October 3, 2021

Pakistan Is A Nuclear Rogue State, Part 3: A Numbers Game

Source of image: India Today.

While it is true that there aren't any "loose nukes" in Pakistan as of today, that reality could quickly change tomorrow. 

With the Taliban taking over Afghanistan, Pakistan’s internal stability has come into question. 

The sheer amount of Pakistan’s nukes makes them a vulnerable and attractive target for Islamic terrorists in Pakistan and beyond. 

Or, worse, rogue elements within the Pakistani military could wake up one day and change their allegiance to the Taliban if they believe their military leaders have deviated from Islam. They can jeopardize Pakistan’s nuclear security better than any terrorist group.

So, just how many nuclear weapons does Pakistan possess?

An excerpt from, "Fact Sheet: Pakistan’s Nuclear Inventory" Center For Arms Control And Non-Proliferation, August 29, 2019:

Pakistan is believed to have a stockpile of approximately 160 warheads, making it the 6th largest nuclear arsenal. Pakistan is actively developing nuclear weapons, and experts project that it may have the 5th largest arsenal by 2025 with 220-250 warheads.

It is not just the volume of nukes that makes Pakistan dangerous, it is the fact that it is willing to bring them into play without any moral reservations. 

Whereas more powerful and confident countries recognize that nuclear weapons are a last resort, only to be used in extreme circumstances, if at all, Pakistan’s scared military has threatened to use tactical nukes against India early on in a war. 

An excerpt from, "Nuclear Notebook: How many nuclear weapons does Pakistan have in 2021?" By Hans M. Kristensen and Matt Korda, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, September 7, 2021:

Pakistan is pursuing what it calls a “full spectrum deterrence posture,” which includes long-range missiles and aircraft for strategic missions, as well as several short-range, lower-yield nuclear-capable weapon systems in order to counter military threats below the strategic level. According to former Pakistani officials, this posture––and its particular emphasis on non-strategic nuclear weapons––is specifically intended as a reaction to India’s perceived “Cold Start” doctrine (Kidwai 2020). This alleged doctrine revolves around India maintaining the capability to launch large-scale conventional strikes or incursions against Pakistani territory below the threshold at which Pakistan would retaliate with nuclear weapons.[i]

In 2015, a former member of Pakistan’s National Command Authority, Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Khalid Kidwai, said the NASR short-range weapon specifically “was born out of a compulsion of this thing that I mentioned about some people on the other side toying with the idea of finding space for conventional war, despite Pakistan nuclear weapons.” Pakistan’s understanding of India’s “Cold Start” strategy was, he said, that Delhi envisioned launching quick strikes into Pakistan within two to four days with eight to nine brigades simultaneously (Kidwai 2015). Such an attack force might involve roughly 32,000–36,000 troops. “I strongly believe that by introducing the variety of tactical nuclear weapons in Pakistan’s inventory, and in the strategic stability debate, we have blocked the avenues for serious military operations by the other side,” Kidwai explained (Kidwai 2015).

An excerpt from, "Why Pakistan’s ‘Defensive’ Tactical Nuclear Weapons are So Dangerous" By Kyle Mizokami, The National Interest, April 6, 2021:

Tactical nuclear weapons, also called nonstrategic nuclear weapons, are low-yield (ten kilotons or less) nuclear weapons designed for use on the battlefield. Unlike larger, more powerful strategic nuclear weapons, tactical nuclear weapons are meant to destroy military targets on the battlefield. Tactical nuclear weapons are meant to be used against troop formations, headquarters units, supply dumps, and other high-value targets.

. .  Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, particularly tactical nuclear weapons, are seen as an asymmetric means of offsetting India’s advantage in conventional forces. Even if a Pakistani Army offensive into India fails and the Strike Corps counterattacked, tactical nuclear weapons could blunt their spearheads, ideally halting them in their tracks. 

Pakistan has an unknown number of tactical nuclear weapons, but we can get an idea of how many exist by counting delivery systems. A report by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists claims that the country has approximately 20-30 transporter-erector-launcher (TEL) vehicles designed to carry the NASR/Hatf-9 short-range ballistic missile. The TEL is a four-axle vehicle that can carry two or more NASR missiles. Assuming each TEL is armed with two NASR missiles with a single warhead each, Pakistan has somewhere in the area of 60 tactical nuclear weapons, or approximately one-third of its arsenal.

Title: Pakistani tactical nukes - an analysis. Source: Cybersurg - Shiv's Military Aircraft Channel. Date Posted: October 24, 2015.

Title: India and Pakistan - Do Nuclear Weapons Enhance Security for Nuclear Proliferators? Source: TAUVOD. Date Posted: July 7, 2015.