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Pakistan’s Evolving Nuclear Weapons Infrastructure

Pakistan’s tactical NASR nuclear-capable mobile rocket launcher now appears to be deployed. By Hans M. Kristensen In our latest Nuclear Notebook on Pakistani nuclear forces, Robert Norris and I estimate that Pakistan has produced an estimated stockpile of 130-140 nuclear warheads for delivery by short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and fighter-bombers. Pakistan now identifies with what is described as a full-spectrum nuclear deterrent posture, which is though to include strategic missiles and fighter-bombers for so-called retaliatory strikes in response to nuclear attacks, and short-range missiles for sub-strategic use in response to conventional attacks. Although there have been many rumors over the years, the location of the nuclear-capable launchers has largely evaded the public eye for much of Pakistan’s 19-year old declared nuclear weapons history. Most public analysis has focused on the nuclear industry (see here for a useful recent study). But over the past several years, commercial satellite pictures have gradually brought into light several facilities that might form part of Pakistan’s evolving nuclear weapons launcher posture. This includes 10 facilities, including 5 missile garrisons (soon possibly 6) as well 2 (possibly 4) air bases with fighter-bombers. Pakistan’s nuclear weapons related infrastructure includes at least 10 major industrial facilities and about 10 bases for nuclear-capable forces. Click map to view full size. The nuclear warheads that would arm the launchers are thought to be stored at other secure facilities that have not yet been identified. In a crisis, these warheads would first have to be brought to the bases and mated with the launchers before they could be used. Security at these and other Pakistani defense facilities is a growing concern and many have been upgraded with additional security perimeters during the past 10 years in response to terrorist attacks. There are still many unknowns and uncertainties about the possible nuclear role of these facilities. All of the launchers are thought to be dual-capable, which means they can deliver both conventional and nuclear warheads. So even if a base has a nuclear role, most of the launchers might be assigned to the conventional mission. Further analysis in the future might disqualify some and identify others. But for now, this profile of potential road-mobile launcher garrisons and air bases are intended as a preliminary guide and accompany the recent FAS Nuclear Notebook on Pakistani nuclear forces. 

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Chinese Nuclear Modernization: Smaller and Later

DIA threat assessment shows slower Chinese nuclear modernization. . By Hans M. Kristensen At about the same time nuclear arms reduction opponents last week incorrectly accused the Obama administration of considering “reckless” cuts in nuclear forces that would leave the United States “with fewer warheads than China,” Congress received its annual threat assessment from the U.S. intelligence community. China’s nuclear arsenal is at a size that makes comparison with U.S. nuclear force level meaningless – even at the lowest level feared by the critics – but the threat assessment showed that China’s nuclear force modernization has been slower than predicted during the Bush administration.

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Article: Pakistani Nuclear Forces, 2007

Shaheen 2 launch By Hans M. Kristensen Pakistan is preparing its next-generation of nuclear-capable ballistic missile for deployment. A satellite image taken on June 5, 2005, shows what appears to be 15 Transporter Erector Launchers (TELs) for the medium-range Shaheen 2 fitting out at the National Defense Complex near Fatehjang approximately 30 kilometers southwest of Islamabad. The vehicles were discovered as part of preparations for the latest Nuclear Notebook on Pakistani nuclear forces published in the May/June issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The Notebook is written by Hans M. Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists and Robert S. Norris of the Natural Resources Defense Council. The authors estimate that Pakistan currently has an arsenal of about 60 nuclear weapons. In the last five and a half years, Pakistan has deployed two new nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, entered the final development stages of a potentially nuclear-capable cruise missile, started construction of a new plutonium production reactor, and is close to completing a second chemical separation facility. As Pakistan completes development of two more nuclear-cable ballistic missiles and a cruise missile in the next few years, the nuclear arsenal will increase further. Pakistani government responds to blog:The government downplayed a report by an organization of American scientists that Pakistan is preparing its next generation nuclear-capable ballistic missile for deployment. "This is a speculative report which contains part fact and part fiction,” is how the spokesperson characterized the report."Source: Dawn, "N-Capable Missiles," May 11, 2007. The main driver for Pakistan's nuclear modernization appears to be India's nuclear build-up, although national prestige probably also is a factor. The two countries appear to be entering a new phase in their regional nuclear arms race with medium-range ballistic missiles gradually replacing aircraft as the backbone of their nuclear strike forces. In contrast to aircraft, ballistic missiles have a very short flight time and cannot be recalled once launched.

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Chinese Nuclear Missile Upgrade Near Dalian

By Hans M. Kristensen One of the last Chinese Second Artillery brigades with the old liquid-fuel DF-3A intermediate-range nuclear ballistic missile appears to have been upgraded to the newer DF-21 road-mobile, dual-capable, medium-range ballistic missile. A new satellite image posted on Google Earth from May 4, 2014, reveals major changes to what appears to be a launch unit site for the Dengshahe brigade northeast of Dalian by the Yellow Sea. The upgrade apparently marks the latest phase in a long and slow conversion of the Dengshahe brigade from the DF-3A to the DF-21. The 810 Brigade base appears to be located approximately 60 km (36 miles) northeast of Dalian in the Liaoning province (see map below). The base is organized under 51 Base, one of six base headquarters organized under the Second Artillery Corps, the military service that operates the Chinese land-based nuclear and conventional missiles. 

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Russian ICBM Force Modernization: Arms Control Please!

Click image for larger version. By Hans M. Kristensen In our Nuclear Notebook on Russian nuclear forces from March this year, Robert S. Norris and I described the significant upgrade that’s underway in Russia’s force of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Over the next decade, all Soviet-era ICBMs will be retired and replaced with a smaller force consisting of mainly five variants of one missile: the SS-27. After more than a decade-and-a-half of introduction, the number of SS-27s now makes up a third of the ICBM force. By 2016, SS-27s will make up more than half of the force, and by 2024 all the Soviet-era ICBMs will be gone. The new force will be smaller and carry fewer nuclear warheads than the old, but a greater portion of the remaining warheads will be on missiles carried on mobile launchers. The big unknowns are just how many SS-27s Russia plans to produce and deploy, and how many new (RS-26 and Sarmat “heavy”) ICBMs will be introduced. Without the new systems or increased production of the old, Russia’s ICBM force would probably level out just below 250 missiles by 2024. In comparison, the U.S. Air Force plans to retain 400 ICBMs. This disparity and the existence of a large U.S. reserve of extra warheads that can be “uploaded” onto deployed missiles to increase the arsenal if necessary drive top-heavy ICBM planning in the Russian military which seeks to maximize the number of warheads on each missile to compensate for the disparity and keep some degree of overall parity with the United States. This dilemma suggests the importance of reaching a new agreement to reduce the number deployed strategic warheads and missiles. A reduction of “up to one-third” of the current force, as recently endorsed by the new U.S. nuclear employment strategy, would be a win for both Russia and the United States. It would allow both countries to trim excess nuclear capacity and save billions of dollars in the process. 

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Challenges to Creating a WMD Free Zone

With the current tensions in the Middle East, regional instability, ongoing debate about the nature and intent of Iran’s nuclear program, and the recent postponement of the Middle East Weapons…

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CIA Nazi Files Released

Some 27,000 pages of Central Intelligence Agency records regarding operational relationships between the CIA and former Nazis following World War II were disclosed yesterday at the National Archives. The release…

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