Friday, 21 September 2012

Importance of HATF VII

Pakistan crossed a major milestone in strengthening its deterrence after the test of its indigenously developed 700 KM range HATF VII cruise missile named Babur on September 17th 2012. Pakistan has been testing and improving its cruise missile systems since 2005 and now maintains land and Air based versions of the system, Babur and Raad respectively. Cruise missiles add to deterrence at both conventional and nuclear realms due to their ability to penetrate modern sophisticated air defense and anti ballistic missile defense networks and are therefore a credible option for counterforce targeting on land and Sea.

Monday’s test was important in two ways. First, it was officially acknowledged for the first time that Babur cruise missile is capable of hitting targets at sea also. Prior to this Pakistan has been testing both Babur and Raad cruise missiles to hit static targets on land. Second, the recently added feature of National Command Authority (NCA) Strategic Command and Control Support System (SCCSS) was tested again. This means providing full situational awareness for decision makers related to all platforms meant for nuclear use. This network centric system further improves nuclear command and control structure and signifies advancement in technological domain.

In terms of strategic utility, the HATF VII system is a welcome development. Given the official remarks on the test, Pakistan has now enhanced its capacity to target sea based counterforce targets, counter a naval blockade of its ports by hostile powers and increase the cost of aggression by the threat to disrupt vital trade traffic originating from the Gulf towards seas in East and West. This capability was much needed and improves Pakistan’s political position at both global and regional level.

This system, therefore, reflects the thinking of operationalizing a credible land based Anti Ship cruise missile systems in near future to counter threats from Sea. Given the current trajectory of weapons development, Air launched Raad’ cruise missile is expected to follow the same route along with developing sea based platforms for launching cruise missiles on land and sea targets.

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