An Analysis of the Pakistani Ghauri Missile Test of
6 April 1998
David C. Wright
May 12, 1998
On April 6, 1998 Pakistan announced that it had tested a
new ballistic missile, called the Ghauri. The reports
attracted considerable attention, especially in South
Asia. This report is an analysis of the limited
information that has been reported about the Ghauri test,
based in part on my understanding of the North Korean
To better understand what might be behind the press
reports of the Ghauri test, I have looked at whether the
information given in press reports is consistent with a
test of the type reported. Since some reports have claimed
that the Ghauri missile is based on North Korean
technology, I have also calculated what one would expect
from a missile based on this technology and having the
characteristics described in the press reports.
Union of Concerned Scientists and
Security Studies Program, MIT
Description of the Ghauri Missile
Pakistani press reports about the Ghauri flight test
typically mention a maximum range of 1,500 kilometers for
the missile, but the range of the test is usually given as
1,100 kilometers with a flight time of 9 minutes and 58
seconds. Many reports mention that the missile rose to
an altitude of 350 kilometers. This appears to refer to
the apogee (the point of maximum altitude) of the
trajectory, which occurs midway through the missile's
The total mass of the Ghauri missile is generally reported
to be 16 tonnes and the payload 700 kilograms, although
one report gives the total mass as 15 tonnes. Fuel
masses of both 13 and 14 tonnes have been reported.
However, assuming the missile has one stage, a total mass
of 16 tonnes and a fuel mass of 14 tonnes would give a
fuel fraction for the booster of 91.5% and a total mass
of 15 tonnes and fuel mass of 13 tonnes would give a fuel
fraction of 91%. These fuel fractions appear
unrealistically high unless the missile was constructed of
very lightweight materials, which seems unlikely. On the
other hand, a total mass of 16 tonnes and a fuel mass of
13 tonnes would give a fuel fraction of 85%, which appears
to be a reasonable value assuming the missile body is made
of aluminum, rather than steel (which Scuds are made
of). Thus, for this analysis I assume the missile has a
total mass of 16 tonnes and a fuel mass of 13 tonnes.
The missile can reportedly be fired from a mobile
launcher although one report said that the test was
fired from a temporary launch pad. There have been
numerous reports in recent years of North Korea building
transporter-erector-launchers (TELs) for the Nodong
missile, which appears to be roughly the same size as the
Ghauri, suggesting that reports of TELs for the Ghauri may
At least one report stated that the Ghauri is three-stage,
but this appears to be a misinterpretation of Pakistani
reports that "the missile will formally be tested in three
stages..." If the missile is liquid-fueled, it very
likely single-stage, as described below.
A Test to a Range of 1,100 Kilometers?
Press reports have given the launch site of the test
either as Malute, near the city of Jelum, or as near
the Kahuta nuclear research lab. Reports of several
impact locations have appeared. One of these stated that
the missile landed "near Dasht, an area on the coast of
Makran," which would be consistent with a test of
1,100 kilometers from either of the launch sites.
The standard minimum-energy trajectory for a range of
1,100 kilometers would give an apogee of about 300
kilometers and a flight time of about 9.6 minutes.
However, if a missile of this range was flown on a
slightly lofted trajectory, it could still reach 1,100 km
range but with an apogee of 350 kilometers and a flight
time of just over 10 minutes, which would agree with the
Is a missile of this range and payload consistent with one
based on Nodong technology? The Nodong is a one-stage,
liquid-fuel missile powered by four Scud-B engines. My
calculations show that a missile powered by four Scud
engines and having a total mass of 16 tonnes (which
includes the 700 kilogram payload) with 13 tonnes of fuel
would indeed have a maximum range of about 1,100
It is interesting to note that if the payload of such a
missile were reduced from 700 to 200 kilograms, the range
would increase to roughly 1,500 kilometers, which is
reported to be the maximum range. A payload of 200
kilograms might be roughly the smallest possible since it
could represent the structural mass of the nose section
without a warhead.
A missile of the type described here would have a range of
950 kilometers with a one-tonne payload and a range of
about 800 kilometers with a 1.5 tonne payload.
If the mass figures reported for the Ghauri are correct,
the missile appears to be somewhat smaller than the North
Korean Nodong missile. The Nodong mass (about 15 tonnes of
fuel and 18.5 tonnes total mass if the body is made of
aluminum) is estimated to be a couple of tonnes larger
than the reported Ghauri values. The Nodong with a similar
fuel fraction (85%) would give a longer range than the
Ghauri for the same payload-1200 to 1250 kilometers for a
Similarly, from the photos of the Ghauri launch that were
released by Pakistani television, one can get a very rough
estimate of the size of the missile based on the trucks in
the background. From this, the missile appears to be
very roughly the same size as, though possibly smaller
than, the Nodong, which is reported to be 15.2 meters long
and 1.2 meters in diameter.
