Of Pakistan's murky claims about MIRV technology
New Delhi, Aug 01: India has developed a formidable missile arsenal and with technological capabilities to send rover to the moon, one can imagine the kind of weapons India can develop if it wants. This very technological superiority and prowess spooks Pakistan. While Islamabad knows that it cannot match India in conventional warfare, Pakistan relies on nuclear missiles to serve as deterrent.
Pakistan feels that by flaunting nuclear arsenal and taking about tactical nuclear weapons, it can keep India at bay. MIRV technology is one such psychological tool that Pakistan uses to subtly convey that "If you attack, then we have this". So what exactly is it?
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 because missiles with MIRV technology can deceive 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.
Pakistan's Ababeel ballistic missile is said to be equipped with Multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle (MIRV) technology. The MIRV claim came at a time when India had made sufficient inroads in its BMD program or Ballistic Missile Defence program.
Pakistan's shady claims of 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 skepticism 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 6,000 km. Therefore, it is difficult to believe that Pakistan has developed an MIRV-enabled missile with a range of just over 2000 km.
Why India need not fear?
With India having acquired S-400 missiles defence system, the equation in terms of 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 missile attack, because ballistic missiles travel several times the speed of sound and hence intercepting them mid air is tricky. S-400 missiles defence system is more for other type aerial attacks like drones, cruise missiles, choppers and other kinds of projectiles.