has come out, MIRV technology has kissed our Pakistan’s Armed Forces, very difficult times for our enemies! we salute defenders of Islamic Republic of Pakistan

  • Salman Khan

    I just happen to love you, “Steve”. Not to mention the good punch you deliver, but the fine language you employ.

  • MT

    Problem with pakistan missile technology are many fold

    1. The shaheen/ababeel missile is based on rudimentary jet vanes engines.
    2. Look at interstage separation in shaheen & ababeel. None of missiles built by space powers have interstage seperators. India barely used it in agni 1/2
    3. The range of shaheen 3/2 shows inherent problems with quality of solid rocket engine and lack of any composite technology in motor casing and engine

    4. Navigation/control system is outdated. The 1st stage uses fins in atmosphere for aerodynamics

    5. The missile is lacking basic TVC putting pak in league of Iran & N korea.

    say for e.g India have been using TVC technology for last 2 decades. India leapfroged directly into SITVC (secondary injection in TVC)in 90’s with agni 1/2 and TVC with agni 3.
    None of its MRBM/IRBM ever used jet vanes.

    • Headstrong

      This slew of announcements got me thinking – why now? Then, it hit me. It’s Cold Start, stupid! The very mention turns the blood of these people cold (couldn’t resist the pun!) – probably reminding them of how close they were to being dismembered in 65.
      Now, with the announcement of the Guided Pinaka and reports of India’s plans to deploy 460 + MBTs along the Indo-Pak border, realisation is probably dawning that the tactical nuke bluff is being called.
      Therefore, change tack. Put together a poorly conceived video, call it sea-based Babur. Then make cleverly pieced announcement about successful launch of ‘MIRV capable’ missile – encourage citizens to go ga ga.
      Clever, no? 🙂

      • MT

        Pak has limited access to tech so they have to contend with 80era stuffs. Most of these stuffs are integrated at nescom.

        If u look at Babur and read about Ukraine china glcm tech flow then Babur was nothing but downscaled version of first cheeni glcm which was developed post rev engineering from Ukrainian cruise missile tech transfer from 90s mated with design inputs of tomahawks.
        Pak only contribution to the trade was supply of broken tomahawks to china.

        Every country grows its technology via graduaal r&d. So if a country is still using 60era jet vanes of scud with low specifics rated engine having inefficient interstage separators for stages can’t develop sophisticated navigation guidance system of cruise missile.

    • Steve

      Are you a Pakistani missile scientist to know all about our missiles or just an Indian spewing out usual lies and disinformation? If you are so far ahead of us as you claim why are you so extremely worried! Go ahead and boast about the highly developed country you live in and earn your RAW clerk salary. BTW are you paid by the ‘post’ or number of ‘upvotes’ and ‘replies’ as we have noticed you guys tend to upvote each other a lot. Technology-wise we are certainly not standing still and our missiles are improving all the time, and will do the job of delivering future thermonuclear warheads to enemy targets just effectively.

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