Pakistan, one of the world’s poorest countries, embarked on its nuclear weapons program with the help of China. Today, it is considered a de facto nuclear state outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. According to the recent report titled the ‘2023 Pakistan Nuclear Handbook’, Pakistan is estimated to possess approximately 170 nuclear warheads.
Commercially available satellite imagery reveals the expansion of army garrisons, air force bases, and the production of fissile material in Pakistan. The nation’s nuclear posture seems to prioritize the use of tactical nuclear weapons at the onset of a conflict, while India focuses on a more traditional nuclear triad. Both countries are increasing their nuclear readiness and developing systems that emphasize rapid launch, raising concerns about the stability in the region.
Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Khalid Kidwai explained Pakistan’s doctrine of “full spectrum deterrence,” which includes strategic, operational, and tactical capabilities with a nuclear triad based on land, air, and sea. The country’s fissile material production facilities at Kahuta and Gadwal are nearing completion, while four heavy-water plutonium production reactors have been newly constructed at the Khushab complex. Expansion has also been observed at reprocessing plants in Nilore and the Chashma complex.
Pakistan has been expanding its missile development and testing capabilities in the Kala Chitta Dahr mountain range, deploying road-mobile transporter erector launchers in the eastern section. Satellite images show the presence of TEL chassis for various ballistic and cruise missiles.
Limited public information is available about warhead production, but experts suspect the Pakistan Ordnance Factories near Islamabad play a significant role. Additionally, Pakistan’s Mirage III and Mirage V fighter squadrons, located at Masroor Air Base and Rafiqui Air Base, are believed to have a potential role in nuclear deployment.
It is important to note that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program has been developed outside the NPT framework and relies on a philosophy of acquiring technology through various means. The growing nuclear capabilities and the complex geopolitical situation in South Asia raise concerns about the future of strategic stability in the region.