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07 January 2011


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robt willmann

A source of information on Pakistan's military is the work of Brian Cloughley, who has written books on the subject. His website is here--



I've been reading the publicly available sources on this, the medium range ballistic missiles they have listed in service to have ranges listed as 2000km - 2500 km, that means they probably don't have quite enough range to strike Israel from launch sites in Pakistan, and 2000km is the longest range I've read claimed for a successful test launch of any of their missiles.

All the longer range missiles said to be in development have neither been publicly tested or deployed.

Pakistan's capability to strike Israel then seems to be based on the claimed performance of weapons under development rather than based on the demonstrated performance of their existing inventory of weapons.



Pakistani AF is supposed to be getting 4 Chinese made airborne C & C platforms in 2011 and 2012 according to a 2009 Pakistani news article. Such an acquisition will enable the PAF greater capabilities against the Israeli AF.

In 2009, the Pakistanis had their sights set on 7000 km ICBM range capabilities, ICBMs that have the capability to carry nuclear as well as conventional payloads. In 2010 the PAF upgraded their air capabilities with the acquisition of 4 Chinese made air-to-air refueling platforms to counter the Indian AF's 6 airborne refueling platforms. Pakistani AF has been working to counter the Indian AF's purchasing 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft.


Here is some quick-and-dirty analysis I did on a slow Friday night:

First of all it's important to note that there are a lot of uncertainties regarding Pakistan's capabilities. The analysis here is based on open sources, primarily the Janes Information Group.

Pakistan has several delivery methods for its nuclear arsenal. For the scenario here, a strike on Israel, we're really only concerned with two: Ballistic missiles and submarines.

Ballistic Missiles:

For this section, please refer to this graphic I created in Google Earth. It shows Pakistan with range rings centered on Tel Aviv, Israel in order to graphically show possible launch areas for missiles of various ranges.

Currently, the longest-range operational nuclear ballistic missile in Pakistan's inventory is the Shaheen II. This missile became operational in 2009 and the current inventory is estimated at 25-35 total. The range for this missile estimated to be 2500km, which is shown in the graphic. At 2500km, this missile does not have the range to credibly threaten Israel from Pakistani territory.

Pakistan is currently developing two longer-ranged missiles based on two different missile technologies: Solid and liquid propellant. The first is based on the Shaheen (solid propellant technology) and is still in a relatively early phase of development if not still on the drawing board. Based on what I have read, I can say with high confidence that this missile does not yet exist.

The second missile is the Ghauri 3, which is a liquid propellant missile based on the North Korean No-dong. The history of this missile is a bit confusing, so I'll quote Jane's directly:

A Ghauri 3 missile has been reported to have been in development since 1994, with a range of 3,000 km, and two first-stage motor tests may have been made in July and September 1999. A Ghauri 3A missile development programme was reported in May 2004, with a range of 3,500 km. A report from Pakistan in January 2009 stated that the Ghauri 3 was operational, but did not give any details about its performance or of any flight tests.

An unconfirmed report in 2000 suggested that the liquid-propellant Ghauri missile programmes would be terminated, and diverted into a possible SLV project. The solid-propellant Shaheen missile programmes would be continued for operational use, as they were easier to prepare, required fewer support vehicles and personnel, and were more accurate. However, from reports up to 2009 it would appear that the Ghauri missiles remain operational.

The graphic I linked to above shows the 3000km and 3500km range rings for the stated ranges of this missile. These ranges are based on statements by Pakistani officials. At 3500km, this missile could range Israel from most of Pakistan. The actual status of the Ghauri 3 is an open question and there is little hard evidence to evaluate Pakistani claims. If the claims are true, then Pakistan has a credible capability to threaten Israel with one or more nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles.

Submarines and cruise missiles:

Last year Pakistan brought a new cruise missile called the Hatf 7 (Babur) into operational service. This is a typical cruise missile with similar characteristics to the US Tomahawk. Currently the missile is ground-based, but Pakistan plans to deploy the missile aboard its submarines. Unfortunately, there is not much information on the sub-launched version, though it is probably still in development since the ground version only achieved operational status in 2010 and no submarine-based tests have been reported. Even if this is not a capability today, it's likely the Pakistani's will have the capability relatively soon. With a range of 750km, a submarine in the northern half of the Red Sea could strike all of Israel.