Thus, the available information appears to be consistent
with a missile that uses technology and a configuration
similar to the Nodong, but which is somewhat smaller than
Clustering simple liquid-fueled engines is relatively
straightforward. The engines are fed from a single pair of
oxidizer and propellant tanks, and the missile body can be
made large enough that the tanks hold the total amount of
fuel required by the four engines. One would expect such a
missile to look like the one in the television footage of
the Ghauri launch.
Could the Ghauri instead be based on the technology
Pakistan used for its Hatf 1 and 2 missiles? The Hatf 1
and 2 are believed to be solid-fuel missiles based on
French sounding rockets. The rocket motor for these
missiles is much less capable than the Scud-B engine. The
total impulse delivered by the motor, equal to the thrust
times the burn time, is 4 to 7 times less than that of the
Scud-B engine. The Hatf 1, which has a single motor,
can carry a 500 kilogram payload only 60-80 kilometers.
The Hatf 2 missile, which is believed to consist of two of
these motors stacked to give a two-stage missile, can
carry a 500 kilogram warhead to 260-300 kilometers.
While in principle it might be possible to achieve the
range/payload capability of the Ghauri by building a two-
stage missile, with each stage consisting of four or more
Hatf engines strapped together, such a configuration seems
unlikely and would not be consistent with the parameters
reported for the Ghauri.
Developing a missile with a range of 800-1000 kilometers
would therefore have led Pakistan to develop or acquire a
more capable engine. Over the past few years, Pakistan may
have been developing a more powerful solid motor, possibly
with help from China. It may instead have decided to
switch to liquid engines. Like North Korea, it may have
decided to use Scud-B engines, which are presumably
available on the international market. It may also have
received assistance on building a Scud-like engine from
North Korea or possibly from Iran.
North Korea is reported to be developing a two-stage
missile with a range of 1,500-2,000 kilometers that would
use the Nodong as the first stage and a stage with a
single Scud engine as the second stage. If Pakistan has
used similar technology for the Ghauri, it could in the
same way try to master multi-staging to create a missile
with a range of roughly 1,500-2,000 kilometers. This could
be what is behind Pakistan's claim that it is developing a
2,000-kilometer-range missile called the Ghaznavi.
A Test to a Range of 700 Kilometers?
It is possible that the range of the Ghauri test was
considerably shorter than 1,100 kilometers. The majority
of press reports state that impact occurred near the city
of Quetta. Another report stated that the impact
occurred in the northern part of Balochistan. From a
map it is easy to verify that such a flight would have a
range of only about 700 kilometers.
If the Ghauri trajectory covered 700 kilometers rather
than 1,100 kilometers, this raises the possibility of a
different explanation of the test. In mid-1997, Pakistan
claimed to be developing an 800 kilometer-range Hatf 3
missile. An 800 kilometer-range missile on a standard
trajectory would have an apogee of about 200 kilometers
and a flight time of 8 minutes. However, if the missile
trajectory was lofted slightly to give an apogee of 350
kilometers, which is the figure reported in the press, my
calculations show that the missile would then have a range
of about 700 kilometers and a flight time of ten minutes.
Thus the figures for the apogee and flight time given in
the press are consistent with a flight range that is
considerably shorter than 1,100 kilometers and that agrees
with the distance between the launch and impact locations
given in the majority of press reports. This possibility
therefore cannot be ruled out on these grounds.
It is interesting to note that if one had a missile with a
maximum range of 800 kilometers for a 700 kilogram
payload, reducing the payload 200 kilograms would increase
the maximum range to about 1,100 km.
Some Indian sources appear skeptical of the claims about
the Ghauri test. Such attitudes could well have political
motivations. At least one report states that Indian radars
did not detect a test despite the fact India constantly
monitors Pakistani air space, and suggests that this is
evidence that no test occurred. Some Pakistani
commentators have apparently turned this argument around
claiming that this shows the weakness of the Indian
Without knowing details of the Indian radars, one cannot
determine whether or not the radars are capable of
detecting the launch. However, Indian radars have
presumably been operated to search primarily for Pakistani
aircraft. Despite their size, missiles have a relatively
small radar cross-section (RCS) compared to aircraft
because of the missile's simple shape. The radars may
have been operated in a way that optimized their search
for aircraft, and for this reason may not have detected
the smaller RCS of the missile. However, if this is the
explanation and if the radars are sufficiently capable,
India may be able to change the way it operates the radars
to enable it to detect such targets. For example, by
slowing the search rate of the radars and increasing the
dwell time of the radar beam as it searches, India could
increase the sensitivity of the radar. It could compensate
for the slower search rate if necessary by adding radars.
