Plans to attack China, Pakistan

Pakistan is steadily improving its entire nuclear weapons potential - on the one hand by developing and deploying new nuclear missiles, on the other hand by increasing the production of fissile materials.

Pakistan's nuclear weapons were released in the 1970s under the direction of A.Q. Khan developed, commissioned by Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Khan had stolen plans for centrifuges from the Netherlands while working at the nuclear company Urenco and used them to enrich uranium and develop nuclear weapons.

Pakistan claims to have successfully carried out six nuclear tests on May 28 and 30, 1998 in response to Indian tests. However, because of the seismic data, experts assume that only two tests were actually carried out. Nonetheless, with these tests the country achieved that the world public perceived Pakistan as a nuclear power. For a long time, an atomic arsenal had only been suspected.

Pakistan has never signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but has not been officially recognized as a nuclear weapon state. As a state named in Annex 2 of the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty, Pakistan must first sign it before the treaty can come into force, but this has not yet happened. In 1999, however, Pakistan signed a bilateral moratorium on nuclear tests with India (Lahore Declaration, 1999). Other bilateral agreements with India are: The agreement not to attack nuclear facilities (Non-Attack Agreement, 1988) and annually to provide the other with a list of their own facilities; Announcements of missile tests (Missile Notification Pact, 2005) and the establishment of an emergency hotline for false alarms (Nuclear CBMs, 2004). Pakistan will keep its nuclear weapons as long as India has nuclear weapons. In 2016, however, both states abstained from the UN resolution calling for a negotiating conference to ban nuclear weapons.

According to estimates by Kristensen, Norris and Diamond (Nuclear Notebook, 2018), Pakistan has around 140 to 150 nuclear weapons in its arsenal and could increase this number to up to 250 nuclear warheads by 2025. Whether this assessment will come true depends closely on the further development of the Indian nuclear weapons program.

Allegedly Pakistan's nuclear weapons are not ready for use: So far, no nuclear warheads have been mounted on delivery systems and parts of them are stored in three to four different locations. According to Samar Mubarak Mand (World Bulletin, 2013), former head of Pakistan's National Defense Complex, they will only be assembled shortly before the deployment. Some atomic bombs are classified as tactical nuclear weapons, with short range and low explosive power. Gen. Khalid Kidwai (Carnegie conversation, 2015) sees this as a “defensive deterrent” and therefore a fitting response to India's “offensive military doctrine”.

Nuclear weapons doctrine
Since 1971, Pakistan has followed a military doctrine of non-initial attack, i.e. the country promises not to attack or invade any other country. To date, Pakistan has not yet declared a formal nuclear doctrine. Only members of the government have repeatedly commented on this in the media. In 2002, President Musharraf declared that in the event of a conventional attack on the overpowering neighboring country India, in which “the very existence of the state was threatened”, Pakistan would reserve the right to use nuclear weapons, thereby effectively declaring an informal nuclear doctrine. According to media reports, in December 2008 President Zardari announced radical reforms of Pakistan's security policy. This included the project to make South Asia free of nuclear weapons and the tasks of the previous informal nuclear doctrine. Zadari announced that even in the event of a conventional war, there would be no first nuclear strike against India. An email from February 2009 published by Wikileaks in 2011 revealed that Zardari had received no support for this position from Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. On November 27, 2009, Zardari handed control of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal to Prime Minister Youssaf Raza Gilani.

Pakistan is shifting its nuclear capacities more and more in the direction of tactical nuclear weapons instead of massive deterrence, with new short-range missiles and cruise missiles. One could conclude from this that Islamabad would be ready to use tactical nuclear weapons to repel conventional attacks on Pakistani territory. This development is a cause for concern, as it could lower the inhibition threshold for the use of nuclear weapons.

Production of fissile materials
Pakistan produces its weapons-grade fissile material with highly enriched uranium from the centrifuges of the Kahuta laboratory (in the east of Islamabad). This facility is currently being expanded. A second facility could be under construction in Gadwal, north of Islamabad. There are also four heavy water reactors at the Khushab site that produce plutonium. No atomic energy is obtained with this material, it is only used to build atomic bombs. The reprocessing plant in Nilore, east of Islamabad, is being expanded. In addition to the reactor in Chasma in northwestern Punjab for civil use, a second reprocessing plant was also completed (Albright / Kelleher-Vergantini, 2015).

Attempts by the Geneva Disarmament Conference to limit the production of fissile material worldwide (Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, FMCT), Islamabad has so far successfully blocked - on the grounds that this is not possible because of the Indian nuclear arsenal.

