Pakistan’s Nuclear Capable Missiles

Pakistan has an extensive nuclear-capable ballistic missile program, as the April 1998 test-firing of the Ghauri missile illustrates. The program is almost entirely imported, despite official Pakistani claims to the contrary. Most recently, Pakistan has received assistance from the People’s Republic of China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Pakistan’s limited scientific and industrial base has forced it to rely on continuous outside help. Pakistan possesses both the 300 km M-11 (Hatf III) missile acquired from China and the 1000 km Nodong (Ghauri) missile bought from North Korea. Pakistan has also imported plants to manufacture these missiles.

Pakistan’s missile program is important for two reasons. First, Pakistan is a nuclear weapon state. Missiles give Pakistan the means to deliver its nuclear warheads farther and with more certainty than it could with aircraft. Second, the May nuclear weapons tests of both Pakistan and India illustrate the high tensions and spiraling arms race in South Asia. Ballistic missiles, which shorten warning times, increase the chances of accidental or preemptive nuclear conflict.


The most recent development in Pakistan’s ballistic missile program was the flight testing of the Ghauri (Hatf-V) missile in April 1998. The Ghauri is liquid-fueled and is Pakistan’s imported version of the North Korean Nodong, itself a fancy Scud. Official Pakistani statements claim the missile has a maximum range of 1500 km carrying a 700 kg payload, but analysis by the U.S. Department of Defense of the Nodong puts the range closer to 1000 km. According to Dr. A. Q. Khan, who is credited with being the father of Pakistan’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, the Ghauri flew 1100 km in its flight-test in April, supporting the Pentagon’s analysis. Press reports put the tested range as being between 700 km and 1200 km.

The Ghauri is reported to have a relatively large diameter – 1.25 m. Pakistan is capable of producing nuclear warheads approximately the size of a soccer ball and weighing 400 kg, a size which would easily fit on a 1.25 m missile. Dr. Khan claims the Ghauri is now “fully operational.” And when asked if Pakistan is now capable of deploying nuclear weapons, he replied, “No doubt about it, one should not be under any illusions.” He said it could be done within “not months, not weeks, but within days.”

North Korea has been an important missile partner for Pakistan. North Korea admitted publicly in June 1998 that it is developing and exporting ballistic missiles to make money, though it did not specify to whom. The Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States , led by the Honorable Donald Rumsfeld (Rumsfeld Commission), believes that in addition to supplying the Nodong, North Korea supplied production facilities for the missile. This enables Pakistan to indigenously produce a fleet of missiles and reduce its dependence on imports.

Intelligence and satellite images reportedly have revealed the delivery of warhead canisters from North Korea to Pakistan’s Kahuta Research Laboratories (KRL) in June 1998 and have disclosed increased activity at KRL’s missile facility, suggesting that production of the Ghauri may be in full swing. And U.S. intelligence has reportedly concluded that Pakistan received a shipment of maraging steel from Russia, useful for missile production, via the North Korean Changgwang Sinyong Corporation (aka North Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation). The United States Department of State imposed sanctions against both Changgwang Sinyong Corp. and KRL for this relationship.

In return for its help as a supplier, North Korea is able to receive performance data from Nodong tests by its customers. North Korea itself has only tested the Nodong once, to a 500 km range. But most important, Pyongyang receives hard currency, meaning that its exports will continue to fuel rogue states’ missile programs.


The Rumsfeld Commission confirmed that complete M-11 missiles were sent to Pakistan from China. Pakistan has reportedly received more than 30 M-11s, which have been observed in boxes at Pakistan’s Sargodha Air Force Base west of Lahore. Intelligence officials believe Chinese M11s have probably been in Pakistan since November 1992, when China was “reconsidering” its stance on missile exports after the sale of U.S. F-16 aircraft to Taiwan. Since then, Pakistan has been constructing maintenance facilities, launchers and storage sheds for the missiles, all with Chinese help. China and Pakistan deny these reports.

Pakistan calls the M-11 the Hatf-III. The missile has a range of more than 300 km and a payload of 500 kg. It is a two-stage, solid-propelled missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads. The missile was reportedly test-fired in July 1997.

China has also been helping Pakistan construct its own facility to produce the M-11. China has provided blueprints and equipment to help build an M-11 factory near Rawalpindi. U.S. intelligence has reportedly been aware of the site since 1995, when construction is said to have begun. The Rumsfeld Commission states that the Pakistani version of the M-11 will be called the Tarmuk. U.S. officials reportedly expect a test-firing of the Tarmuk in the near future.

Other missile developments

According to Samar Mobarik Mand, a scientist at Pakistan’s Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), Pakistan also has a 435 mile nuclear-capable missile ready for a test-launch, the Shaheen-I. Mr. Mand also claims that Pakistan is developing the Shaheen-II, a nuclear-capable missile that will have a range of 1250 miles. U.S. officials, however, say they have no knowledge of any such missile development.

In the future, an even longer-ranged missile is likely, according to the Rumsfeld Commission. The Commission estimates that Pakistan’s current ballistic missile infrastructure “will support development of a missile of 2,500-km range,” which would put all of India within range.

Nuclear-Capable Missiles in Pakistan


  • Range: 80 km
  • Payload: 500 kg
  • Launch Weight: 1500 kg
  • Propulsion: Single-stage, Solid propellant
  • Comments: Mobile platform. Status: flight-tested.

(Tarmuk) (Chinese M-11)

  • Range: 300 km
  • Payload: 500 kg
  • Launch Weight: N/A
  • Propulsion: Two-stage, Solid propellant
  • Comments: Mobile platform. Status: flight-tested.


  • Range: 1000 km
  • Payload: 700 kg
  • Launch Weight: 16,000 kg
  • Propulsion: Single-stage, liquid propellant
  • Comments: Mobile platform. Status: flight-tested.