Tag Archives: Viswesh Rammohan

Launch of Pakistani Shaheen-II (Hatf-VI) Ballistic Missile on November 13, 2014: An Analysis

Launch of Pakistani Shaheen-II (Hatf-VI) Ballistic Missile on November 13, 2014: An Analysis

Authors: Rajaram Nagappa, S. Chandrashekar, N. Ramani, Lalitha Sundaresan and Viswesh Rammohan
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shaheen II Nov 2014 launchA launch of the Shaheen II (Hatf-VI) ballistic missile was carried out by the Pakistan Army Strategic Forces Command on 13 November 2014. What is significant about this launch is that it is taking place after a gap of nearly six and half years. The last announced Shaheen-II launch had taken place on 19 and 21 April 2008. The range claimed in those flights was higher at 2000 km.

A related issue is that the launch was conducted over the Arabian Sea and the Notice to Mariners/Airmen issued in advance identified missile launch window and the coordinates of the impact zones. With the available information from open sources an analysis is carried out of this flight and where relevant comparison is carried out with the launch of April 2008.


Based on available information, it would appear that the Shaheen-II launched on 13 November 2014 performed a successful flight. The Shaheen-II flight occurred after a gap of 6.5 years. The range of 1500 km indicated in the press release fits with the announced impact zones. The following questions come to mind:

  1. It is quite likely that the design range of the missile is only 1500 km. NAVAREA warnings for the 2008 flights are non-existent and therefore of it can be surmised that these flights were carried overland from Tilla Range. The 2000 km range claimed for these flights could therefore be overstated.
  2. If this is so, our estimate of the propellant and inert mass of the stage motors should also be wrong. If the propulsion parameters are overestimated by us, it would mean either a) the diameter of 1.4 m of the missile is in error or b) the design is not very efficiently carried out.
  3. Alternately, the propulsion parameters derived are nearly correct and the actual range of the missile is approximately 2133 km. A lofted trajectory was attempted in the November 2014 flight to get a lower range.
  4. Accepted practice is to qualify a missile system for its nominal performance. What is the reason therefore for trying a lofted trajectory, in a developmental mission, especially as there is no range constraint?
  5. The long interval in the resumption of the Shaheen-II flight is indicative of a major technical issue, which may have taken time to resolve.  
  6. The possibility of technical problem is corroborated by a recent report emanating from Hong Kong.
  7. Shaheen-II, unlike the other missiles in the Pakistani arsenal is a two-stage system. Design and performance issues could arise in respect of : (a) sequencing of staging events, (b) transfer of control at the end of first stage burn, (c) vehicle bending modes and structural design, (d) management of vehicle vibration – e.g. issues relating to control system/structure interaction, (e) thermal management of reentry heating to name a few. If the April 2008 flights had brought out any such inadequacies, the planning of the corrective action required, its realization and implementation could explain the long timespan in the resumption of the missile flight. It is possible that remedial action has not reflected in changes to the overall configuration and dimension and therefore is not discernible in the images of the flight vehicle.
  8. The changes may however, have impact on the inert mass of the vehicle and the throw weight, thus impacting the performance.
  9. Procedural issues, lack of priority or financial/resource constraints could also be causative factor for the delay.

In short, the long time gap can only be explained assuming that the Shaheen-II flight of April 2008 exhibited some major anomaly in one or more of the subsystems (e.g. issues relating to staging, control, vehicle flexibility and coupling effects, reentry thermo-structural) and it has taken Pakistan a long time to diagnose, correct (perhaps with Chinese help) and qualify the corrective measures. The corrective measures in turn may have impacted on the inert mass and consequently on the performance. Additionally, if the PSAC has also been incorporated, the development and qualification of such a system would have taken up time, besides adding mass to the missile throw weight.


