Thursday, January 17, 2008

Another test-flight of the Tiger

Pakistan conducted mid December another test of its first cruise missile, the Hatf-VII Babur (Arabic 'tiger'). The missile is subsonic and nuclear-capable; it possesses “near stealth capabilities and is a low flying, terrain hugging missile with high maneuverability, pin point accuracy and radar avoidance features”.

It is always stressed that the Babur was indigenously developed. However, the Babur cruise missile holds many similarities to the Tomahawk land attack cruise missile, with the two being roughly the same size and shape and having a similar wing and engine intake design. However, in 1998 US-destroyers fired Tomahawk missiles at Taliban bases in Afghanistan. Six of these missiles mis-fired and landed in Pakistan. Rumors exist that Pakistan reverse-engineered these Tomahawk missiles and developed its own prototype. In contrast to that, India’s oppositional Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party claimed that the missile was produced in violation of the Missile Technology Control Regime because of allegations that China had transferred cruise missile technology to Pakistan.

The Babur entered serial production in October 2005. Pakistan conducted five missile tests so far:

· August 11, 2005: land-based transporter erector launcher
· March 21, 2006: second test of the original 500km range missile
· March 23, 2007: upgraded version, range extended to 700km
· July 26, 2007: upgraded version, launched from the torpedo tubes of an Agosta 90b submarine
· December 11, 2007: a surface-to-surface version was test-fired

Officials have announced, Pakistan is already working on a second, more advanced cruise missile, with a range of 1,000km.

Watch this short clip for some general information on the missile:

Some analysts complain that due to the Hatf-VII Babur, India feels compelled to match the cruise missile with a similar weapon type of its own, namely Nirbhay, which is expected to be first test-fired in 2009. Others do not see the threat of an accelerated arms race but perceive a momentum of stability. Pakistan’s President Musharraf was quoted: “[The Babur] will further improve the existing military balance in the region”. An arms race, in which the involved actors compete in introducing certain types of weapons faster than their opponents do, show a certain form of continuity, but definitely not stability.

To put the Babur into the context of the South Asian missile proliferation: Sharad Joshi from CNS published a series of four articles in WMDInsights on the intensifying competition between India and Pakistan in the development of increasingly advanced, nuclear-capable ballistic and cruise missiles. See
· India's Missile Program: Diverging Trajectories, WMD Insights, February 2007,
· Pakistan's Missile Tests Highlight Growing South Asia Nuclear Arms Race, Despite New Confidence Building Measures, WMD Insights, April 2007,
· India Successfully Tests Agni-III: A Stepping Stone to an ICBM?, WMD Insights, May 2007, together with Peter Crail, and
· India and Pakistan Missile Race Surges On, WMD Insights, October 2007.

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