The second test-firing of Pakistan’s Hatf-VII or Babur Land Attack Cruise Missile (LACM) on March 22, a day before Pakistan Day celebrations, has been underplayed by New Delhi because the Indian media has missed its import: it gives Pakistan the first strike counterforce capability, as well as ability for precision depth targeting with conventional warheads. Let us explain what it means. Babur is a terrain-hugging cruise missile with enormous radar evasion capability, has a good navigation and guidance system, is highly manoeuvrable, and is a cost-effective and reliable nuclear delivery weapon system. With an enhanced range of 700km most of India’s Agni deployment sites will be within Babur’s range. This will make Babur well-suited for counterforce targeting to hit India’s ballistic missiles with low yield nuclear warheads before they are launched. In essence, most of Pakistan’s ballistic missiles could be retained for second- strike capability.
Therefore, while Pakistan has not declared a no-first use nuclear policy, Babur used along with ballistic missiles will give Pakistan both the first use counterforce and second strike capabilities. Regarding the conventional role, Babur is understood to provide a Circular Error Probability (CEP) of 20 metres unlike Pakistan’s ballistic missiles with CEP of 200 metres. Babur is believed to be extremely accurate. Its on-board Inertial Navigation System (INS) with the help from the GPS continuously measures the movement, speed and position of the missile. It is equipped with a precision guidance system that allows the missile to hit small targets. Co-ordinates are fed into it before launch and it flies to the target by following GPS waypoints. This makes Babur a good weapon system for accurate land-based depth firepower. Therefore, this LACM will be employed as a precision guided munitions (PGM) for pinpoint targeting for destruction of India’s vital points, bridges in depth and so on. Ballistic missiles used with conventional warheads will at best be weapons for harassment and psychological pressure. It is estimated that Pakistan will retain Babur in the ratio of 3:1 for the two roles; three for precision strikes with conventional warheads and one for nuclear weapons delivery.