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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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FAS Roundup: October 14, 2013

New report on MANPADS threat, anniversary of LTBT, Iran's enrichment of uranium and much more. Publication: Report Examines MANPADS Threat and International Efforts to Address It On November 28, 2002, terrorists fired two Soviet-designed SA-7 man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) at an Israeli plane destined for Tel Aviv as it departed from Moi International Airport in Mombasa, Kenya. The missiles missed their target but the incident was a wake-up call for governments around the world. After the attack, the United States and several other countries launched initiatives aimed at securing and destroying stockpiles of missiles and strengthening international controls of MANPADS. Is this enough, or is there more governments can do to reduce this threat? In a new report, “The MANPADS Threat and International Efforts To Address It”, Matt Schroeder, Director of the Arms Sales Monitoring Project, assesses the terrorist threat from MANPADS, evaluates efforts by the international community to curb this threat, and proposes additional measures that governments can take to further reduce the illicit proliferation and use of MANPADS. The report is available here. 

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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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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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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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