In summary, Pakistan's capability to strike Israel with a nuclear weapon is uncertain at this time, but plausible. The big question mark is the true status and capabilities of the Ghauri 3. Even if Pakistan does not have the capability today, it likely will within the next few years.

One final thought: In a conflict where Pakistan and Iran ally against Israel, Pakistan could range Israel with its nuclear missiles from Iranian territory. I'll leave it to the reader to judge the plausibility of such a scenario.

Green Zone Cafe

You asking the question for serious discussion bears out my point in the earlier thread about preparing to seize or destroy those nukes.

It would seem to be tough, but you can always put a nuke on a tramp freighter with embarked speedboats or a masked commercial aircraft and take it to all kinds of places.

A Pakistan that decided to strike Israel for irrational religious reasons would not confine itself to conventional delivery vehicles like missiles or F-16s.


Of course it can. Lots of Pakistani pilots train/on contract to the Middle East countries' F-16s; Saudi Arabia specifically. Ever since the US embargo, they have trained on them.

As insurance, they'd have shipped a few nukes for safe keeping.

Mating it with a F-16 somewhere in the ME OR assembling a missile near Israel is what it takes. If the Iranians were shipping to Hezbollah, why not any location within range of the missiles around Israel? It's not that Israel is surrounded by friendlies.

Colm O' Toole

I doubt Pakistan could launch any missile strike against Israel.

You are also correct for doubting missile range quotes on the Wiki Page. 5000KM range for Shaheen missiles is certainly not accurate. A more valid gauge of missile ranges can be found in the below link from South Asian Analysis.


Since the Shaheen missiles were based on Chinese M11 and M18 missiles this would also be in keeping with the 2500KM range.

Also former President Mushraff and said before that the Shaheens have a range of 2500KM and are part of Pakistan's India-centric missile system.


Clifford Kiracofe

Some data here:

As India is the traditional target, perhaps there is some extended open source discussion available from experts there.


Well, since there doesn't appear to be many takers....

I don't foresee a purge of the Pak military so quick, deep and complete that it would eliminate their understanding of "the Middle East, how she works."
While Israel is a thorn in the side of the US, and a scourge for the backs of the Palestinians, most of the Arab states seem willing to put up with the status quo. I can't imagine the Saudi royals getting their thobes in a knot over the continued existence of the Zionist state. I CAN imagine a few diesel subs laying off the coast of Karachi, ready to rain G*d's judgement down upon Karachi, Islamabad and Kahuta (on general principle) as well as Dera Ghaz Khan, Wah, Kundian and a half dozen facilites where the "to go" orders are stored....
This is where a balance of capabilities affects intentions. A Zionist "first strike" against "a beard on the button" might not be all that unexpected.

Patrick Lang

pirate laddie

"most of the Arab states" I thought you had lived there. pl



Are Pakistan's nuclear weapons solely bombs or have the been adapted to missiles both for their Exocet (both air and submarine launched versions - it's unclear whether they have the later) and Harpoons?

I assume they've already adapted/originally designed them for use on their own ballistic missiles. (Ghauri and Shaheen varients).

With a 10,000 KM range their submarines could already be close to Israel. Not to mention surface ships which may already be deployed as part of TF 151 the Horn of Africa.


Certainly nothing is stopping them from driving the transporter for a Babur onto a freighter and sailing within missile range.

Would Israel be the first and/or sole target? It seems the US policies in Afghanistan and Northern Pakistan are significant factors of the disruption on Pakistan's domestic stability. Baring an attack on Iran (which has been blogged about here before) what would prevent a strike on the US or US fleet or ground units in the region should the country break up?


Pirate laddie,

An Israeli first strike sounds like a good way to both start and lose WWIV at the same time.



