S-3/Arighat SSBN (above) was launched on on November 19, 2017.
Information on the above-shown vessel can be obtained here: http://trishul-trident.blogspot.com/2017/07/drdo-owned-navy-operated-mris-vessels.html
Civil engineering work on NAOB (above) began in 2011 and thus far the construction of underground SSBN parking pens have been completed, while work continues on the construction of SLBM storage-cum-loading/unloading facilities.
Zeeshan Rafiq joined the Pakistan Navy as a lieutenant in 2008. He first went to sea two years later, as part of Combined Task Force 150, a 25-nation sea patrol operation that deployed ships from Karachi into the Arabian Sea on counterterrorism and antipiracy missions. The coalition’s participants included Pakistan, the United States, and NATO navies. Rafiq chose his country’s navy after “listening to patriotic songs,” and he was motivated to serve. But after a few years, he came to think that the Pakistani military had become “the right hand of these infidel forces” and that his country’s generals and admirals “follow American diktats. One signal from America and the entire Pakistan Army prostrates before them,” he reflected. Rafiq once watched an American soldier board a Pakistan Navy ship. Everyone addressed him as “sir” and he was accorded the protocol of an officer even though he was just an enlisted man. In the war between the Muslim faithful and the infidels, Rafiq wondered, “Which side is Pakistan’s army on?” The generals who ran his country assisted in the “carpet bombing” of Afghanistan. They turned air bases over to the CIA for drone attacks against Muslims. Rafiq read Inspire, Anwar Al-Awlaki’s English-language Internet magazine. He studied the biographies of Faisal Shahzad, the would-be Times Square bomber, and Nidal Hasan, the Major who went on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas. He wanted to do something to remind “mujahids around the world” that it was important to “break the grip of infidels over our seas.”
Rafiq discovered that another serving Pakistan Navy Lieutenant based in Karachi, Owais Jakhrani, who was from Baluchistan, felt similarly. Jakhrani’s father was a senior Police officer. The son nonetheless came to believe that his country had become a slave state of America. Jakhrani’s radicalization manifested itself as complaints to navy officers that the service was insufficiently Islamic; an internal investigation of him led to his dismissal. Sometime during 2014, Jakhrani and Rafiq made contact with Al Qaeda in Waziristan. After Osama Bin Laden’s death, his longtime Egyptian deputy, Ayman Al Zawahiri, succeeded him. Zawahiri issued occasional pronouncements but kept a low profile, to avoid Bin Laden’s fate. Al Qaeda’s local network increasingly consisted of Pakistani militants who had drifted toward the organization and its brand name from other violent groups based in Punjab and Kashmir. One of the leaders of this less Arab, more subcontinent-focused Al Qaeda fought under the name Asim Umar. His real name, according to the investigations of Indian intelligence agencies, was Asim Sanaullah Haq, originally an Indian citizen in the state of Uttar Pradesh. He left there in the mid-1990s and ended up in Pakistan, where he joined Harkat-ul-Mujaheddin before moving toward Al Qaeda. During 2014, Rafiq and Jakhrani met him and explained that they could mobilize a sizable group of sympathizers and seize control of a Pakistan Navy warship, and then use it to attack the enemies of Islam.
The Pakistan Navy was not merely a conventional surface fleet; it was part of the country’s systems of nuclear deterrence. In 2012, Pakistan launched a Naval Strategic Forces Command, meaning a command focused on the deployment of nuclear weapons at sea. The country’s military leadership sought to develop a nuclear “triad,” akin to that deployed by the United States: that is, systems that would allow the firing of nuclear arms from aircraft, from land bases, or from the sea. The advantage of a triad is that it makes it difficult for an adversary that also has nuclear arms to launch a preemptive strike, because at least some of the targeted country’s dispersed nukes and delivery systems would likely survive and could be used in retaliation. While developing their triads, the United States, Russia, Britain, and France placed special emphasis on submarines armed with nuclear missiles because these stealthy undersea vessels would be particularly hard for an enemy to locate and destroy during a first strike. Pakistan had not yet acquired and deployed enough high-quality submarines to place the sea leg of its nuclear triad only with those vessels. Analysts assumed that Pakistan would also consider placing nuclear weapons aboard navy ships that carried cruise missiles with enough range to reach India, which of course was by far the most likely adversary to enter into a nuclear war with Pakistan.
