Pakistani Nuclear Forces 2009

A high-security weapons storage area northwest of Karachi appears to be a potential nuclear weapons storage site. (click image to download larger version)

By Hans M. Kristensen

Pakistan’s nuclear weapons stockpile now includes an estimated 70-90 nuclear warheads, according to the latest Nuclear Notebook published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The estimate is an increase compared with the previous estimate of approximately 60 warheads due to Pakistan’s pending introduction of a new ballistic missile and cruise missiles.

The increase in the warhead estimate does not mean Pakistan is thought to be sprinting ahead of India, which is also increasing its stockpile.


The nuclear-capable Shaheen-II medium-range ballistic missile appears to be approaching operational deployment after long preparation. The Army test-launched two missiles within three days in April 2008, and the U.S. Air Force National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) reported in June 2009 that the weapon “probably will soon be deployed.”

Two types of nuclear-capable cruise missiles are also under development; the ground-launched Barbur and the air-launched Ra-ad. The development of cruise missiles with nuclear capability is interesting because it suggests that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons designers have been successful in building smaller and lighter plutonium warheads.

Warhead Security Concerns

An article published in the July issue of the CTC Sentinel news letter of the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point gained widespread attention for describing terrorist attacks against three of Pakistan’s rumored nuclear weapons facilities: Wah Ordnance Facility, Kamra Air Base, and Sargodha Weapons Storage Facility. Although the incidents had been reported before, the article triggered the predictable rejection from a Pakistani military spokesman but with the additional claim that neither facility stored nuclear weapons. “These are nowhere close to any nuclear facility,” he said. Yet the official would most likely not disclose the location of the nuclear weapons, even if he knew where they were.

While the CTC Sentinel article says “most” of Pakistan’s nuclear sites might be close to or even within terrorist dominated areas, senior U.S. officials said the weapons were secure and mostly located south of Islamabad.

Regardless of the actual location of the weapons, there have, of course, been many more terrorists attacks against other facilities that have nothing to do with Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, and so far no pattern has emerged in public of a concerted terrorist effort against nuclear sites – much less an attempt to steel nuclear weapons. A U.S. intelligence official commented to the New York Times that it was unclear whether the attackers knew what the facilities contained. “If they were after something specific, or were truly seeking entry, you’d think they might use a different tactic, one that’s been employed elsewhere – such as a bomb followed by a small-arms assault.”

Pakistani and U.S. statements about the Pakistani nuclear arsenal, and the basis for our estimate, are included in the Nuclear Notebook.

Publication: Pakistani Nuclear Forces, 2009

8 thoughts on “Pakistani Nuclear Forces 2009

  1. [Edited] Pakistan have produced approximately 2,000 kilograms of highly enriched uranium (HEU) that will give Pakistan around 80 to 130 HEU based nuclear weapons as per their estimates of 15 to 25 kg per nuclear weapon and 90 kilograms of separated military plutonium will give 30 plutonium based nuclear weapons by early 2008.” So combined nuclear capability of Pakistani nuclear weapons is Minimum of 110 to maximum 160 (by the figures provided by this report) warheads. Now I don’t know why they say that “we estimate a current Pakistani nuclear stockpile of about 70–90 warheads.

    Pakistan has never stated that the range of Ghaznavi SRBM is more than 300km. Only the fools who have already assumed that Pakistani Ghaznavi missiles are copies of the M-11 missiles, will assume that Ghaznavi Hatf-III will have similar range which is not the case. Hatf-III is not M-11 contrary to the internet myth; both missiles are having completely different dimensions weights, range and reentry vehicles. So far no one is able to produce a single picture of M-11 in Pakistani service on the other hand many pictures of Hatf-III are available on the internet and that is completely different missile then M-11:

    Specifications of M-11
    Official name: DongFeng 11 (DF-11)
    Export name: M-11
    Length: 7.5 m (DF-11); 8.5 m (DF-11A)
    Diameter: 0.8 m
    Launch weight: 4,200 kg
    Warhead: 500 kg HE
    Range: 280~350 km (DF-11); 500 km (DF-11A)
    Accuracy: CEP 500~600 m (DF-11); 200 m (DF-11A)

    Specifications of Ghaznavi Hatf-III
    Official name: Ghaznavi Hatf-III
    Length: 9.64 m
    Diameter: 0.88 m
    Launch weight: 5256 kg
    Range: 290 km
    Accuracy: CEP less then 58 m

