On Thursday, the Pakistani Army Stategic Forces Command conducted a successful flight test of the Nasr close-range ballistic missile. A nuclear-capable system, the Nasr (Hatf-IX) is designed to deliver low-yield nuclear weapons to a range of up to 70 km.
“Pakistan today successfully conducted training launch of short range surface to surface ballistic missile ‘Nasr’ to enhance the operational efficiency of Army Strategic Forces Command besides re-validating the desired technical parameters,” the Pakistani Army statement noted.
“This training exercise involved launching of quad salvo for desired effects. Nasr is a high precision, shoot and scoot Weapon System with the ability of in-flight maneuverability,” it added.
In 2017, Pakistan announced that the Nasr had been modified to extend its total range capability for its original specification of 60 km to 70 km. The 10 km range increase would improve the system’s responsiveness in a crisis, as Pakistan would look to flush out from storage units for use.
The Nasr “augmented Full Spectrum Deterrence posture remaining within the precincts of policy of Credible Minimum Deterrence, against prevailing and evolving threat spectrum more effectively including enemy’s ballistic missile defense and other Air Defence Systems,” the Pakistani Army statement noted.
The reference to the “enemy’s ballistic missile defense” comes just days after the Trump administration released its 2019 Missile Defense Review, which included an acknowledgement that the United States “has discussed potential missile defense cooperation with India.”
The MDR described the context of U.S. talks with India on missile defense as stemming from the fact that a “number of states in South Asia are developing an advanced and diverse range of ballistic and cruise missile capabilities.” Pakistan was not mentioned by name.
This latest test also follows the release of the Indian Army’s 2018 Land Warfare Doctrine. India officially denies the existence of its “Cold Start” doctrine, which was nevertheless acknowledged by its chief of army staff in early 2017.
Pakistan adopted the Nasr in response to India’s plans to improve its mobilization times under the Cold Start doctrine. “The Cold Start doctrine exists for conventional military operations. Whether we have to conduct conventional operations for such strikes is a decision well thought through, involving the government and the Cabinet Committee on Security,” General Bipin Rawat, India’s army chief, noted in a January 6 interview.
Pakistan’s 2017 test of the Nasr included an announcement that underlined the systems augmentation of “credible deterrence against [the] prevailing threat spectrums more effectively, including anti-missile defenses.”
The Nasr has been in development since the mid-2000s in Pakistan and is estimated to carry a nuclear payload in the sub-kiloton range.