The Shaheen – II flight. Of 13 November 2014 is analysed. A launch location west of Somniani range is identified and corroborated with assessment of the historical images. The flight over open areas of the Arabian Sea seems to be a logical outcome after the failure of Ghauri flight launched over land in November 2012. The range of the missile has been simulated and matched with the impact location given in the NAVAREA IX warnings. Though a lofted trajectory simulation shows good match with the known impact locations, reasons for justifying such a trajectory is elusive. Reasons for the long gap are difficult to explain in the absence of confirmatory data and can only be speculated to be a combination involving technology issues, correction, requalification and use of PSAC as well as availability of resources and priorities.

Lebanon on the Brink: Humanitarian Effects of Syrian conflict

ISSSP Reflections No. 15, May 1, 2014

Author: Mr. Viswesh Rammohan

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The ‘Arab uprising’ has led to a long drawn out and vicious conflict in Syria, with no clear resolution in sight. The longer the Syrian conflict draws on, the more neighbouring countries are getting engulfed into the imbroglio. One of the most obvious implications of the Syrian conflict is the influx of refugees from Syria into neighbouring countries. 

This article makes an attempt to highlight the impact of the Syrian conflict on Lebanon, with particular reference to the humanitarian concerns. The proximity of Syria and Lebanon and the relatively porous borders between the two countries has meant that a large number of people from Syria are seeking refuge in Lebanon. The table below shows the number of refugees in areas surrounding Syria. 

No. of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries

The largest numbers of refugees from the Syrian conflict are now present in Lebanon. This is aided by the fact that Lebanon has maintained an open door policy to Syrian refugees. The situation has reached a point where more than 12% of the Lebanese population currently consists of Syrian refugees. Considering the history of the relationship between the two countries and keeping the current context of the region in mind, this is a dangerous situation for Lebanon. What is staggering to note is that the influx of refugees into Lebanon is growing at an exponential rate, with the Lebanese government lacking any policy on how to deal with the crisis.

Syrian refugees in Lebanon over Dec 2011-Mar 2014

The chart above shows the influx of Syrian refugees into Lebanon during December 2011 to March 2014. The influx of Syrian refugees on Lebanon also has drastic effects on the economics of Lebanon. The chart below shows a projection of the impact on the Lebanese GDP as a result of the influx of refugees. 

Lebanon GDP growth estimates with & without Syrian conflict

The projected estimates of the drop in GDP of Lebanon are around 2.9%, a substantial number which is bound to affect Lebanon in the long run. Reports have also highlighted that nearly 170,000 Lebanese citizens are being driven to poverty as a result of the Syrian conflict with an increase in unemployment rate by 10% by the end of 2014. The influx of Syrian refugees is adding to the existing population of Palestinian refugees who have been present in Lebanon for nearly sixty years. The number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are estimated to be around 425,000, as of 2010 and Palestinian refugees have been treated as second class citizens by Lebanon. 

With the fragile political system prevalent in Lebanon, a consensus has never been reached on how to handle the refugee crisis, be it the refugees from Palestine or Syria. The influx of refugees, who are predominantly Sunni, has also threatened to alter the sectarian system prevalent in Lebanon. Outside of the basic refugee crisis, the close links between Lebanon and Syria implies that that the Syrian conflict is weakening the Lebanese economy, affecting goods and services trade, weakening its public finances and having an adverse effect on Lebanese tourism. 

As a result, there is an escalation of the humanitarian crisis into the economic and social spheres. Health is another sector where the refugee crisis is causing a major problem. Estimates show that nearly 2,000 Syrian refugee children are at risk of death due to malnourishment. This in itself is related to unhygienic conditions in the camps coupled with no access to medical facilities, poor quality of drinking water and the absence of immunisation against diseases.

Also, there are allegations of human trafficking. Reports have highlighted that Syrian refugee girls are being exploited by prostitution networks. Sexual exploitation, coupled with girls being sold at auctions with little or no action being taken by authorities has meant that the human trafficking industry has had a free reign.