    Same goes for the Shaheen-1 missile, which is much heavier, longer in length, has long range and is specifically designed to carry a larger re-entry vehicle ( when compared to the 500 kg M-9) with mass of 850 kg (not 1000 kgs as suggested in the article) and have a terminal guidance to achieve high accuracy. M-9 was shown with terminal guidance only in 2007-08:

    Official name: DongFeng 15 (DF-15)
    Export name: M-9
    NATO reporting name: CSS-6
    Configuration: Single-stage (DF-15)
    Length: 9.1m (DF-15)
    Diameter: 1.0m
    Launch weight: 6,200kg
    Warhead: 500kg HE
    Range: 600km (DF-15)
    Accuracy: CEP 150~500m; or 30~50m on the later variants

    Specifications of Shaheen-I
    Official name: Shaheen-I Hatf-IV
    Length: 12m
    Diameter: 1m
    Launch weight: 9500kg
    Range: 750
    Re-entry vehicle mass of 850kg
    Accuracy: CEP less than 20-30m

    Authors of the article mentioned the range of 450km which is the range Indians claimed that Shaheen-1 was able to achieve in its first test.

    Shaheen-2 have a range of 2000 km that can be extended to 2500km not 2050km

    In 2007 satellite imagery show that’s 11 (yes 11 not 15 launchers for Shaheen-2 were spotted in the imagery out of which 2 were already fitted with Shaheen-2 missiles with other 9 in various stages of being equipped. Another four launcher were for Shaheen-1 again two of them were already fitted with Shaheen-1 missiles) launchers at various stages of being equipped with their missile erector and in 2008 Pakistan’s Army Strategic Force Command tests Shaheen-2 medium-range ballistic missile twice which can only be done once missile is deployed by the PA’s SFC. So what is left of being operationally deployed?

    Completely missed the long range stretched Ghauri-2 Missile which was covered as part of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal (Ghauri-2 (Hatf-6) 2,000–2,300 750–1,000 Tested April 14, 1999).

    Why compares the Babur GLCM with the Russian AS-15.

    Babur GLCM
    Length —
    Body diameter —
    Launch weight 1500kg
    Payload 300kg (newer version has 450kg)
    Range 750 km
    Accuracy 3-5m CEP

    Length: 6.04 m (7.1 m with boost motor)
    Body diameter: 0.514 m
    Launch weight: 1,210 kg
    Payload: Single warhead 410 kg
    Warhead: Nuclear 200 to 250 kT
    Range: 2,500 km
    Accuracy: 25 m CEP

    1. Both Babur GLCM and Russian cruise missile are completely in different category as far as range is concerned Range is different.

    2. Weight is completely different AS-15/ Kh-55 with 1210 kg and Babur with1500 kg.

    3. Payload capability is totally different Kh-55 with 500 kg and Babur with 300 kg.

    4. Air intake is of different design AS-15 / Kh-55 as engine is on a short pylon under the rear body after launch on the other hand in Babur’s case only air intake comes out after launch.

    5. Different kind of launchers Kh-55 with air and submarines and Babur with ground launched with rectangular launchers for operational use and DH-10/C-602 is with round launchers.

    6. Babur has much more similarity with the TOMHAWAK cruise missile then this Russian. Babur appears to share several basic similarities with the US BGM-109 Tomahawk land attack cruise missile, with the two being roughly the same size and shape and having a similar wing and engine intake design.

    Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood (ex- Director-General, Nuclear Power, PAEC/ Project-Director Kahuta enrichment project and Khushab reactor project) said that Khushab Nuclear Reactor was based on home-grown technology and 80 per cent of the reactor was built with the local expertise. This is a testimony that now Pakistan can build a nuclear reactor on its own, he further said. He said that Khushab Nuclear Reactor had been functioning trouble-free for over 12 years that was a great achievement.

    In the words of David Albright, President and Founder of ISIS, “assuming that the roughly 50 MW reactor operates at full power an average of 60 to 80 percent of the year, Pakistan would be able to produce 10 to 15 kg of weapon-grade plutonium per year.”

    From 1997 to 2007 Pakistan could have produced around 100 to 150 kg plutonium and by end of 2008 120 to 180 kg plutonium and with introduction of K-2 and K-3 it is only going to increase.

    Reply: First, stockpile size is not merely a function of fissile material production capacity but number of nuclear delivery systems. Our estimate takes that into consideration, but we also reference the analysis done by ISIS.

