Pakistan’s “Shoot and Scoot” Nukes: FAS Nukes in Newsweek

Pakistan’s military describes its new short-range nuclear NASR missile as a “shoot and scoot…quick response system.”                                                                          Image: ISPR

By Hans M. Kristensen

Andrew Bast at Newsweek was kind enough to use our estimates for world nuclear forces in his latest article on Pakistan growing arsenal.

Of special interest is Pakistan’s production of the NASR (Hatf-9), a worrisome development for South Asia and the decade-long efforts to avoid nuclear weapons being used. With its range of only 60 kilometers, the multi-tube NASR system is not intended to retaliate against Indian cities but be used first against advancing Indian army forces in a battlefield scenario.

Pakistan’s military’s Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) describes NASR as a system that “carries nuclear warheads of appropriate yield with high accuracy, shoot and scoot attributes” developed as a “quick response system” to “add deterrence value” to Pakistan’s strategic weapons development program “at shorter ranges” in order “to deter evolving threats.”

“Shoot and scoot…quick response system” ??

That sounds like an echo from nuclear battlefields in Europe at the height of the Cold War. It is time for Pakistan to explain how many nuclear weapons, of what kind, and for what purpose are needed for its minimum deterrent.

As bad as it is, though, talk about Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal passing the size of France at some point is, at the current rate, probably one or two decades ahead.

Don’t forget: Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is not equal to the number of warheads that could potentially be produced by all the highly-enriched uranium and plutonium Pakistan might have produced. The size also depends on other factors such as the number of delivery vehicles and other limitations.

More information in the next Nuclear Notebook scheduled for publications in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on July 1st.

This publication was made possible by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York and Ploughshares Fund. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.

4 thoughts on “Pakistan’s “Shoot and Scoot” Nukes: FAS Nukes in Newsweek

  1. I am sorry, did I read you correctly….? “It is time for Pakistan to explain how many nuclear weapons, of what kind, and for what purpose are needed for its minimum deterrent.”

    Why? Why do they owe you any explanation or detail? Who are you to ask? Have you asked Israel? Or India? Have they complied? Thank you.

    Reply: Because all nuclear powers must explain their nuclear policy for it to be understood – and not misunderstood. This is particularly relevant for Pakistan now because short-range “shoot and scoot” weapons appear to move the nuclear posture a new direction that could lower the nuclear threshold and increase the likelihood that nuclear weapons are used. HK

  2. [Edited] Imran Anwar: I hope you understand the meaning. Because of the opacity and your government’s nuclear blackmail tactics against the world are reinforced by this event [sic]. Moreover, although Pakistan is economically weak, instead of spending on economic uplifting and improving the conditions of Pakistanis you are spending on more nuclear weapons with the money you get from aid. It is dangerous for the world.

  3. Don’t see Pakistan aiming for minimum deterrence. I’d say tactically they want enough to annihilate (not deter) anything India could send against them, which would mean roughly two thirds of the Indian field army. The operational doctrine would be interesting and potentially worrisome, as it might give a relatively high degree of authority and autonomy to relatively low commands to safeguard against a decapitating strike. Numbers? I’d estimate at least 300 deployed tactical warheads as their goal. Plus at least another 100 warheads on strategic delivery systems.

    Btw, I would give some thought to factors that might motivate Pakistan to not only worry about India, and what that might mean for the Pakistani nuclear programme …

  4. [Edited] I don’t believe Indian estimates of their missile capabilities. I still think gravity bombs is the only operational nuclear detterent available to India. Do you have any reliable estimate as to Pak tactical nuke prowess, is their Babur cruise and this NASR system operational?

    Reply: Our assessment is that the Prithvi-I and Agni-I systems are operational but, as we state in our 2010 Nuclear Notebook on Indian nuclear forces: “Fighter bombers constitute the only fully operational leg, backed by short-range ballistic missiles.” As for Pakistan, we do not estimate that Babu and NASR are operational yet, but Babur has been test launched seven times and is probably close. NASR will have to undergo several more flight tests. And remember, just because a weapon system is declared “inducted into the armed forces” doesn’t mean it is operational, only that it has been handed over from the laboratories to the armed forces; it will still have to undergo several tests to become fully operational. HK

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