Not with Israel's current 'degradation' taking place at Dimona.

William R. Cumming


Clifford Kiracofe

There is also the question of the Chinese role in the Pak nuke program.

What are the arrangements between the two countries on nukes? Do the Chinese have any say on their use (at least against India)? Do the Chinese have any role in securing them? Could the Chinese prevent a rogue element attacking Israel?

So just where are the nuclear warheads anyways? In some underground complex in Chitral? or???

Allen Thomson

Andy's range rings are very useful, but I'd offer one small caveat about the Shaheen II: Tel Aviv is just *barely* more than 2500 km from the western tip of Pakistan. So even a slight improvement in range, perhaps by reducing the 1050 kg weight of the RV, could bring Tel Aviv in reach.

Shaheen II: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaheen-II


I know you did not ask about intention Colonel. When you say "Pakistan", the only scenario I can fathom, is a deranged (suicidal) cabal taking over control temporarily. Then, could they get cooperation from the technicians necessary to execute the attack? I think this is a valid point of capability.

Always amazes me why the MAD principle only applied to US USSR conflict. Come to think about it, attacking Israel without the capability of destroying every target capable of retaliation would be AD for the attacker.

This should be part of the discussion IMO. Could Pakistan take out all of Israel with close to zero chance of retaliation?

Allen Thomson

> Could Pakistan take out all of Israel with close to zero chance of retaliation?

Is a believable estimate of Israel's inventory of Jericho III ballistic missiles available?

Patrick Lang


basis ?????????? pl


Presuming a scenario of first strike surprise with surrogate Paki terrorists.

Ingredients: One compromised Pak nuclear security team (just happened with body guards) + One 737 cargo plane (911 seizure or more likely martyr cargo cruew) + diversions and surprise equals have a nice day Israel.



This appears to be what is known..lot of unknowns, like does the Tipu missile (4000kl) exist or not or are they working on it or not?
Seems to me Pak could hit Isr with some missiles depending on if they could move them, by land or sea, just a tad closer.

Charlie Wilson

Green Zone Cafe: "irrational religious reasons"

If I remember correctly Dubby attacked Iraq and Afg 'cuz god told him. Izzy is willing to take the whole 'civilised' world down because of a promise a crazed desert god made his peeps way back when.


No, only 3 years in Paki. I don't have "on the ground" experience in the ME. All I know is just what I read in the papers, and that's an alibi for my ignorance.

Still, I believe that Israel serves as a useful distraction for several regimes in the area.
Agree with earlier commentators that ship-borne delivery makes more sense -- like taking a houseboat up the Potomac and mooring it off the Kennedy Center.

FB Ali

A few comments on some of the points raised (with the caveat that I have no special knowledge or information about the subject).

Regarding Pakistan’s long-range missile capability, it would be safe to assume that it is currently between 2500 and 3500 km. No reliable published data is available, and I base this on the reported range of the Shaheen 2, its further development, possible payload weight reductions, and the possible availability of the Ghauri 3 (present status unclear).

As for employment, under the present set up the country’s nuclear capability is strictly meant for deterrence of an attack, focussed mainly on India. If deterrence failed, it could be used to defeat the attack.

It would surprise me very much if the Chinese (or anyone else) had any say in the disposition, much less usage, of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.

Mention has been made here, and on an earlier thread, about “grabbing” Pakistan’s nukes. I would suggest this is pure fantasy. It’s not as if this hasn’t occurred to anyone; in fact, a generally held belief in the country is that this is the main aim of the US in the region. It is widely believed in the military; even the army chief, Gen Kayani, is quoted as saying the "real aim of U.S. strategy is to de-nuclearize Pakistan" (though this may well have been for public consumption) (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/31/AR2010123103890.html)



One would need to know where all of them were at the time one wanted to seize them. It's already apparent they've been dispersed. I believe Secretary of State Clinton already confirmed that publicly.

In addition any such attempt would be an act of war. They don't need nukes to place the US forces in Afghanistan at significant risk. Also, what do you think the Pakistani expatriates in the rest of the world would do?

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