| The Babur missile being test-fired on Thursday. (AFP)
Islamabad, Aug. 11: In a show of pre-Independence Day one-upmanship, Pakistan today test-fired its first ground-launched, nuclear-capable cruise missile with its President touting it as far better than India’s Brahmos.
Pakistan is proud of the Babur (Hatf VII) missile, which leaves Brahmos far behind in range and other capabilities, General Pervez Musharraf, who celebrated his 62nd birthday today with his family and close friends, told reporters.
“In quality, it (Babur) is far better. Brahmos has a range of 290-300 kilometres while ' Babur can hit a target up to 500 kilometres,” Musharraf said.
“There was talk of India getting Patriot missiles (from the US) and there was a feeling that there was an imbalance'. Let me say this improves the balance. Whatever balance existed, it further improves the balance. So that is the significance of the Babur missile that we fired.”
An official statement described Babur as a terrain-hugging missile with the “most advanced and modern” navigation and guidance system and “high degree” of manoeuvrability”.
“No defence system or a radar can detect Babur,” which can also be launched from ships, submarines and aircraft, the statement said.
“Pakistan has joined a select group of countries which have the capability to design and develop cruise missiles.”
The Brahmos cruise missile, being developed in India with Russian help, can be launched from land or ships and efforts are on for aircraft-launched and submarine-launched versions. The problem is that it has to be launched vertically, which aircraft and submarines don’t allow.
The test-firing of Babur comes days after Pakistan and India agreed to notify each other before conducting missile tests.
Pakistan army spokesman, Major-General Shaukat Sultan, however, said Delhi was not told about today’s test because the accord covered only ballistic missiles while Babur is a cruise missile.
“We don’t have to inform neighbouring countries ' it doesn’t fall under the agreement,” he said. Indian officials confirmed this.
A cruise missile, such as America’s Tomahawk, can be guided to a target and theoretically made to change trajectory mid-course.
A ballistic missile follows a prescribed course that cannot be changed to any great extent after it has been fired and the fuel has expired. But it can have a much longer range than a cruise missile.
Typically, a ballistic missile for a long range will have to be launched high, maybe even into space, to cover the maximum distance.
This is Pakistan’s second missile test in five months. In March, it test-fired Hatf VI or Shaheen, which can hit targets up to 2,000 km away while carrying all types of warheads. Hatf III (Ghaznavi), Hatf V (Ghauri) and Hatf IV (Shaheen I) have already been handed over to the army’s Strategic Force Command.
Islamabad has been test-firing various versions of short- and medium-range delivery systems since April 1998, when it first tested the Ghauri I intermediate-range missile. It can hit targets as far away as 1,500 km and is capable of carrying nuclear and conventional warheads.