Pakistan on Tuesday announced first successful test firing of its new surface-to-surface, nuclear-capable missile Ababeel, with a range of 2,200km. Pakistan military claimed that its new missile can deliver multiple warheads, using Multiple Independent Re-entry Vehicle (MIRV) technology.
Ababeel Weapon System is aimed at ensuring survivability of Pakistan’s ballistic missiles in the growing regional Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) environment.
Ababeel test came, just two weeks after Pakistan claimed of conducting the successful test of Submarine Launch Cruise Missile. So what do these rapid missile tests mean for India? Is India prepared to take on these threats? How true are claims made by Pakistan? At least Indian scientific community gives an assuring answer and missile experts take Pakistan's claims with a pinch of salt.
Dr Avinash Chander, former Chief of DRDO and longtime head of India's Ballistic Missile Systems including Agni, in conversation with News18, said that "India has a credible deterrence and our missile programme is capable of taking on any challenge." However, he acknowledged that the test of the new surface-to-surface missile by Pakistan has changed the strategic threat dynamics in India's neighbourhood and this needs to be factored in, in India's future military planning and preparedness.
Also Read: Pakistan Conducts First Flight Test of N-capable Ababeel Missile
Meanwhile, tall claims made by Pakistan have again raised doubt within Indian science community. Dr Chander wonders if Pakistan's claim regarding MIRV technology in a short-range missile with a range of just 2,200km is true. According to veteran missile scientist, use of such technologies in a short range missile is difficult. Primarily, it is used in long range missile. So we need to wait for more substantial inputs to verify Pakistan's claims.
Globally, only US, Russia and China have proven MIRV-enabled missiles in their arsenal. India is still working on it and it is expected that future generations of Agni missiles would be equipped with such capabilities. Interestingly, all the MIRV-enabled missiles are Long Range Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles with a minimum strike range of over 6,000km. Therefore, it is difficult to believe that Pakistan has developed an MIRV-enabled missile with a range of just over 2000km.
Nonetheless, to meet any challenge from Ababeel, India's missile defence battery is all charged up. Indian scientists have been working on a two-layered missile defence system since few years. One is designed to kill an enemy missile before it even enters the atmosphere while the other is developed to shoot any hostile missile in the atmosphere. While Exo-Atmospheric missile defence system PDA can destroy any hostile missile at the height of over 80km, the Endo-Atmospheric missile defence mechanism, AAD, can kill enemy missile at the height of up to 30km from the ground level. In the last one decade, AAD system has been tested over 7 times successfully.
"India is among the top few nations in the world who has a complete indigenous and highly-successful "Multi-level Strategic Deterrence" programme as well as a "Two-layer Ballistic Missile Defence" programme, says former DRDO Scientist Dr Ravi Gupta. “Though Ballistic Missile tests being conducted in our neighbourhood by a country with a hostile track record and its support to terrorist activities is indeed a threat to the world peace, India with its indigenous capabilities is fully prepared to take care of any threat,” he adds.
According to DRDO, India has already tested the missile defence system, including the capability to take down multiple warheads. The test of this capability was first tested five years ago. DRDO statement issued in November 2012 said, “A special feature of intercepting multiple targets with multiple interceptors was demonstrated successfully. An electronic target with a range of 1500km was launched and the radars picked up the target missile, tracked the target missile subsequently & launched an electronic interceptor missile.
This electronic interceptor missile destroyed the electronic target missile at an altitude of 120km. All the four missiles were tracked by the radars and all the guidance and launch computers operated in full operational mode for handling multiple targets with multiple interceptor.
All the four missiles were in the sky simultaneously and both the interceptions took place near simultaneously. This has proved the capability of DRDO to handle multiple targets with multiple interceptors simultaneously. The complete Radar Systems, Communication Networks, Launch Computers, Target update Systems and state of the art Avionics have been completely proven in this Mission.”