India’s air strike on the Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camp in Balakot in Pakistan last month crossed a strategic red line and called Pakistan’s nuclear bluff.
It forced Pakistan to shut its entire air space for days, use its air force to try and target India, exchange fire on land and send its entire navy out on patrols for more than a week after the strikes.
Exclusive satellite images accessed by ThePrint also show that there was some activity at Pakistan’s nuclear weapons storage and launch facilities in the aftermath of the 26 February strike on Balakot.
The images also indicate that there might have been an accident or incident near the Khuzdar garrison nuclear weapons storage facility in Balochistan province.
Such incidents are very rarely made public and satellite imagery is possibly the only credible source to indicate what may have happened in the area. ThePrint analyses imagery of some of Pakistan’s main nuclear weapons facilities.
The Khuzdar garrison is one of the most well-secured locations for the storage of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.
The main facility is a hardened underground structure with two Y-shaped bunkers of three bays each, 50m x 10m in size, and three bays each of 25m x 10m. These are interconnected with a long passage, which measures 210m x 10m.
The total area of 2,850 square metres can hold approximately 46 weapons on transporter erector launchers (TELs). The number could be higher, depending on the method of storage.
After the Balakot strike, ground sources indicate that some operational units have been observed in this area.
The latest satellite image from 8 March 2019 shows huge black burn marks (200m x 100m), suggesting an accident. It is possible that one or more missiles fell off a TEL and the explosive burnt up, in turn burning the small hillock next to the main road.
The Petaro garrison is located 18 km north of Hyderabad in Sindh, and is one of the most sophisticated underground warhead storage facilities in Pakistan.
The main facility is a massive hardened underground structure with two X-shaped bunkers, with four bays each of 30m x 10m size and four bays of 20m x 10m size, connected with 200m x 10m passage.
The total size, 4,000 sq m, is larger than the biggest US repository — the hangar at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. This Pakistani facility can hold anything from 50 to 500 nuclear weapons, depending upon the method and type of weapon storage.
Security fencing layers have been increased recently, indicating that the location is now active and weapons are stored.
A new nine-hole golf course built in 2018 suggests that a large number of officers are posted at this location, possibly a brigade.
The PAF air base Masroor at Karachi has constructed a specialised hardened bunker for the storage of RAAD missiles with possible nuclear warheads.
The warhead storage is a specialised square-shaped bunker, with three-sided revetments. The aircraft shelter has triple-layered hardening on top to ensure survivability from earth-penetrating weapons.
The entire complex is a super-hardened underground automated vault system for the storage of RAAD missiles. The missiles’ movement from the storage bunker to the hardened aircraft shelter can possibly be controlled remotely from the Air Defence Centre.
The automated vault system can possibly hold 6-10 RAAD missiles, good enough to arm 3-5 aircraft, enhancing the PAF’s second strike capability.
A large number of launch pads are spread out all over Pakistan, but most of them are tucked in mountain gorges for the safety and security of the arsenal.
These launch pads are generally found in groups of three, far from habitation.
Every circular launch pad of 35m diameter also has a small square dugout for accommodating the instrumentation vehicles.
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