Ballistic missiles Current Affairs - 2020

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Pakistan test-fires nuclear-capable ballistic missile Ghaznavi

Pakistan successfully conducted night training launch of hypersonic surface-to-surface ballistic missile Hatf-III Ghaznavi from Sonmiani test range in Balochistan.

About Hatf-III Ghaznavi Missile

It is “Scud” type short range surface-to-surface hypersonic ballistic missile. It is named after 11th century Muslim Turkic conqueror Mahmud of Ghazni. It has been designed and developed by Pakistan’s missile developer- National Development Complex. Its design is believed to be influenced from Chinese design, M-11 (NATO reporting name: CSS-7). It had entered in service with Pakistan Army in 2012.

Features: It has length of 9.64m, diameter of 0.99 m, launch weight of 5256 kg. It is powered by single stage solid fuel rocket motor. It is capable of delivering multiple types of warheads (both nuclear and conventional warheads) upto range of 290 km.

Kashmir Connection with this test

The launch of missile coincides with Pakistan’s scaled-up effort to internationalise the Kashmir issue after India abrogated provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution to withdraw Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and bifurcated it into two Union Territories.  It is also seen as part of two-pronged effort to internationalise Kashmir issue at both military and diplomatic levels, and for impact, raise spectre of nuclear war between the two countries.

In protest to India’s decision to end Jammu and Kashmir’s special status Pakistan has downgraded diplomatic ties with India and also had expelled Indian High Commissioner. It also suspended its trade with India and stopped train and bus services. India has categorically notified international community that repealing of temporary provision of Article 370 was internal matter and also advised Pakistan to accept the reality.

India’s Shaurya missile: DRDO is developing similar missile to Pakistan Hatf-III Ghaznavi Missile for Indian. It is short-range surface-to-surface ballistic missile, Shaurya. It is capable of carrying different types of warhead (including both nuclear and conventional) weighing around one-tonne at hypersonic speed up to 600km range.

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US, Russia suspend INF Treaty

With the formal announcement by the United States about the withdrawal from the INF treaty, Russia has followed the suit and declared the suspension of the treaty. Defence analysts fear about the arms race due to the suspension of the treaty.

Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty

The features of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty signed by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev in December 1987 were:

  • The treaty prohibited the United States and the Soviet Union from possessing, testing and deploying ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles of ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometres (300 to 3,400 miles).
  • The treaty covers all types of ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles whether their payload is conventional or nuclear.
  • The treaty exempted the air-launched and sea-based missile systems in the same range.

Under the treaty, both US and Russia had destroyed 846 and 1,846 missiles respectively.

How the INF treaty aided in Diffusing Tensions?

Due to the limited range, Short flight times and unpredictable flight patterns, It was difficult to detect the short and medium ranges missiles. As a result, there was a threat of nuclear war in Europe which is sandwiched between Russia and US.

The missiles were designed chiefly to fight a theatre nuclear war in Europe. It exacerbated crisis instability and increased the chances of an accidental nuclear war.

Hence the destruction of these missiles under the provisions of the INF treaty was highly beneficial towards enhancing both regional and global security.

What would happen now?

Both Russia and US would indulge in the development of these short and medium ranges missiles. There could be an arms race with EU joining the race as a third entity. Since these missiles are mobile, hard to detect, nuclear-capable and can reach European cities, they have hardly any warning time at all so they reduce the threshold for any potential use of nuclear weapons in a conflict. This would lead to instability and trust deficit.

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