Pakistan tests tactical nuclear weapon, designed to foil Indian “Cold Start” attack - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Thursday 24 January 2019

Pakistan tests tactical nuclear weapon, designed to foil Indian “Cold Start” attack

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 25th Jan 19

The Pakistan Army on Thursday announced a successful “training launch” of its short range ballistic missile “Nasr”, which is believed to have a range of just 60 kilometres.

This “tactical nuclear weapon” (TNW) has been developed as the Pakistan Army’s weapon of last resort if a successful Indian “cold start” offensive – a massed attack launched without lengthy mobilisation – rapidly advances into Pakistan, capturing territory and threatening vital cities and installations.

The Nasr TNW, which would carry a small-yield “sub-kilotonne” nuclear bomb, is not designed to cause widespread damage, in the manner of “citybuster” nuclear bombs of 20-kilotonnes and above. Instead, it is intended to serve the dual purpose of demonstrating Pakistan’s determination to protect its vital national interests; and to provoke international intervention to stop India. 

To avoid provoking a “massive” Indian retaliation, which New Delhi’s nuclear doctrine mandates and which would involve demolishing several Pakistani cities with large-yield nuclear weapons, Pakistan’s use of Nasr TNWs would aim to minimise destruction and, therefore, provocation. Analysts believe Pakistan is unlikely to use the Nasr TNW on Indian territory, far less Indian cities. Instead, the Nasr TNW is likely to be used on Indian forces deep inside Pakistan territory.

A video released by the Pakistan Army today showed a vehicle-mounted, four-tube missile launcher firing a salvo of four missiles. As each missile soars into the sky, troops shout “Allah-o-Akbar”. The video then shows the four missile striking their targets – flags embedded in the desert sand – within a few tens of metres.

“Nasr is a high precision, shoot-and-scoot weapon system with the ability of in-flight maneuverability,” claimed the Pakistan Army. It suggests that India’s ballistic missile defence system (still being developed) and other air defence systems (like the S-400 platform being procured from Russia) would not be able to intercept the Nasr TNW.

The Pakistan Army also claims that the Nasr TNW has augmented “full spectrum deterrence” – a Pakistani term for deterring India from launching even a conventional attack with mechanised formations, which could threaten vital Pakistani interests.

The video showed General Zubair Mahmood Hayat, who heads Pakistan’s Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, congratulating scientists and engineers.

TNWs like the Nasr are globally recognised as highly destabilising weapons, since their use is very likely to trigger esclation to higher-yield bombs by the adversary, in this case India. That tit-for-tat escalation would very quickly degenerate into a full-blown nuclear exchange.

There is also international concern that Nasr batteries, which must necessarily be deployed early in any war, with their nuclear warheads mated with the missile, might fall into the hands of terrorist groups in Pakistan. Alternatively they might be used without authorisation by a rogue army commander.

Hayat attempted to allay these fears. “He expressed his complete confidence in effective command, control and security of all strategic assets and measures being taken to augment these aspects,” stated the official release.

The Nasr missile was first revealed after a test-firing in April 2011. The test programme is believed to have concluded in October 2013, after which the system is believed to entered service.

Also called the Hatf-9, the Nasr is believed to be derived from China's Sichuan Aerospace Corporation’s WS-2 Weishi rocket system.


  1. Broadsword article is interesting, as an example I may add that during the Cold War, the Warsaw Pact had overwhelming tank superiority but if Soviet armour moved up to the Fulda Gap threatening US forces on the Maine river, that was the point that NATO would use its tactical nuclear weapons.
    The Americans ensured that the Soviets were were made aware of this line.
    Pakistan has a similar line which Indian armour must not cross - and the Indian government has for more than fifteen years been made aware of this too, India knows that the Pakistani nuclear weapons will be first used on Pakistan territory on Indian tanks.
    But it’s unlikely that Indian armour will succeed in getting that far, there will be no tactical surprise with cold start - with Pakistan mobilisation at par with or faster than India. We need to win the battle in the air before our armour moves and with squadrons under strength and lack of jointness with the Air Force this will be difficult. Our self propelled howitzers will not be ready in the next five years, there is crucial shortage and defects in ammunition and mechanised equipment. Our ww2 army needs to be modernised first, but there is no extra budget for this.
    There is no such thing as a limited war, Pakistan doctrine is to retaliate with all its might.
    Our country will win by not fighting the next war with Pakistan- we need to use sustained diplomacy to ensure peace with our neighbours and possibly mutual disarmament to facilitate ‘sub ka vikas ’ in both countries. Wise leaders would invest on educating our population, improving health care, tackling the coming mass unemployment and coming civil unrest as a result of India’s huge demographic bulge.
    That chap justice Katju is quite right, bad times ahead, INDIA needs to solve her myriad of internal problems as a matter of urgency.

    1. Agree with most part of your comment except the last two paragraphs. How do you engage in 'sub ka vikas' with a cabal of gun-toting, Quran spouting medievalists and paranoid general hell bent on nuking you to oblivion?

  2. Derived from Chinese Weishi rocket system is an understatement...More like beg and paint green!

  3. All the rockets and nukes have n Korean/Chinese origin.


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