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IDEAS 2018: Is Pakistan Prioritizing New Munitions Development? (Part 2)

During the 2018 International Defence Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS), Pakistan and UkrOboronProm of Ukraine agreed to collaborate on the development of “high-precision missiles of various classes.”

In a press statement, UkrOboronProm stated that both sides confirmed intentions to “start joint research and development in the coming months” – implying that the agreement was more than a memorandum-of-understanding (MoU), but a concrete program coming into effect soon.

Likewise, there are reports of Turkey’s Roketsan A.S. ‘assisting’ Pakistan with “air-to-air, air-to-ground and anti-tank … missile technology.” However, an official press statement regarding this has yet to be found.

In part-one, Quwa discussed why Pakistan is looking to pursue joint munitions development. Reasons for the move include integrating to platforms of choice, guaranteeing supplies, and accessing technology. In part-two, Quwa will discuss how Pakistan could achieve its aims, i.e., its likeliest development partners.

Partnerships are Normal

In the pursuit of indigenization, the willingness to partner with other countries may seem contrary to the goal. Indeed, such partnerships may result in dependencies on outside states, not least in terms of sharing production, not having access to all of the intellectual property, and other issues.

However, when managing key constraints such as economies-of-scale, limited research and development (R&D) funding, and limited scientific and technology development capacity, the oft-taken route for most countries is to collaborate with other states. And munitions are no exception.

MBDA is a prime example. It is a consortium between various British, French, German and Italian vendors. Likewise, India relies on partners, notably Israel and Russia, to help it develop its own munitions. In reality, there are only a handful of states that undertake such development independently – i.e., the US, Russia, and China. France may be capable of it, but it opted to work within MBDA.

How Pakistan will Benefit from Partnerships

Pakistan’s actual technology capacity is unclear, so it is not possible to precisely determine the partners it will need to achieve its development goals (which too are unclear). However, there are several facts that may, at least in the near-term offer some insight into where Pakistan could be looking.

First, Pakistan lacks a gas turbine industry to drive the manufacturing of air-breathing engines, which are necessary for the production of cruise missiles. The fact that it imported miniature turbojet engines from a variety of sources, including the Czech Republic, indicates a deficiency.

However, with subsonic cruise missiles a central facet to the respective stand-off strike elements of each service arm – i.e., Army, Navy, and Air Force – Pakistan will not be able to guarantee the supply of its own missiles unless it domestically manufactures miniature turbojet or turbofan engines.

Second, Pakistan may have experience designing guidance systems as it asserts that it had developed the TERCOM and DSMAC suite used onboard the Babur-series of land-attack cruise missiles (LACM). However, lacking a base to manufacture the inputs necessary for electronics, specifically a semi-conductor base, its ability to domestically manufacture such systems is also questionable.

In any case, Pakistan does not have mastery over every input necessary to manufacture cruise missiles on a full turnkey basis. Yet interestingly, the two partners that have apparently signed on to work with it have a proven body of work in missile propulsion (Ukraine) and electronics (Turkey).

China: Pakistan’s Munition Development Partner

Quwa will explore the impact Ukraine and Turkey could have in part-three (to be published on Friday, 25 January 2019). However, part-two will continue by examining China, which – while not necessarily there to co-develop final applications with Pakistan – is helping Pakistan build the capacity for development.


While this is not a surprising notion, it is worth noting that it was China that helped Pakistan initiate its potential for munitions development work. In February 2018, Pakistan announced that it set-up an instrumented weapons test range (WTR) at the Sonmiani Firing Range with China’s assistance.

While the Sonmiani WTR is expected to drive Pakistan’s strategic weapons development, the showcasing event involved a JF-17 test-firing SD-10 and PL-5EII air-to-air missiles (AAM). Thus, the new WTR is actually capable of tracking more than just ballistic and cruise missiles, but small, high-speed munitions too.

China is also among that select cadre of states with mastery of every input involved in producing modern guided munitions — i.e., the propulsion, guidance, flight control system, etc – and it can scale, significantly.

Today, China is practically Pakistan’s sole option for getting a supersonic-cruising anti-ship missile (AShM), and there have been hints of one (CM-302) potentially making its way to Pakistan via the Type 054A/P.

However, joint munitions development, especially of sensitive technology such as a supersonic AShM, is an open question. As a general rule, China has limited incentive in selling turnkey transfer-of-technology (ToT), but to Pakistan, there could be a strategic imperative if it helps deprecate India.

Thus, if a supersonic AShM is a priority, Pakistan could potentially seek to get the intellectual property (IP) and turnkey ToT for one of China’s several designs (i.e., CM-302, CX-1, or HD-1A). But this would undercut the value the Sonmiani WTR brings to the table; in this case, China’s support is more fundamental.

Besides supporting building specific applications (e.g., a missile), the WTR is an indication of China actually helping Pakistan build the testing and development base to develop its own munitions.

Not every Chinese product will align with Pakistan’s requirements, nor will the PLA necessarily be willing to co-develop and share technology with an outside country. Such gaps make off-the-shelf purchases and partnerships alike untenable, thus pushing one to find other partners or develop independently.

With the Sonmiani WTR, China appears to be helping Pakistan build capacity to develop munitions on its own, it need not tie itself to the PLA nor is the sharing of such capacity putting the PLA at-risk (whereas it might be a risk to share the fruits of joint guidance systems development).

Of course, developing separately from the PLA in some areas need not mean avoiding the PLA entirely. In some scenarios, the Pakistani military and the PLA could agree to jointly develop munitions. But the point here is that Pakistan has the option now to build capacity to develop munitions in general.

In other words, where Pakistan is unable to align with the PLA on specific munition requirements, it can collaborate with other countries that may have common needs and a willingness to share.

This is where Turkey and Ukraine could become factors. In part-three, Quwa will discuss how these two countries could help Pakistan. However, it will also cover how there is scope for additional partnerships, notably with Poland, South Africa, and South Korea.




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