North Korea's No Dong medium range missile renamed as Ghauri in Pakistan

An amusing op-ed appeared in a Pakistani news website gloating over DRDO's failed nuclear capable Agni-III missile test on 30th December, 2019.

by GHK

Excerpts From The Article

The author states in the report, that an initial investigation points to a ‘manufacturing defect’ in the missile. If true, it is another setback for the Narendra Modi-led ‘Made in India’ initiative. Weapon systems produced in India usually suffer from low workmanship and suffer from poor maintenance standards prevalent across the Indian military.

This is not the first time that Indian missile tests have suffered catastrophes. In 2009, the variants of the missile system, Agni-I and Agni-II failed to deliver results during trails. The Indian Army and its projectile attempts were left embarrassed once again the other day. This time, due to a failed attempt of a night test for the Agni-III missile.

The missile proclaimed to be rocking nuclear capability, shambolically fell in the Odisha sea after the test failed. India considers the Agni-III missile as one of its most prized possessions. The team of the Agni-III had to eat a humble pie yet again.

Instead of reaching its target altitude and the correct pathway, the Agni-III deviated from its flight and went rogue. The team then had to terminate the missile as it fell in the Odisha sea. Embarrassingly for India, the missile was inducted in the arsenal in 2011. However, it has failed a ‘basic’ night test 8 years later.

Supposedly, the Agni-III missile has the capability of carrying 1.5 tonnes of nuclear/non-nuclear warheads, which is enough to destroy a whole city. Indian defence planers are aghast that given the Pak-India hostilities, if India had gone to war with Pakistan, and used the Agni-III missile; instead of hitting the enemy, the Agni-III with ‘nuclear capability’ would have fallen somewhere in India only. This incident comes off as a stark reality check for India, and it will have to check its jingoism.

Ballistic Charade

Unlike India’s indigenous ballistic missile development effort, Pakistan preferred to embark on a path that was predicated on acquiring missile technology from proliferating countries like North Korea and China. The Pakistani Ballistic missile program has however not been fully successfully in absorbing the technology it received from foreign sources. An analysis of a possibly failed tests from late January 2018 reveals that not all is well with Pakistan’s solid-fuelled nuclear-capable ballistic missiles. But first, a brief history writes Riffath Kazi in DDR.

From North Korea, Pakistan obtained the 1,200-1,400 km range Soviet era Scud missile derived No Dong missile. The No Dong is a liquid propelled missile and Pakistani specialists received training in assembly and launch preparation operations for the same along with the transfer. More importantly, they may have received Reentry Vehicle (RV) technology as part of the deal. The No Dong was renamed as Ghauri in Pakistan.

Pakistan had some prior experience with solid propellant rockets based on the sounding rocket technology obtained by SUPARCO from France in the 1960s. Despite the No Dong acquisition, the advantages of using solid propellant systems for missile application have long been evident to Pakistan and in the mid 1990s itself Pakistan had managed to import M-11 missiles while receiving alongside the technology as well as equipment and facilities necessary for taking up in house production of the same. The Pakistani nomenclature for this missile i.e. the M-11 is Ghaznavi/Hatf-3. It is speculated that China may have also supplied Pakistan with some units of the longer range M-9 missiles, based on which the Pakistanis developed the Shaheen-1/Hatf-4. Using a mix of Chinese know-how and their own efforts, Pakistan has since developed newer classes of Shaheen missiles of varying ranges.

Be that as it may, in January 2018, it appeared that Pakistan was planning to carry out a test as can be inferred from the NOTAM issued by the Pakistan Navy on 25 January 2018 to test fire a Shaheen-3 missile.

Normally, there is wide media coverage of a successful launch with ISPR as well Pakistan’s general media extensively reporting the event. In this instance however, there was a total absence of any coverage related to a successful launch during any of the launch window dates. Typically, after every successful launch by Pakistan, ISPR issues a press release to announce the same. The press release also typically names the dignitaries who may have been present for the launch besides providing an image of the missile in flight and a statement referring to the missile being nuclear capable. The press release as well as flight video is shared with the press. So the total silence during this instance i.e. the late January 2018 Shaheen-3 test throws the field open to speculation that the launch took place and was not successful.

