During its March 23 Pakistan Day Parade, the Pakistan Strategic Plans Division (SPD) officially revealed the Ra’ad 2 (“Thunder 2”) air-launched cruise missile (ALCM).
Described as an improved and extended-range of the 350 km Ra’ad ALCM, which was introduced by Air Weapons Complex (AWC) and the National Engineering and Scientific Commission (NESCOM) in 2007, the Ra’ad 2 has a stated range of 550 km.
Notes & Comments:
With its low-detectable design and terrain-hugging capability, the sub-sonic Ra’ad ALCM series is regarded as a key piece of the Pakistani military’s deterrence strategy, specifically its second-strike ability. The Ra’ad and Babur land-attack cruise missiles (LACM) are capable of delivering miniature nuclear warheads.
External differences between the Ra’ad and Ra’ad 2 appear to be minimal, suggesting that an emphasis was made on extending the range more so than increasing payload (albeit an increase in the latter cannot be ruled out).
Although Pakistan did not yet announce tests for the Ra’ad 2, it used the end of 2016 and beginning of 2017 to announce the tests of the Babur-2 LACM and Babur-3 submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM) respectively. These were joined by the test of the Ababeel multiple independent re-entry vehicle (MIRV)-capable medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM).
The Ra’ad ALCM-series is deployed from the Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) Mirage III/5 aircraft.
While it aimed for strategic purposes, the Ra’ad could have the potential to serve in a conventional role. Like other conventional munitions, it can carry a conventional high-explosive warhead, which could prove useful for reinforced targets.
In the long-term, there are other ALCM-related possibilities. For example, precision-guided sub-munitions such as the BLU-105 enable the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) to engage multiple targets in an area, such as armoured formations, air fields, air defence sites, and dockyards, among others. An analogous solution could be a next-step for the Ra’ad.