Ghauri Missile : What Variant Is It Anyway?

11 May, 1998    ·   90

Ashutosh Misra inquires the origin of Ghauri Missile

Ever since the Pakistani government announced in April its having conducted a test of the "Ghauri" missile, 5th in the Hatf series, the debate is not so much on its lethality as its origins. In India , various theories have been floated in this regard. Pakistan claims it is indigenously developed but there are two schools of thought in India . One, attributing its lineage to China , and the other to North Korea .



According to Jasjit Singh of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses, "Ghauri is a CSS-5, a highly accurate weapon, which the Chinese themselves stopped producing some years ago but which has now made its appearance in Pakistan . Nobody had heard of Pakistan developing a missile with a 1500 km range. Its pedigree is not certain. It is not indigenous. That is certain." Singh's argument is strengthened by the fact that China supplied the M-11 (the so called, Hatf- 3) missile variant to Pakistan . It is well known that 50 km west of Islamabad a factory built with Chinese assistance at Fatehjung is said to have manufactured the guidance and control system and solid fuel for the M-11 (Hatf-3) missile variant.



The second school of thought is represented by the analysis conducted by S. Chandrasekhar, a former scientist at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), and now a faculty member at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore . Chandrasekhar attributes Ghauri's origin to North Korea . He claims that it is a version of the Nodong I missile. Chandrashekhar has gone into the technicalities of the missile and investigated Dawn's report that the missile weighed 16 tonnes, of which 13 tonnes was fuel. Dawn also reported that Ghauri had a one tonne warhead. Chandrasekhar argues that a solid propellant missile with these characteristics would not give Ghauri a 1500 km range. "If Ghauri, like Nodong, had a Scud lineage or four Scud engines clustered together, then it could be using a propellant combination of UDMH (unsymmetrical dimethyl hydrazine) and nitric acid, which would give around 235 seconds impulse", he adds. Therefore, the missile could not go beyond 950 km. For Chandrashekhar, Ghauri is a single-stage liquid fuel propelled vehicle.



Ballistic missiles can use solid or liquid fuel. They are capable of carrying payloads, including warheads, nuclear or conventional. There is a shielding mechanism which protects the missiles from catching fire due to friction, once it re-enters the atmosphere. To develop "rocket motor casing" is simple, but fuel technology is more difficult. A liquid fuel propelled missile is much easier to make than solid fuel propelled ones. Developing the guidance for "area" targets (cities, large facilities) does not require as much expertise as for "point" targets. Above all, missiles meant for mobile or relocatable targets are the most demanding in technological terms.



A comparison of the Ghauri missile with its Chinese and North Korean variants reveals that "considering the primary features such as their range, the L/D (Length to Diameter) ratio, lift-off and propellant ratio and propellants employed, it does not belong to the Chinese category of missiles", reports The Hindu.



A comparison with the Nodong I shows some close similarities. The Centre for Defence and International Security Studies (CDISS), UK , puts the propellant loading of Nodong I at 16 tonnes, more than that for Ghauri, since the Nodong I is said to use a cluster of four Scud engines. The Nodong's propellant loading appears to have been derived by multiplying the propellant loading for each Scud (4 tonnes) by four. Further analysis shows that "it would not be possible to load 16 tonnes of propellant into Nodong I and that its propellant loading is probably 13-14 tonnes, similar to that for Ghauri", according to Chandrasekhar.



CDISS observes that the export must have taken place last August when the United States had applied sanctions against two North Korean companies for missile technology proliferation activities. Though no recipient country was mentioned, yet logically speaking, if it were Iran , Libya or Syria (the other three suspected recipients) the US would have revealed their names publicly. It should be noted that since production and assimilation, even after receiving the technology, takes six to eight years or more, Pakistan must have asked for an entire missile manufacturing facility to be set up so that it could produce and deploy the missiles within a shorter period.



Whether the transfer constitutes an MTCR violation, and whether Ghauri has a 1500 km range with a 700 kg payload, and has been built indigenously, are matters that analysts want answers to. In the meantime, what is important is that India will have to compete with the missile technologies of China and North Korea . Sooner or later, the transfer of missiles to Pakistan would erode India 's technological superiority vis-a-vis the former.