Thus it is possible that the Ghauri launch occurred
without being detected by Indian radars, but that the lack
of detection arose from the way India chose to operate its
radars and says little about India's ability to detect
such launches should it choose to do so.
Several press reports question whether Pakistan would
launch an unproven missile over populated areas without
issuing an alert. This point has apparently been used
to argue either that no test actually occurred, or that if
a test did occur, the missile must have been a proven
design from China (North Korea does not have a proven
missile of this range).
US intelligence apparently believes that a test did occur,
although it is not known what range the United States
believes the test covered.
Moreover, US officials reportedly believe that the Ghauri
missile is liquid-fueled and is based on technology
obtained from North Korea. North Korea is believed to
have transferred "major components" according to one
source, but the United States believes that Pakistan did
not receive a whole Nodong missile from North Korea. These
transfers are said to have taken place over the past two
or three years.
Indeed, the United States apparently believes the evidence
of such a transfer is strong enough that it is imposing
sanctions against a North Korean company (Changgwang
Sinyong Corporation) and Pakistan's Khan Research
Laboratory, which is reported to have obtained missile
parts from the North Korea company.
There have been contacts between Pakistan and North Korea
in the past, some of which are reported to have involved
missiles. For example, there are reports of Pakistani
officials visiting North Korea in 1992 to discuss the
Nodong program and Pakistani officials are said to have
been present in North Korea for the 1993 flight test of a
Nodong. In December of 1993, Pakistani Prime Minister
Benazir Bhutto spent two days in Pyongyang. These contacts
are reported to have led to cooperation on developing the
As noted above, Pakistan's experience with ballistic
missiles has been with solid-fuel engines. Thus, if the
Ghauri missile is liquid-fueled it might suggest some
level of assistance from abroad. Moreover, the Hatf
missile are believed to have very poor guidance, or even
perhaps be unguided. Thus guidance systems is a second
area in which Pakistan may have received technology and
The information given in press reports about the Ghauri
flight test is compatible with the missile being liquid
fueled and using a cluster of four Scud engines, as does
North Korea's Nodong missile. However, the missile appears
to be somewhat smaller and have a shorter range (with
comparable payload) than the Nodong. This supports
assertions that North Korea did not transfer a complete
missile, and may support Pakistani claims that it was an
indigenous design, albeit one that drew heavily on foreign
technology and expertise.
If Pakistan has working Scud-type engines that it has
either developed or purchased, clustering these engines
should not be a difficult thing to do and would not seem
to be beyond Pakistan's technical capability. Ground tests
of a missile engine reported in Pakistan last year may
have been of an engine it used in the Ghauri.
However, an alternate possibility that cannot be ruled out
with available information is that Pakistan has a missile
with an 800 kilometer range and that the April 6 test was
only to 700 kilometers. This would be consistent with a
number of reports of the locations of the launch and
impact sites and with Pakistani claims last year that it
had developed an 800 kilometer-range Hatf 3, although
apparently no test of a missile to that range has been
The author would like to thank A.H. Nayyar and Zia Mian
for useful discussions and providing press reports, and
George Lewis for a discussion of radar issues.
1 "Pakistan test-fires 1,500-km range missile," The
News(Lahore) (internet edition), 7 April 1998; Hasan
Akhtar, "Pakistan test-fires Ghauri missile," Dawn, 7
April 1998 (this reference gives launch and impact times
for the test that suggest an 8 minute flight time, but
this appears to be incorrect since the time given for the
launch is two minutes later than the time shown on the
video of the launch from Pakistani television).
2 Akhtar, "Pakistan test-fires Ghauri missile"; "Pakistan
test-fires 1,500-km range missile," The News; "Pak test-
fires surface-to-surface missile," Rediff on the Net, 6
April 1998; "Pakistan Test Fire Ghauri Missile," Pakistan
government web site (www.pak.gov.pk/govt/ghauri.htm).
3 Saleh Zaafir, Daily Jang Rawalpindi (in Urdu), 7 April
4 Akhtar, "Pakistan test-fires Ghauri missile" and "Pak
test-fires surface-to-surface missile," Rediff on the Net
both give the fuel mass as 13 tonnes. "Pakistan test-fires
1,500-km range missile," The News and the Pakistan
government web site give the fuel mass as 14 tonnes.
5 The fuel fraction is the fuel mass divided by the total
booster mass, which is the fuel mass plus structural mass.
The booster mass is the total missile mass minus the mass
of the payload.
6 If the missile body was made of steel, one would expect
a smaller fuel fraction-probably in the range of 81-82%.
7 "Pakistan test-fires 1,500-km range missile," The News.
8 Zaafir, Daily Jang Rawalpindi. This reference also
states that there was a decoy launch pad set up in Azad
9 Amit Baruah, "Pak. tests 1,500 km range missile," The
Hindu, 11 February 1998, p. 13.