What is more revealing is that even after a lapse of several months since the last launch window, flight testing of Shaheen-3 or any other Pakistani Medium Range Ballistic Missile (MRBM) had not taken place and this may be indicative of a problem with the Shaheen series of missiles itself. It may be noted that even in the past there have been developmental issues with the Shaheen class of missiles. Four tests of the Shaheen-2 were reported between 2004 and 2007 after which there was a lull for six and half years. Such long absence of testing of a crucial missile system can only be attributed to technical problems.

Musharraf's Kargil Blunder

On another note, a retired Pakistani nuclear scientist had claimed that former Pakistani despot Pervez Musharraf’s 1999 military adventurism in the Kargil region failed in part because the North Korea-aided, nuclear-capable Ghauri missiles he wanted to deploy then had a faulty guidance system  which was reported by Japan Times.

Musharraf wanted to deploy the Ghauri missiles, but air went out of his balloon when the top general in charge of the missile program told him the missile had a faulty guidance system. Over a year earlier, on April 6, 1998, Pakistan had carried out what it described as a successful first test of the intermediate-range ballistic missile, developed by Khan Research Laboratory with North Korean assistance. Even Musharraf, who witnessed that Ghauri launch as a local corps commander, had been led to believe it was a success then.

The truth, is that the ballistic missile failed to reach its predesignated impact point in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Baluchistan and its debris could not be found — something that would have undermined the missile’s deterrent effect if it were made public.

Military experts and strategists have pondered why Musharraf, immediately after he became chief of the army staff in October 1998, began planning the ill-fated Kargil incursions even though he knew his beleaguered country could not prevail in an all-out conventional war with India. The untold story, is that, Musharraf was unaware of the Ghauri missile’s faulty guidance system even as he oversaw the covert occupation by Pakistan troops. Musharraf only learned the truth in March 1999 from Lt. Gen. Zulfikar Khan, who then commanded the army’s Combat Division.

Musharraf then ordered another Ghauri test, which took place on April 14, 1999, just three days after India tested its Agni-2 IRBM and several weeks before India detected the extent of the Pakistani side’s penetration in Kargil. But this test also failed, with the missile overflying its target and falling across the border in the Sistan region of southeastern Iran, the scientist said. It, too, was publicly declared a success by ISPR. Musharraf, wanted to return the Nodong missiles to North Korea, from which it had imported 40 in knocked down condition in the mid-1990s, however that wasn't be a viable option. But then the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission undertook to replace the guidance with that of the country’s Chinese-aided Shaheen missile. The "improved" version of Ghauri was test-fired and the government — true to form — the ever lying ISPR declared it a success. Soon afterwards, however, it was found to have exploded in midair and rained metal debris over parts of Sindh Province.


This chicanery by ISPR proves that the Pakistan's ballistic missile program is in sheer jeopardy. IDN hasn't encountered any instance of ISPR admitting to a missile test failure. Strangely, over the years Pakistan has been testing their missile over highly populated demographic areas, and in a case of failure it would prove devastating for both its people and property. This apparently proves that Pakistan have been testing proven missile sourced from missile proliferating nations.


India's strength lies in its extensive testing of its missile systems and sub-systems on a periodic basis to ensure quality and reliability. This in the long run will ensure a robust payload delivery system in the case of any national security adversity. Success and failures are part and parcel of perfecting extremely complex technologies. All is not lost with just one failure. When you fail, it is an awful feeling at first, but trust that if you give up, nothing good will come from that. We shouldn't be ashamed of our failures but continue in our quest towards perfection. Unlike Pakistan, which is a theocratic state, India is a vibrant, impartial, rule-of-law bound nation with strong democratic credentials. The govt is answerable to its people. Let the ignorant and the imbeciles be hard on our failures, as they are blinded by inner hate, religious fanaticism and abject humiliation. Pakistan, is often like the spectators in the Roman Colosseum who love to do nothing more than cheer or boo the life and death struggles of others.

After Thought

A story goes that this fellow Sultan M Hali (the author) had a pleasantly entertaining reputation among our former Gnat fighter pilots. During a 1971 encounter, this "pilot" was hounded by our Gnat pilots during a dogfight, deliberately playing ball with him in the air with his "mighty" F-86 Sabre , but before the kill he scampered off with his jet like a coward that he is. That everlasting humiliation is what makes this fellow take on India so vehemently.

GHK is a software engineer who tracks military and aerospace issues closely