PNS Zulfiquar, a China-built seven-storey guided-missile frigate, which typically had 250 to 300 sailors and officers on board, was one such warship. On December 19 and 21, 2012, the frigate reportedly test-fired China-made C-802A anti-ship cruise missiles, which have a range of about 180km. The C-802As can fly as low as 25 metres above the surface of the ocean, making them difficult to detect by radar. The missiles can also be fitted with a small nuclear warhead with a yield of two to four kilotons, or about 15 to 25 percent of the explosive force of the atomic bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945. Around the time that it launched its Naval Strategic Forces Command, Pakistan also accelerated its development of small, or “tactical,” nuclear weapons like the ones that might fit on C-802A missiles. During the first decade after the invention of the atomic bomb, the United States, too, had built and deployed small nuclear bombs that could be dropped from planes or even fired from special artillery guns. The United States sent the small bombs to Europe and planned to use them on the battlefield against Soviet troops and tanks if a land war erupted across the Iron Curtain. It was only later in the Cold War that the idea of using atomic bombs on a battlefield as if they were just a more potent artillery shell became anathema in most nuclear strategy circles. Nuclear deterrence between the United States and the Soviet Union evolved into an all-or-nothing proposition under the rubric of Mutually Assured Destruction, or MAD. At the peak of MAD, each side had more than 20,000 nuclear bombs that were so powerful that any full-on nuclear exchange would have ended human civilization. The effects of nuclear war became so dramatic and unthinkable that it made such a war—or any conventional war that might go nuclear—less likely. That was the theory, at least.
India and Pakistan tested nuclear weapons in May 1998. As their version of mutual nuclear deterrence evolved, it displayed some parallels to the position of the United States in Europe during the 1950s. The United States feared a massive conventional blitzkrieg by Soviet forces and saw small nuclear weapons as a way to counter such an invasion. In South Asia, a similar factor was Pakistan’s fear of a conventional armoured invasion by India. Because India has a much larger military than Pakistan, as well as a larger economy and population, it might be expected to prevail in a long war. Pakistan acquired nuclear warheads to deter India from considering a conventional tank-and-infantry invasion, no matter how provoked India might feel from time to time by Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. For this defence to work, Pakistani Generals had to plant doubt in the minds of Indian leaders about whether the Generals were really rash enough to be the first to use nuclear weapons in anger since 1945. The development of small or tactical nuclear weapons aided Pakistan in this respect. Small atomic bombs might be dropped on a desert battlefield against Indian troops, away from population centers. Or they might be fired on cruise missiles against an isolated Indian military base. The use of even a small nuclear weapon on a battlefield would likely shock the world and provoke international intervention to end the war, perhaps before India could achieve its war aims. Overall, the existence and deployment of small nukes by Pakistan made it more likely that its Generals would actually use them, which in turn deepened doubts in the minds of Indian leaders about how costly a war with Pakistan might become. That is, in Pakistan’s twisted and dangerous logic, small nuclear weapons strengthened deterrence. Yet there were obvious downsides. One was that building and spreading out so many small, loose bombs exacerbated the threat that terrorists might try to steal them—or might come across them inadvertently.
Lieutenant Zeeshan Rafiq and former Lieutenant Owais Jakhrani knew all about the PNS Zulfiquar’s internal security systems. After they made contact with Al Qaeda in 2014, they developed elaborate plans, seemingly derived from Hollywood thrillers, to defeat that security in order to seize control of the warship and its weapons, including its 76mm gun and its C-802A missiles. One part of their plan was to exploit “a particular weakness of the security system,” as Rafiq put it, namely, that “the lockers and rooms of officers are not checked.” Rafiq and other officers successfully smuggled weapons aboard the PNS Zulfiquar “in batches, in their backpacks,” and stowed them in lockers. The next part of their plan was to make duplicate keys to the doors of the operations room (CIC) and the naval gunnery compartment “so that these rooms could be accessed without the knowledge” of the ship’s commanding officers. Here, too, the insider knowledge of the two Lieutenants offered an advantage. They planned to sneak into the magazine room of the 76mm gun to load its shells before they moved to seize control of the warship. They also understood that it was possible to prime and operate both the gun and the C-802As outside of the main operations room, in an alternate area below, on the second deck. The C-802As could be operated manually from the second deck when the missiles’ automated system was off—with their duplicate keys, they could accomplish this.
