What is Ababeel Weapon System of Pakistan and why India fears it the most?

What is Ababeel Weapon System of Pakistan and why India fears it the most?

The Ababeel marks a significant development in Pakistan's missile capabilities. It is the country's first medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) designed for surface-to-surface use. One of its distinguishing features is the reported capacity to carry Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicles (MIRVs). The unveiling of this three-stage, solid-fuel missile took place during a test conducted on January 24, 2017.

The Ababeel's developmental timeline likely began in the mid to late 2000s. Its fundamental design shares similarities with other solid-fuel MRBMs in Pakistan's arsenal, such as the Shaheen II and Shaheen III, as well as China's CSS-7 SRBM. In 2010, reports surfaced about Pakistani engineers, with Chinese assistance, making advances in MIRV technology. MIRV technology allows a single missile to carry multiple warheads, each individually programmed to target different objectives.

The sole known flight test of the Ababeel took place on January 24, 2017, when it was launched from a site in Winder, Pakistan's southern coast. The test's flight range fell significantly short of the missile's reported maximum range of 2,200 km. This discrepancy suggests that the test might have aimed at assessing other aspects of the missile's design, rather than reaching its maximum range. Pakistan's Inter Services Public Relations office emphasized that the test was intended to validate various design and technical parameters.

The Ababeel is a three-stage, solid-fuel MRBM with a reported maximum range of 2,200 km. The missile's exact length is unknown, but the swollen nose cone section is estimated to be 1.7 meters in diameter. The claim that the Ababeel employs MIRV technology remains unverified and a subject of debate. Reports suggest that the missile can be equipped with both nuclear and conventional warheads.

There are doubts regarding Pakistan's ability to successfully implement MIRV technology. Miniaturizing MIRV warheads is a challenging task, and it is unclear if Pakistan has developed a small enough nuclear warhead for MIRV application. Additionally, the development of a Post-Boost Control Vehicle or 'bus' involves intricate engineering processes, and it's uncertain if Pakistan possesses the required expertise and infrastructure.

Nevertheless, Pakistan has demonstrated proficiency in certain MIRV-related technologies, including the use of small, liquid-fueled retrograde stabilizing rockets for a post-separation attitude control system (PSAC). If Pakistan overcame these challenges, it likely received foreign support, with suspicions pointing to China.

The introduction of MIRV technology in the region has significant implications. It may contribute to regional security instability, as it indicates an arms race between India and Pakistan. Pakistan's development of MIRV-capable missiles is aimed at enhancing the survivability of its ballistic missiles in the face of growing regional Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) systems. This development adds complexity to the security dynamics in Southern Asia.