Pakistani defence officials made an announcement last Wednesday that they have successfully test fired the Medium Range Nuclear Capable Ballistic Missile (MRBM) Hatf IV Shaheen-1A. The announcement is widely seen as a response to the launch of Agni-V, the Indian Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM).
The Shaheen-1A, which is capable of carrying both nuclear and conventional warheads, is an improvement from the Shaheen-1 as far as the strike range and accuracy is considered. The operational range of Shaheen-1A is speculated to be 1,500 km, while that of the Shaheen-1 is just 750 km. As per the requirement, the Pakistani defence machinery had informed their Indian counterparts in advance about the long range missile test in Indian Ocean. This has to be done as per the agreement reached between the two nations in May 2005.
Khalid Ahmed, the Director General Strategic Plans Division, claimed that the new missile will further strengthen the strike capability of Pakistan Armed Forces. Talat Masood, a retired Pakistan Army General acknowledged the competition between India and Pakistan and said that the testing of Shaheen-1A was made to coincide with the Agni-V testing for political reasons.
The Shaheen-1, which is a short-range ballistic missile (SRBM), lacked the capability to strike in most of the major Indian cities. It was first tested in 2003. The Shaheen-1A belongs to MRBM category and can successfully target several of the Indian cities. Another Pakistani MRBM, the Shaheen-II was successfully tested in 2004. It is having an operational range of 2,500 km. Shaheen-III, which is still in the development phase, is speculated to be having a range of up to 3,500 km. Pakistan is yet to develop any ICBMs.
According to defence analysts, there is a lot of similarity in features between the newly tested ballistic missile and the American MRBM MGM-31 Pershing. Although the exact operational range is classified, various reliable sources estimate it to be in the range of 1,000 to 1,500 km. The missile is capable of carrying a conventional warhead weighing 1,000 kg. It can be also used to carry multiple nuclear warheads.