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India 'Accidentally' Fires an Missile.(An Own Goal or a Veiled Message?)

India accidentally fired an practice missile which landed deep into Pakistan territory. Thankfully, no casualties was reported. India issued an statement wherein it owned up the accident and an high level inquiry has been ordered to look into the matter. Pakistan too, commendably has handled this sensitive issue in a mature way and didn't escalate the situation further. However, this incedent leaves many an unanswered questions. And the biggest amongst them is, was it really an accidental firing?
A missile launching process is a complex one. There are various steps involved in launching the missile. Also, there are many software and mechanical fail-safes to prevent accidental launch. So Indian claims that it was accidental is being taken with a pinch of salt. However, it should not be deduced that it was an indeed an deliberate launch. Machines are prone to malfunctioning and it could have indeed triggered the launch. But again, it could as well may have been more than that. So lets try to figure out the complete picture.

Events As It Happened:

A still from the crash site.

A still from the crash site.

  • According to a local news channel, a plane or missile crashed in the evening at mian channu on 9th march. Eyewitnesses say it appeared as if a part of the plane fell off it.

  • Leading Dailies of Pakistan reported the incedent on 10th march, reporting about an aircraft crashing in mian channu.

  • DG ISPR, the public relation wing of Pakistan army, addressed the media about the intruding missile in the evening of 10th march, more than 24hrs after missile entered their territory. At this point of time, they didn't identified it as missile, rather they chose to refer it as an 'high speed flying object'.

  • India came out and accepted an accidental missile launch and tendered an apology. It also announced of conducting an inquiry to look into the matter.

Why Pakistan Should Be Worried

An HQ9 air defence launcher.

An HQ9 air defence launcher.

DG ISPR claimed that the Pakistan Air Force(PAF) was able to track the missile from its entry point and throughout it trajectory to the point of impact. But this theory falls flat at the very first hurdle. Its suspicious as to why would they refer the intruding missile as an 'high speed flying object'? If a radar picks up an object which is behaving like an missile, isn't it supposed to be an missile? You can only label it as an 'object' when you are not sure of what it is. So does that mean that they were lying about being able to detect the missile?
It also raises serious concerns about the air defence systems of Pakistan. Once the hostile missile was detected, the air defense systems should have been able to bring it down, especially since it was an single missile. DG ISPR has categorically stated that it wasn't brought down and it fell on its own, meaning the missile hit its target. An alarming situation considering that during an actual war, there would be salvos of missiles being fired. Pakistan was pretty sure that its chinese supplied HQ-16 and HQ-9 air defence systems, working in tandem with other systems would be able to stop Bramhos missiles. However, there is an heavy unease in Rawalpindi(Pakistan army headquarters) after this incedent.


Testing The Waters?

An Su30 launching an Bramhos test missile.

An Su30 launching an Bramhos test missile.

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India was quick to apoligize about this accidental launch. Surprisingly, it has also admitted that the missile was indeed the Bramhos. Bramhos is the crown jewel of Indian arsenal and is kept under very tight secrecy and security. So an 'accidental' launch is extremely unlikely, but it cannot be ruled out. However, India could very well be playing mind games here. Remember that Bramhos operates on 'fire and forget' principle, meaning the location of its target has to be loaded before the missile is launched. Also, the missile is known for its pin-point accuracy. So its highly unlikely to deviate from its trajectory.
Also, just a day after its admitted of the launch, India successfully tested an air launched version of Bramhos. This missile is capable of hitting targets 800km(497miles) away. So was it a message that India can strike deep unchallenged? Another interesting development has occurred since then. An article dated 16th march has appeared on an leading defence forum of India, which reports Indian national security advisor Ajit Doval has paid a tribute to Narendra Modi, current Prime Minister of India, through a book. He is seen praising Mr.Modi's 'risk taking ability of the highest order to surprise enemies'. A man who spent 7 years undetected as an secret agent in Pakistan praising the 'risk taking' abilities of a leader after an 'accidental' firing of missile! Am I the only one who thinks it is too much of an coincidence?


Elephant In The Room

China's President Xi Jinping.

China's President Xi Jinping.

It is also important to discuss the elephant(dragon, if you wish) in the room here. The launch may have to do more with testing the defensive capabilities of HQ-9 and HQ-16 air defence systems than anything else. India and China are engaged in spat over territorial claims. And as seen from Galwan valley incedent, the matter could escalate quickly into war. Chinese defence experts has often claimed that HQ-16 is capable of intercepting Bramhos missile. So India might have thought of testing its capabilities, a bold decision if it is indeed the case. China itself is known to be apprehensive of Bramhos which has time and again displayed that it is hard to detect and harder to intercept. Many experts also raise doubts over the quality of Chinese military hardware, stating that China often exaggerates their capabilities. So India might have also tried to gain an psychological edge over china by displaying the ability of Bramhos to go unchallenged, or worse(for china), undetected behind enemy lines.


Conclusion: In my opinion Pakistani radars failed to detect the presence of the missile. The fact that they reacted more than 24 hours after the incident, that too in a very mild manner points out they were not fully sure what it actually is. India on the other hand has gained an psychological advantage by pointing out the inability of chinese air defence systems to stop its Bramhos missile.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

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