    Second, at what point Shaheen-2 can be considered fully operation depends on many factors beyond flight tests. We note that even though the Army conducted two tests in 2008 – at least one was called an operational readiness test – the U.S. Air Force National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) publication Missile and Cruise Missile Threat from June 2009, which is referenced in our paper and available in full here, notes that the Shaheen-2 “probably will soon be deployed.” (p. 15)

    Third, the ranges we list are from NASIC. I tend to be cautious about range claims made by the country that deploys the missiles because of the temptation to exaggerate or conceal capabilities.

    Fourth, we do not say Hatf-III is M-11 or that Shaheen-1 is M-9, but that they may be derived/reversed engineered from those systems.

    Fifth, you’re correct that the table lists 1,000 kg for the Shaheen-1 RV, but in the text we list a range: 750-1,000.

    Sixth, we do not say that Babur has the exact same capabilities as the AS-15 but that it has similar features (subsonic, air-breathing, winged) to that and the Chinese DH-10 (which itself strongly appears to be a reverse-engineered Tomahawk SLCM). Moreover, we also noticed that NASIC uses the same graphic depiction for Babur and AS-15 but a different one for the Tomahawk. (page 28)

    Finally, since you appear to value factual information, I’d be interested in what sources you use for the range, CEP, warhead weight, etc. you list above. My experience from studying other nuclear weapon states is that widespread assumptions about precise capabilities sometimes turn out to be off. HK

  2. Thank God the terrorist don’t have access to the internet. Oh, wait… Who’s idea was it to publish this pic anyways?

    Reply: The security of nuclear weapons is not about whether people know (or, in case of this blog, assume) where the weapons are but whether the facilities are adequately protected to defend against attack or theft. If they are not safe, then the weapons shouldn’t be there, regardless of whether people know about it or not. Besides, the United States and Russia have for years published details about where they deploy nuclear weapons as part of the START agreement without that having resulted in attacks on or theft of nuclear weapons. HK

  3. I agree with G. Bush, publishing the picture is a bad idea. While it is only speculated that this may be a weapons storage facility, everyone knows how intelligence agencies operate these days. One attack on this so called nuclear storage facility and a issue of nuclear weapons safety in Pakistan will be a hot issue once again. One of the best way to protect these is perhaps hiding stuff and not let anyone know where it is. No one will even try to steal it. If they know they may try. Don’t you think?

    Reply: No I don’t think so. The safety of nuclear weapons already is a hot issue in Pakistan with several attacks against facilities where some speculate nuclear weapons may be present and concern among some that potential collapse of the government could result in loose of some weapons. The weapons are well hidden and I for one don’t know where they are. Estimating potential locations does not endanger the weapons because their safety is determined by the security at the sites rather than whether people know where they are. HK

  4. Pakistan has been able to achieve advanced domestically developed nuclear capability and reverse engineered several advanced delivery devices despite severe restrictions on export of technology. How it was able to do that is something that should be researched.

  5. I am concern about these developments and believe that the nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan shows no signs of slowing downn. In fact India has raised the stakes once again with the launch of a nuclear submarine in July. How will Pakistan respond to these nw developments? These are my observations:

    1. At this moment it is not feasible for Pakistan to competing with India weapons-for-weapons. For one it does not have the necessary technical skills and the funds to compete with India on nuclear submarines. Therefore, Pakistan will focus on the one area where it has excelled. Ballistic missiles. The Pakistan Nuclear Forces 2009 report is consistent with this argument. Increase the deployment of ballistic and increase the production of warheads.

    2. Diversify the launch platforms for nuclear missiles. For this, the recent allegations by the United States that Pakistan is modifying the Harpoon antiship cruise missile to strike land targets demands more attention. If this allegation is true it will be interesting to look at the possible launch platform. Reports suggest that Pakistan has also modified the P3C Orion aircraft and this platform could be used to fire the modified Harpoons. I believe this is a fallacy. Pakistan already has ballistic missiles and will soon deploy land attack cruise missiles. So why does it need to modify the Harpoons to strike land targets from the air? I believe Pakistan is aiming to integrate miniaturised nuclear warheads into the Harpoons and will fit them into the Agosta submarines. It might also used the modified Harpoons as an experiment for future submarine launch cruise missile.

  6. Photograph posted seems to be not correct. As nuclear assets of any nation are always in very safe hands. I think that all nuclear states are very responsible as they know devastation of the device.

  7. I think Pakistan has no reason for a nuclear bomb.
    As india shows no threat to take over Pakistan. Every war India has had in the past with Pakistan, Pakistan instigated it. Also I find it a waste of funds for Pakistan as there GDP i less than Maharastra’s GDP a state half the size of Pakistan! i feel that they are not responsible as the Pakistan gov in the past has done many acts of terrorism against India.

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