Pakistan is preparing its next generation nuclear-capable ballistic missiles for deployment, which will give it the ability to target facilities across most if not all of India, a prestigious organisation of American scientists has said.
A report by the Federation of American Scientists, which includes a satellite image taken on June five, 2005, of Pakistan's facilities showed a 15 Transporter Erector Launchers for the medium-range Shaheen II being fitted at the National Defence Complex near Fatehjang, approximately 30 km southwest of Islamabad.
Authors of the report carried by local daily Dawn in Islamabad on Thursday said they discovered the vehicles while preparing for the latest nuclear notebook on Pakistani nuclear forces published in the May/June issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
According to the report, at Pakistan's National Defence Complex the main facilities are spread over a 6x2 km area on a ridge, and include what appear to be administrative buildings, missile assembly halls and garages. At two locations, several large six-axle vehicles are clearly visible on the satellite image, as are several smaller four-axle vehicles.
Approximately 1.5 km northwest from the main building is a cluster of what appears to be five recently-constructed garages. Parked in front or partially inside the two largest garages to the west are 11 vehicles that, the authors claim, show the characteristic six-axle design of the Shaheen II TEL, indicating that the launcher itself has not yet been installed.
Once Shaheen II becomes operational, it will give Pakistan the ability to target facilities across most if not all of India and hold all of India's major cities at risk.
As such Shaheen II will be Pakistan's response to India's long-awaited deployment of the Agni II missile, the authors conclude.
'The main driver for Pakistan's nuclear modernisation appears to be India's nuclear build-up, although national prestige probably also is a factor,' they further said.
The federation was founded 60 years ago by scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project to develop the first atomic bombs.
The report is written by Hans M Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists and Robert S Norris of the Natural Resources Defence Council.
The authors estimate that Pakistan currently has an arsenal of about 60 nuclear weapons. In the last five and a half years, Pakistan has deployed two new nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, entered the final development stages of a potentially nuclear-capable cruise missile, started construction of a new plutonium production reactor, and is close to completing a second chemical separation facility.
As Pakistan completes development of two more nuclear-capable ballistic missiles and a cruise missile in the next few years, the nuclear arsenal will increase further, it said.Although the Shaheen II launchers appear to be fitting out at the National Defence Complex, the authors of the report say that the missile they are intended to carry is not yet through to be fully operational.