The conspirators also scoped out the armed security guards they expected to find on the PNS Zulfiquar. These were elite commandos from the Naval Special Service Group. There were typically five Pakistani commandos aboard when the frigate sailed to join NATO for operations of Combined Task Force 150. The commandos were deployed in part to protect the warship in case Somali or other pirates attacked. Rafiq, Jakhrani, and their co-conspirators devised a plan to kill them or hold them at bay. First, they would bring two dozen or so co-conspirators aboard—some after the warship was at sea. They would try to avoid any confrontation with the crew as the PNS Zulfiquar sailed toward American and other vessels operating in the coalition. Their target was the USS Supply, a lightly defended American supply and refuelling vessel. According to Rafiq, the American logistics ship’s defence was assigned to a US Navy frigate that always shadowed it, no more than a few miles away. When the PNS Zulfiquar got close, they would use their duplicate keys to arm and fire its big artillery gun and its cruise missiles, to “secretly attack the US warship,” as one of the conspirators put it, before the Pakistani crew aboard realized what was happening. They would use the 76mm gun to “destroy” USS Supply and then turn the C-802As on whatever American warship came to its defence. After they launched their attack on the US Navy, they expected the crew of the PNS Zulfiquar to try to stop them, but “since it doesn’t take much time to fire missiles” they would already have done a lot of damage. At that point, they planned to defend the frigate’s armoury so the Pakistani crew could not arm themselves. They also would lock all the doors and hatches between the second and third decks, to barricade themselves below. They would take the frigate’s commanding officer as a hostage and force him to order the crew to abandon ship, by donning life jackets and jumping into the sea. Once in full control of the PNS Zulfiquar, the conspirators planned to use all of the frigate’s weapons—the 76mm gun, “torpedoes, anti-aircraft gun, and C-802As” to attack “any US Navy ship.” They would continue to fight until “the PNS Zulfiquar was destroyed” or until the mutineers themselves were “killed in action.” They hoped to use the ship’s communication systems to reach “the media and tell the world about this entire operation.”
Early in September 2014, Al Qaeda publicly announced a new branch, Al Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent, under the leadership of Asim Umar, the Indian from Uttar Pradesh. Al Qaeda’s leaders explained that they had worked for some time to recruit and unite militants from disparate Pakistani groups. The announcement seemed designed to provide Al Qaeda with new visibility and relevance at a time when the Islamic State had risen to prominence in Syria and Iraq and had started to recruit local allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan. An Al Qaeda member, Hasan Yusuf, explained that the group’s main motivation in forming the new branch came “in the wake of the American defeat and withdrawal from Afghanistan. . . . This jihad will not end; America’s defeat is only the prelude.” A withdrawal that was seen in Washington as an intelligent winding down of an unsustainable war was inevitably understood by jihadists worldwide as a historic victory and a source of new momentum. On September 6, 2014, in Karachi, at dawn, Rafiq and Jakhrani boarded the PNS Zulfiquar in navy uniforms, with their service cards displayed. A number of co-conspirators, in marine uniforms, approached through the harbour in a dinghy. An alert Pakistan Navy gunner noticed that the “Marines” were carrying AK-47s, which are not normally issued in the Navy. He fired a warning shot. A full-on gun battle erupted. SSG commandos on-board joined the fray to defend the warship. When it was over, by one count, eleven attackers died, including Rafiq and Jakhrani. They never had a chance to access the weapons they had smuggled on board or to use the duplicate keys they had made to the C-802A missile room.
The Pakistani defence of the PNS Zulfiquar was professional and successful. Yet there was a disturbing postscript to Al Qaeda’s strike. About six weeks after the attack, India’s principal external intelligence service, the Research and Analysis Wing (R & AW), citing agent reporting from Karachi, informed India’s national security adviser Ajit Doval that a nuclear warhead had been on board the PNS Zulfiquar at the time of the attack. If their plan had succeeded, Rafiq and Jakhrani would have had more on their hands than they expected, by this account. It is possible that India put a false story out to stir up global alarm about terrorism and nuclear security in Pakistan. Yet if the Indian report is accurate, September 6, 2014, would mark the first known armed terrorist attack in history against a facility holding nuclear weapons. Judging by Pakistan’s trajectory, it is unlikely to be the last.