Multiple media sources reported that Pakistan conducted a successful flight test of the Ababeel Weapon System on October 18 quoting the military’s media wing said. In a statement, the Inter-Service Public Relations (ISPR) said, “Pakistan today conducted a successful flight test of Ababeel Weapon System. The test flight was aimed at re-validating various design, technical parameters and performance evaluation of different sub-systems of the weapon system.”
A Dawn report indicated that the launch was witnessed by Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Sahir Shamshad Mirza, senior officers from the Strategic Plans Divison and Strategic Forces Command as well as scientists and engineers from Strategic Organisations.
Dawn quotes the ISPR which said the missile system was “aimed at strengthening deterrence and enhancing strategic stability in the region through the operationalisation of Full Spectrum Deterrence in the overall construct of Credible Minimum Deterrence”.
The Ababeel test comes six years after launch of the missile the first time in October 2017.
The ISPR statement then [in 2017] stated that the Ababeel has a maximum range of 2,200 kilometres and is capable of delivering multiple warheads using Multiple Independent Re-entry Vehicle (MIRV) technology. "The test flight was aimed at validating various design and technical parameters of the weapon system," it said.
Importantly the Ababeel is capable of carrying nuclear warheads and has the capability to engage multiple targets with high precision, defeating hostile radars, the ISPR elaborated.
"The development of the Ababeel weapon system was aimed at ensuring survivability of Pakistan's ballistic missiles in the growing regional Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) environment," read the press release issued in 2017. No such clarification has been given after the current test.
It is believed that while the claims were made of 2200 kms for the first test, the distance fell well short thus the aim would have been only to evaluate other aspects of the missile’s design.
It is unclear if the Ababeel’s purported MIRV technology was employed during the first or the second test but by calling it a system – the ISPR is attempting to convey it is more than a single missile and thus designed to overcome India’s Ballistic Missile Defence [BMD] system.
India BMD system
India has recently announced that the country has successfully conducted sea based BMD implying that a land based system is effective and deployed, which needs confirmation.
In a Ministry of Defence Press release it was stated that the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Navy successfully conducted a maiden flight trial of sea-based endo-atmospheric interceptor missile off the coast of Odisha in the Bay of Bengal on April 21, 2023. The purpose of the trial was to engage and neutralize a hostile ballistic missile threat thereby elevating India into the elite club of Nations having Naval BMD capability as per the release.
DRDO has successfully demonstrated land-based BMD system with capability to neutralize ballistic missile threats, emerging from adversaries but the deployment of the system needs confirmation.
Pre-emptively Pakistan is developing the Ababeel claiming it to be a MIRV system, however detailed analysis of the same will have to be carried out to assess the effectiveness.