Prior To May 1998 Nuclear Detonations

By Engr. Mansoor A. Malik

The 1965 Indo-Pak War on the liberation of Kashmir had come to an end with a military and political stalemate. The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) had out performed and out maneuvered the Indian Air Force (IAF), which was three times its size. PAF’s mainstay was an all American fleet consisting of B-57 Bombers, F-86 Sabres, F-104 Star fighters and C-130 Cargo aircraft. The American sanctions at the start of the war hit the operational readiness of PAF the hardest. On the third day of the war, there was no American cartridges left in the stocks to start the engines of B-57 Bombers but innovative and indigenous solutions were improvised by the PAF technicians and apprentice engineers to start them by high pressurized air. The large stocks of post world war two left over British bombs some of which were not qualified on the American aircraft as external carried stores were quickly loaded on locally designed bomb racks and fitted into the C-130 cargo compartment to convert it into B-130 Bombers. The B-130 (nick named for C-130) caused as big a havoc at that time with hundreds of such bombs being dropped on the enemy lines from the air as that of the B-52 Albatross Bombers of to-day.

Air Marshal Nur Khan, who was commanding the PAF in the 1965 War, realized the important role which the technical manpower of the PAF had played to keep the entire American fleet flying under the US sanctioned regime with local solutions and improvisations. He had made up his mind to start the institutionalization of the Self Reliance Programme of the PAF by establishing the state-of-the-art College of Aeronautical Engineering (CAE) by the end of 1965, the only one of its kind in Asia at that time. Within ten years, the CAE graduates were heading the first Indigenous Missile Development Project in Pakistan, were defining the Air Defense Automation Architecture for the PAF and of course, were laying down the foundations of the Aircraft Manufacturing Factories at Kamra. Above all else, when Dr. A. Q. Khan was interviewing and selecting engineers for his Strategic Nuclear Project, some of the brightest CAE graduates were taken in right at the beginning and the rest is history.

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Dr. A.Q. Khan, the father of Pakistan’s Nuclear Bomb, was initially given the M.T. (Mechanical Transport) Yard of one of the PAF Bases in the mid-1970s’ where he set up his first Pilot Project for Technology Demonstration and Proving. Within five years after his first demonstration, he and his team had done the miracle to produce weapons grade material in a small developing country like Pakistan. Very soon the focus shifted towards the Delivery Mechanisms. An Inter-Services Missile Committee was constituted headed by a Vice-Admiral of the Pakistan Navy to start the process of Weapons Delivery Systems. All the members of this committee were convinced that India would go for their second string of Nuclear Detonations after a long gap of more than ten years from their 1974 detonations and to pre-empt it, we have to develop a three-dimensional (Air, Land & Sea) Weapons Delivery Capability. The Air Launch Weapons System, being the most challenging, especially its integration on a bought out foreign aircraft platform, was given an early go-ahead for its operational readiness. To the credit and professional competence of CAE graduates, they achieved this task in the minimum possible time and gave our country the First Strike Capability.  To our surprise, India carried out their second string of nuclear detonations after almost twenty five years from their first ones. By that time we were more than ready to out maneuver and out wit them.

In this lull period, the PAF launched its multi-dimensional core-technologies development/improvement programmes to complement the Strategic Projects at the national level. Large scale Anechoic Chambers, Compact Ranges, Wind Tunnels Upgradation, Multi-dimensional Vibration Tables, Full-scale Environment Testing Facilities and a host of other supporting technologies to help in engineering test and evaluation (ETE) of strategic weapons qualification on an air launch platform were established by PAF engineers. The spin-offs from these in the 1990s’ were the design and development of the Air Launch Cruise Missiles (ALCMs), Un-manned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), Stealth Capabilities, Avionics and Weapons Integration Capacities, Electronic Warfare & Telemetry Equipment and of course the development of a new multi-purpose Fighter Aircraft as a joint venture with our Chinese Friends. In all these projects, hundreds of CAE graduates passionately participated to give Pakistan an edge of at least ten years to our contemporaries in India.

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The delay, though God gifted, was understandable as the ruling Indian National Congress Party, being a Liberal Socialist Progressive Party had given more attention to improve the lot of the poor and drown trodden Indian masses rather than getting into such shenanigans. Although for a while, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in the 1980s’ had grandiose plans for India but he soon became a victim of a Tamil Tiger suicide bomber and did not get enough time to fulfill his dreams. The Indian Political environment in the 1990s’ went through a complete up-heavel and was being radicalized by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with the support of the Hindu Extremists (Hindutva). They had openly announced to go in for Nuclear Detonations in their election campaign to whip up the nationalist feelings under their able and respected leader, Mr. Vajpayee.

The BJP propaganda machine was put in full swing to belittle Pakistan’s Nuclear Programme and convinced some of its die-hard supporters at the global level to call for Pakistan’s bluff. The language used just before, during and after the 11/12 May , 1998 Nuclear Detonations by the Indian Leaders of that time against Pakistan and its capabilities would put any reasonable person to shame. The 1000 years venom against Muslim Rule in India came out in the open through street language used by the BJP leaders. Some of us could not believe our ears to what we were listening by matured and elderly Indian leaders, for in a South Asian context; elders have to maintain a certain level of dignity and forbearance for the younger ones to show respect.

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It was thus left for Pakistan to call the Indian bluff by not only showing our Nuclear Detonation Capabilities which we amicably did on 28 May, 1998 but also demonstrate, a little later, our multi-dimensional Strategic Weapons Delivery Capacity. The Indians had un-necessarily, got the genie out of the bottle and achieved parity with the Pakistanis, one sixth their size, through this strategic blunder of theirs by under estimating Pakistan’s Nuclear Prowess. From now onwards, it would be deceit and deception from the Indians and its cronies to cut Pakistan to size and make it sub-servient to the machinations of Great Power Rivalry in our region. For countering such behind the back attacks, we need to mobilize our mass population who have sacrificed the most in supporting us to develop our Nuclear and Missile capability and in turn it is incumbent on us to use some of these technologies which we have painstakingly developed for Innovation and Economic Growth to create more jobs and spin-off commercially viable companies to compete at the global level. The Economic Century has now started and we need to grasp this opportunity in evolving technology based civil/commercial development in our country as Pakistan has long achieved a Technology Savvy status by being the seventh Nuclear & Missile Capable State.

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