Pakistan announced that it had successfully carried out the first-ever test of its nuclear-capable Babur-3 submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM) from a submerged platform. The test took place at an unspecified location in the Indian Ocean off the Pakistani coast. Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations released limited footage of the test on Twitter that shows the missile’s ejection, launch, and strike on a target with reasonable accuracy. The Babur-3 SLCM is officially rated for a range of 450 kilometers.
Pakistan’s Babur-3 SLCM is ultimately designed for use with its Agosta 90B diesel-electric submarines, which have reportedly been modified to enable SLCM launches, but remain untested in this regard. Per the Pakistani military’s statement regarding the test, the Babur-3 “is a sea-based variant of Ground Launched Cruise Missile (GLCM) Babur-2, which was successfully tested earlier in December, last year.”
Critically, the Babur-3 is capable of nuclear payload delivery. Once fully developed and tested on-board a submarine, Pakistan would possess – in theory, at least – a sea-based second strike capability. Pakistan has been working toward this capability for years; in 2012, it set up a Naval Strategic Force Command. Pakistan’s statement notes this with little ambiguity: “Babur-3 SLCM in land-attack mode, is capable of delivering various types of payloads and will provide Pakistan with a Credible Second Strike Capability, augmenting deterrence.” Specifically, the statement noted that the Babur-3 test was a “step towards reinforcing [Pakistan’s] policy of credible minimum deterrence.”