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When a Missile Misfires


Recently, Pakistan said an unarmed Indian missile landed 124 km inside its territory; India acknowledged “technical malfunction led to the accidental firing of a missile”. It is extremely rare for a missile test to go so wrong that it crosses the border and changes track inadvertently.


GS II- Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:
  1. Do India and Pakistan have to inform each other about such tests?
  2. What kind of a missile was it?
  3. Why did Pakistan not bring it down?

Do India and Pakistan have to inform each other about such tests?

  • Under the pre-notification of flight testing of ballistic missiles agreement signed in 2005, each country must provide the other an advance notification on flight test it intends to take for any land or sea launched, suface-to-surface ballistic missile.
  • Before the test, the country must issue Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) or Navigational Warning (NAVAREA) to alert aviation pilots and seafarers, respectively.
  • Also, the testing country must ensure that the launch site is not within 40 km, and the planned impact area is not within 75 km of either the International Boundary (IB) or the Line of Control (LoC).
  • The planned trajectory should not cross the IB or the LoC and must maintain a horizontal distance of at least 40 km from the border.
  • The testing country must notify the other nation “no less than three days in advance of the commencement of a five day launch window within which it intends to undertake flight tests of any land or sea launched, surface-to-surface ballistic missile”.
  • The pre-notification has to be “conveyed through the respective Foreign Offices and the High Commissions, as per the format annexed to this Agreement.”

What kind of a missile was it?

  • Neither country has spelt this out; Pakistan has only called it a “supersonic” missile.
  • Some experts have speculated that it was a test of one of India’s top missiles, BrahMos, jointly developed with Russia.
  • BrahMos has a top speed of Mach 3, a range of around 290 km, and a cruising altitude of 15 km (around 50,000 feet).
  • BrahMos can be fired from anywhere, is nuclear-capable, and can carry warheads of 200-300 kg.
  • Other experts have wondered if the missile was a variant of the nuclear-capable Prithvi.
  • Sources said some of the assets of the Strategic Forces command, which is responsible for India’s nuclear arsenal, are based close to the region from where the missile was fired.
  • However, India never tests Prithvi around this region, and only does so from Balasore.

Why did Pakistan not bring it down?

  • The Pakistani military said that the “high-speed flying object” was picked up inside Indian flying territory by the Air Defence Operations Centre of the Pakistan Air Force.
  • They knew it had taken off from Sirsa, and after its initial course it suddenly manoeuvred towards Pakistani territory and violated Pakistan’s airspace ultimately falling near Mian Channu.
  • It stated that the Pakistani Air Force initiated requisite tactical actions in accordance with the Standard Operating Procedures, and continuously kept monitoring it and as soon as it turned towards Pakistani territory.
  • But during this time it did not intercept the incoming missile, which was unarmed.

-Source: Indian Express

December 2023