10 Akhtar, "Pakistan test fires Ghauri missile"; Shameem
Akhtar, "Missile race in South Asia," Dawn, 21 April 1998.
Zaafir, Daily Jang Rawalpindi also gives the launch site
as near Jelum.
11 Zahid Hussain, "Pakistan missile test stirs tension,"
South China Morning Post (internet edition), 7 April 1998,
Kathy Gannon, "Pakistan test fires missile, irking India,"
Washington Times, 7 April 1998, A13.
12 Zaafir, Daily Jang Rawalpindi. Akhtar, "Missile race in
South Asia" also states that the missile landed in Makran.
The Zaafir report contains a number of statements that are
clearly incorrect, which raises questions about its
general credibility. How credible the report of the impact
location might be is unknown. One Pakistani source
suggested that Akhtar's report of the impact location may
be drawn from Zaafir's report, and therefore may not be an
independent source of information.
13 David Wright and Timur Kadyshev, "An Analysis of the
North Korean Nodong Missile," Science and Global Security,
Vol. 4, 1994, p. 129.
14 This calculation assumes a sea-level specific impulse
of 222 seconds, which is the value for Scud B engines
fueled by kerosene and nitric acid, reduced a few seconds
by the drag of the jet vanes that are used for guidance.
The specific impulse increases during boost phase since
atmospheric pressure decreases with altitude, and reaches
246 seconds at burnout. See David Wright, "Technical
Parameters of the Scud-B Missile," to be published.
15 The mass values given here for the Nodong are somewhat
smaller than those given in Wright and Kadyshev, "Analysis
of the Nodong Missile" since they are based on more
accurate values of Scud-B parameters. See David Wright
and Timur Kadyshev, "An Analysis of the North Korean
Taepodong missiles," to be published.
16 The photo can be seen at
other pictures of the missile can be found at
17 The only dimension of the Ghauri that I have seen
reported is a length of 17 meters (Zaafir, Daily Jang
Rawalpindi). From the pictures of the Ghauri, this length
suggests a diameter of roughly 1.5 meters. These
dimensions seem too large for the reported mass of the
missile. As noted above, the credibility of much in the
Zaafir report is questionable.
18 The impulse equals the total momentum change of the
missile that the engine can bring about. The Hatf 1 engine
is reported to produce 70 to 100 kN of thrust with a
burntime of 16 to 19 seconds (private communication,
Michael Elleman, Center for International Security and
Arms Control, Stanford University, August 1992). The Scud-
B engine has a thrust of 130 kN and a burntime of 62
19 Range/payload estimates for the Hatf missiles are given
from S. Chandrashekar, "An Assessment of Pakistan's
Missile Capability," Missile Monitor, Spring 1993, p. 4
and private communication, Michael Elleman, August 1992.
20 "Pakistan to Accelerate Missile Program," Current
Missile News, Center for Defense and International
Security Studies web site, April 1998
21 Hussain, "Pakistan missile test stirs tension"; Akhtar,
"Pakistan test-fires Ghauri missile"; and "Pak test-fires
surface-to-surface missile," Rediff on the Net.
22 "Pakistan: Foreign Office Spokesman on Ghauri Test,"
The Nation (Lahore) (internet version) in FBIS-TAC-98-
097, 7 April 1998.
23 "Indians disparage Pakistan missile claim," Washington
Times, 11 April 1998, A7.
24 Calculating the RCS of a cylinder 15 meters long and
1.2 meters in diameter as a function of the angle between
the radar beam and cylinder axis shows that except for a
few degrees around normal incidence, the RCS is well under
1 square meter (personal communication, George Lewis,
MIT's Security Studies Program, May 1998). In contrast,
the average RCS of a fighter or bomber ranges from a few
to several tens of square meters (M. Skolnick,
Introduction to Radar Systems (Second Edition), (New York:
McGraw-Hill, 1980), p. 44). The calculation of the RCS
assumes a radar frequency of 3 GHz, which is appropriate
to both the US Patriot and Soviet SA-10b air defense
25 "Indians disparage Pakistan missile claim," Washington
Times; "Deploy Prithvi to offset Gharui, says Jasjit
Singh, Rediff on the Net, 22 April 1998.
26 Time Weiner, "U.S. Says North Korea Helped Develop New
Pakistani Missile," New York Times, 11 April 1998, p. A3.
27 Chidanand Rajghatta, "US Curbs on Pak lab over Ghauri,"
Indian Express (internet edition), 5 May 1998; and "US
imposes sanctions on KRL, Korean firm (5 May 1998).
28 For a more extensive discussion of North Korean-
Pakistani missile cooperation, see Joseph Bermudez Jr.,
"DPRK-Pakistan Ghauri Missile Cooperation," to be