Pakistan Has More Nuclear Warheads than India, Reports SIPRI

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) 2020 report on nuclear weapons, Pakistan possess more nuclear warheads than India.

The think tank in its report said that India which conducted its first nuclear test in 1974 has 150 warheads and Pakistan which conducted its nuclear tests in 1998 has 160 warheads.

China which had conducted its tests a decade earlier than India has 320 warheads, the report informed. The United States and Russia dominate the list with 5,800 and 6,375 warheads respectively which includes other warheads as well.

“At the start of 2020, nine states — the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea – possessed approximately 13,400 nuclear weapons, of which 3,720 were deployed with operational forces,” the report maintained. India and Pakistan are also thought to be increasing the size of their arsenals, the report claimed while stressing that “China is in the middle of significant modernization and expansion of its nuclear arsenal. India is expanding the size of its nuclear weapon stockpile as well as its infrastructure for producing nuclear warheads,” the report said.

According to the report, Pakistan continues to prioritize the development and deployment of new nuclear weapons and delivery systems as part of its ‘full spectrum deterrence posture’ vis-à-vis India.

It is estimated that Pakistan possessed approximately 160 nuclear warheads as of January 2020. Pakistan’s nuclear weapon arsenal is likely to continue to expand over the next decade, although projections vary considerably.

Pakistan is believed to be gradually increasing its military fissile material holdings, which include both weapon-grade plutonium and highly enriched uranium.

The aircraft that are most likely to have a nuclear delivery role are the Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) Mirage III and Mirage V aircraft. The Mirage III has been used for developmental test flights of the nuclear-capable Ra’ad (Hatf-8) air-launched cruise missile (ALCM; see below), while the Mirage V is believed to have been given a strike role with nuclear gravity bombs.

The PAF currently operates about 160 Mirage aircraft, of which approximately 120 are fighter-bombers. According to reports in 2019, Pakistan plans to buy an additional 36 Mirage V aircraft from Egypt.

The nuclear capability of Pakistan’s F-16 fighter-bombers is unclear but many analysts continue to assign a potential nuclear role to the aircraft. In the light of this, the table in this edition of the Yearbook has been updated: Pakistan’s F-16s are listed as having a potential nuclear role but the nuclear weapons carried by airborne nuclear forces are assigned to Mirage aircraft.

Pakistan is acquiring a significant number of JF-17 aircraft, jointly developed with China, to replace the ageing Mirage aircraft. Pakistan currently operates about 100 JF-17s in four to six squadrons, with upgraded aircraft being added.

Initial reports on upgrades to the JF-17 suggested that the PAF aimed to integrate the dual-capable Ra’ad ALCM onto the aircraft, but more recent reports on upgrades have not mentioned the weapon. The Ra’ad ALCM is intended to provide the PAF’s fighter-bombers with a standoff nuclear capability. It has been flight-tested seven times since 2007. The last reported flight test was in 2016.

An improved version, the Ra’ad-II, was displayed for the first time in 2017 and is reported to have a range of 600 kilometres. The Ra’ad-II appears to have new engine air-intake and tailwing configurations.

Pakistan is also expanding its nuclear-capable ballistic missile arsenal, which consists of short- and medium-range systems. It currently deploys the Abdali (also designated Hatf-2), the Ghaznavi (Hatf-3), Shaheen-I (Hatf-4) and Nasr (Hatf-9) solid-fuelled, road-mobile shortrange ballistic missiles.

An extended-range version of the Shaheen-I, the Shaheen-IA, is still in development. The Ghaznavi, Nasr and Shaheen-I were all test launched in 2019. The arsenal currently includes two types of medium-range ballistic missile: the liquid-fuelled, road-mobile Ghauri (Hatf-5), with a range of 1250km; and the two-stage, solid-fuelled, road-mobile Shaheen-II (Hatf-6) with a range of 2000 km. The Shaheen-II was test launched in May 2019. A longer-range variant, the Shaheen-III, is currently in development but has been test launched once—in 2015. The missile has a declared range of 2750 km, making it the longest-range system to be tested by Pakistan to date.

A variant of the Shaheen-III, the Ababeel, which is possibly equipped with multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle (MIRV) technology, is also in development. It was last test launched in 2017. In addition to expanding its arsenal of land-based ballistic missiles, Pakistan continues to develop the nuclear-capable Babur (Hatf-7) ground-launched cruise missile. The Babur has been test launched at least 12 times since 2005 and has been used in army field training since 2011.

An extended-range version, which is known as Babur-2 and sometimes referred to as Babur Weapon System-1 (B), has a claimed range of 700 km, as against the 350-km range of the original version. It was first test launched in 2016 and was tested for a second time in 2018.

As part of its efforts to achieve a secure second-strike capability, Pakistan is seeking to create a nuclear triad by developing a sea-based nuclear force. The Babur-3 submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM) appears to be intended to develop a nuclear capability for the Pakistan Navy’s three diesel-electric Agosta class submarines.

The Babur-3 was first test launched in 2017 and was tested for a second time in 2018.19 Pakistan has ordered eight air-independent propulsion-powered conventional submarines from China, the first of which is expected to be delivered in 2022. It is possible that these submarines, known as the Hangor class, might also be given a nuclear role with the Babur-3 SLCM.

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