At the end of 2016, the International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM) estimated Pakistani stocks at around 3,400 kilograms of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and around 280 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium. This is enough to produce around 236-283 warheads - provided that each warhead contains either 15-18 kg of HEU or 5-6 kg of plutonium (see "Technical Standards"). Nevertheless, it is difficult to estimate the number of Pakistani warheads only based on the amount of fissile material, since it depends on the production rate, number of operational nuclear-capable carrier systems, the desired explosive power and the competence of the scientists, among other things. In addition, not all of the fissile material is used for warheads, especially since Pakistan does not have sufficient delivery systems to use 200-300 warheads.

Nuclear weapon delivery systems
Pakistan has six operational nuclear missiles and is developing further delivery systems for short-range nuclear warheads. A new medium-range ballistic missile (Shaheen-2) was completed in 2014. The Ghaznavi short-range missile was built on the basis of the Chinese M-11 missile. A short-range missile called Abdali has been deployed after a long development period and six tests. Two more ballistic missiles were planned for 2018: Shaheen-1A with a range of 900 kilometers and Shaheen-3, which can fly 2,750 kilometers and thus reach the entire Indian mainland. In 2015, Pakistan conducted two missile tests with the Shaheen-3 medium-range missile. The oldest of the nuclear weapon launchers, the land-based and mobile Ghauri missile, was also tested in 2015.

Pakistan is in possession of several cruise missiles called Babur and Ra’ad. Tests with the Babur 1 were discontinued in 2014. The range of the Babur is said to be 700 kilometers according to the Pakistani government; US intelligence services, however, denied this statement, which they estimate to be 350 kilometers. The Babur rocket can carry conventional or atomic charges. Ra'ad cruise missiles have been tested six times so far, most recently in February 2016, and are expected to be deployed soon. They should be able to use nuclear and conventional warheads with precision. Two new, improved versions of these cruise missiles (Babur 2/1 (B) and Ra’ad-2) are under construction. The Babur 2/1 (B) has been tested twice so far (as of 2018) and is said to have a range of 700 kilometers. It is likely that the cruise missiles will be stored in an underground facility at the Masroor base.

Pakistan has some F-16 and Mirage fighter-bombers that can carry nuclear weapons. The first F-16s came from the United States in the 1980s, allegedly devoid of the ability to carry nuclear weapons. The planes were modified by Pakistan and for some time deliveries from the USA were suspended until the George W. Bush administration delivered new and more modern F-16s. The F-16A / B are located at Mushaf Air Force Base, northwest of Lahore and have a range of approximately 1,600 kilometers. They can each carry one atomic bomb. The security at this base has been improved since 2014. The atomic bombs are not stored here, but in the Sargodha weapons depot, 10 kilometers away. The more modern F-16C / D are stationed at the Shahbaz Air Force Base, near Jacobabad, which is being expanded, including new weapons depots. Some of the Mirage aircraft can carry nuclear weapons and have been tested with the new Ra'ad cruise missiles. They are stationed at the Masroor base near Karachi, while the atomic bomb depot is likely 5 kilometers from the base, as well as at the Rafiqui base near Shorkot.

Nuclear Weapons Security in Pakistan
According to a report by the US Congress, the "father of the Pakistani bomb," A.Q. Khan, between the 1980s and 2002, delivered nuclear technology to several countries, including Iran, Libya, and North Korea. In October 2003, a shipment to Libya of centrifuge components was discovered on a ship that led to the disclosure.

The US operation in which Osama bin Laden was killed raised questions outside of Pakistan as to whether Pakistan's arsenals were safe from terrorists. There was growing concern within Pakistan that the arsenals might not be safe from US or Indian access. It is not clear how exactly Pakistani nuclear weapons are protected and what precautions they have in terms of "control of use". It is believed, however, that they have basic precautions against unauthorized use. The US has offered Pakistan assistance in securing nuclear weapons and Pakistan has received millions of dollars to improve nuclear security; Officials say, however, that the US played “no role” in securing the arsenals.

At the 2014 nuclear summit in The Hague, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced that Pakistan would sign the treaty amendment to the Convention for the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM). In 2016, Pakistan ratified the treaty amendment, which still needs seven more ratifications before it can come into force.

In a press release on January 19, 2016, the National Command Authority (NCA) stated that the nuclear arsenal was safe and reliable. Satellite images show that the security fences in many bases and facilities have been improved over the past five years due to terrorist attacks. The US is concerned, however, that the new focus on tactical nuclear weapons poses a security threat because battlefield weapons are inherently more difficult to protect. (xh / af)


Processing status: March 2020 with data from 2018

Above picture: Abdali rocket. Image: Pakistan Army / Public Domain