Though the direct involvement of Lebanese political actors in the Syrian conflict has helped Assad consolidate his position along the Syria-Lebanon border, it has also managed to bring the conflict into Lebanon’s heartland. Even though there are concerns of growing sectarian fault lines, the biggest cause of concern for Lebanon as a result of the Syrian conflict, is humanitarian. Syrian refugees are entering Lebanon with the hope of new beginnings but Lebanon is unable to provide for that. Former Lebanese PM Najib Mikati has gone on record to state that a further influx of Syrian refugees will tear Lebanon apart. A small country like Lebanon has been overburdened with the influx of refugees.

The inability of the Lebanese political system to take a clear stand and provide for an action plan has meant that Lebanon is forced to accept refugees, without actually providing any better means of livelihood. This is much like the earlier case with Palestinian refugees. The roots of the problem lie in the constitution of Lebanon which gives space for a sectarian system which is believed to prevent one group from dominating the other groups but in reality, only manages to prevent a consensus on any issue including one of humanitarian concern. Once again, Lebanon finds itself in the thick of the humanitarian crisis and yet again, the political system has refused to learn from history.

About the Author

Viswesh Rammohan is Research Associate, International Strategic and Security Studies Programme, NIAS, Bangalore. He can be reached at visweshrammohan[at]gmail[dot]com

Geneva moderates, everybody wins

ISSSP Reflections No. 11, January 13, 2014

Authors: Mr. Viswesh Rammohan

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Rouhani1-e1385277765287The United States along with five other world powers and Iran finally signed a deal on Iran’s nuclear program on November 24, 2013. A series of steps was agreed upon by both parties for the next six months, during which a broader deal would be negotiated. Relations between the West and Iran had soured since the 1979 Iranian revolution and the recent agreement is considered as the first step to a permanent resolution. The initial agreement implies that Iran will undertake the following voluntary measures:

1) Uranium enrichment above 5% is halted for the next six months. This would keep Iran below the threshold for making weapon grade material and at the same time allows for sufficient fuel for the Bushehr reactor, which is currently Iran’s sole nuclear reactor for its energy production.

2) The stockpile of 20% enriched Uranium that Iran possesses was another important point of consideration. About half of the 20% enriched stocks would be downgraded to 5% enriched fuel. The remaining part of the 20% would be used for fueling the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR).

3) Though the enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordow have been allowed to continue, Iran is not allowed to make any further additions in its activities there. No new centrifuges can be installed and enrichment capabilities cannot be increased for the next six months. However, Iran is allowed to replace the ones that are damaged with centrifuges of the same type.

4) All work at the Arak reactor has to be suspended. The Arak reactor has been a common talking point and a point of concern in the negotiations. Arak which is a heavy water plant produces between 5-10 kilograms of Plutonium per year as by-product which can be used in nuclear weapons. Iran has announced that it will not commission the reactor or transfer fuel of any form to the reactor site. The claim itself seems rather far-fetched as Arak is nowhere close to completion.

Though this has been mentioned in the agreement, the agreement makes no mention of R&D activities at Arak. This leaves some ambiguity, particularly in case of Arak since the R&D activities there are crucial for Iran to overcome the technical challenges in operationalising the reactor.

5) Enhanced monitoring has been another key point under discussion. Enhanced monitoring includes providing information about its nuclear facilities to the IAEA, agreeing on the safeguards approach for the reactor at Arak and ‘managed access’ to IAEA inspectors to inspect storage facilities, uranium mines and centrifuge assembly workshops.

If Iran meets its commitments, the world powers have agreed to not impose any further nuclear related sanctions on Iran and to suspend sanctions on trade in important areas such as gold, automotive industry and petrochemicals. Perhaps the greatest boon for Iran will be the provision of allowing repairs for certain Iranian airlines within Iran.  It is estimated that Iran will get a relief of approximately $7 billion over six months. Nearly $4.2 billion will be frozen oil assets which are in foreign banks. To put this number in perspective, Iran has lost close to $120 billion in revenue because of sanctions from the US and EU. Considering the huge amount of $120 billion, $4.2 billion only forms a small fraction of the assets.

The deal however received rather hostile reactions from the region. Israel, Saudi Arabia and the other Arab monarchies have viewed Iran and its interests as a threat since the Islamic revolution of 1979. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the deal a historic mistake’. Iran’s support for Hezbollah in Lebanon has just added to the concerns of Israel. The Arab monarchies have always maintained that Iran has tried to reduce their hold on the region by supporting Shia factions. Even though Israel and the Arab world despise each other, Iran has been a converging point of interest. There is also fear amongst the US allies in the region that the Iranian deal will come at their cost. Both Israel and Saudi Arabia have been rather vocal. Israel has maintained that it is not a part of the deal and military options against Iran are always open. Saudi Arabia on the other hand, has told the world that they can procure a nuclear weapon from Pakistan, if the need arises.

It is important to look at the agreement for what it is. The dynamics of the region have been fragile over the past few years. Iranian politics itself seems to be slowly changing. The election of Rouhani as President has sparked hope in many circles. To add to international hostility, both the US president and the Iranian president have a lot of domestic compulsions to deal with. Within a day of the announcement of the formal deal, US senators were pushing for more sanctions citing concerns that taking the heat off Iran at this time would be counterproductive. The lack of support for Obama administration’s Iran policy in the Senate is going to be a huge challenge amidst the deal running its six month course. On the other hand, Rouhani might also face problems at home. The last time Ahmedinejad tried to make progress on the nuclear deal, he faced a stiff backlash from various groups in Iran, notably the clergy.

In spite of the hostile reactions the deal has received and possible domestic compulsions, the Geneva interim agreement is a useful starting point. Its provisions allow Western powers to address their suspicions regarding the Iranian nuclear programme while providing some relief to Iran from sanctions which have stymied it economically. The six month interim period is a good chance for both parties to try and keep up their side of the measures. Any concrete plan that emerges will have to take into account considerations of both parties and only time will tell what sort of plan will emerge. But the Geneva interim agreement has shown some hope that a solution – which might contribute to greater stability in the context of the region and more so, for Iran’s re-integration into the world – might be in the offing.

About the Author

Viswesh Rammohan is Research Associate, International Strategic and Security Studies Programme, NIAS, Bangalore. He can be reached at visweshrammohan[at]gmail[dot]com

Picture Courtesy: The Muslim Times


China’s ‘leapfrogging’ in high performance computing

The Strategist – The Australian Strategic Policy Institute Blog, November 15, 2013

Nabeel A Mancheri, Research Fellow, Institute of Social Science, Tokyo University and Viswesh Rammohan, Research Associate, National Institute of Advanced Studies

headerIn June 2013, China once again surprised the world scientific community by introducing the fastest supercomputer in the world, the Tianhe-2 or Milky Way-2. TOP500 project lists the top 500 supercomputers of the world on the basis of a parameter called LINPACK benchmark. The biannual list is usually released in June and November. The benchmark was an idea conceived by Jack Dongarra. In simple terms, it’s the rate at which the supercomputer solves floating-point operations and is evaluated by making the supercomputer solve a dense system of linear equations. The Tianhe-2 isn’t the first super computer to emerge from China. China’s foray into the super computer field started with the introduction of Yinhe-I in 1983 with a performance level of 100 megaflops. Almost ten years later in 1992 it introduced Yinhe-II, achieving a performance of 1 gigaflop. Yinhe-III, an upgraded version of Yinhe-II introduced in 1996 achieved the performance level of 13 gigaflops, but it was still far behind the top supercomputers of the world. China considers technology as a core component of projecting a nation’s capability and prestige; national strength is allied to the ability to flex its muscles on the technological front. Supercomputing stands at the forefront of technology, with extensive use in practically every field, especially defence applications. In the article, Nabeel A Mancheri and Viswesh Rammohan analyse China’s surge in super computing, particularly its introduction of the fastest supercomputer in the world, the Tianhe-2.

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