The facility in Punjab province consists of 3 tunnels, interconnected under the mountain with each other; can store 12-24 nuclear weapons.
Pakistan is amassing nuclear weapons and building storage facilities for them deep in the mountains to protect them from India’s first strike (different from first use). ThePrint exposes yet another tunnelled nuclear storage project that Pakistan is clandestinely building in the mountains on the western side of Thamewali in its Punjab province.
The geographical location of the new facility is 32°46’24″N and 71°44’39”E. It is 750 km from New Delhi, 1,500 km from Mumbai, 2,350 km from Chennai and 3,150km from Port Blair.
Overview of the project
The new facility consists of three tunnels, probably interconnected under the mountain with each other. Construction of the facility started somewhere before 2009 and was still continuing as of December 2016.
The pace of construction indicates that possibly a small group of specialised engineers and construction staff has been working on this project permanently. The slow speed is suggestive of construction under the aegis of Frontier Works Organisation or FWO of the Pakistan Army.
It has an outer security fence with two entrances. There is also an administrative area larger than most tunnelled facilities seen in Pakistan. The outer fence is much larger than the tunnelled area indicating possible future expansion towards the north.
The hot area comprises three tunnels.
The tunnel entrances (10 m in height and 10 m in width) are deeply cut into the mountains. They are separated from each other by a distance of 450-750 metres. They are connected by large roads of approximately 10 to 20 metres in width.
The roads widen at corners for obvious reasons of providing enough turning space for large tractor erector launchers (TELs) hidden inside these tunnels.
These three entrances possibly connect with each other inside the mountain to form a long tunnel of approximately 1.2 km. The excavated earth piles also suggest similar size of tunnel inside the mountain.
Security of the area
The area is secured with a wire fence all around. The facility has been provided with two entrances.
The main entrance is more than 3 m high solid gate. The road approach to this main entrance has four barricades before the gate and two after. These barricades would make a direct vehicular hit on the gate very difficult.
There are layered fencing around the hot area and administrative areas, which are not very clearly visible due to poor temporal resolution available in open source satellite imagery.
There is no proper air defence (AD) cover afforded to the facility although indications of some trials by short range AD have been observed.
The administrative area consists of a large number of buildings mainly for parking of vehicles. It also has a mosque located centrally, which was constructed before the rest of the buildings.
Some of the buildings look like high-bay garages meant for maintenance of vehicles and missiles. There six special garages possibly for holding TELs during high alert status. There are another six garages, which may hold air defence systems in future.
There are six turning areas, which could be used for turning direction of TELs. These could also be used as launch pads if properly marked and registered. One of the turning areas is a huge circular area of almost 80 m diameter.
Space for between 12 to 24 nuclear weapons
The size of this facility inside the mountain suggests that it can hold at least 12 to 24 nuclear weapons complete with TELs. India needs to monitor this site very frequently. It needs to be added to the list of own ‘Priority-I’ targets.
The fact that the project has received a no-objection certificate despite its location being earthquake-prone, according to a Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission study, is very surprising.
Col Vinayak Bhat (retd) is a Military Intelligence veteran of the Indian Army with vast experience of satellite imagery analysis. He has worked as Chinese interpreter and is a specialist on PLA and Pakistan’s Armed Forces. He tweets @rajfortyseven
Check out My543, our comprehensive report card of all Lok Sabha MPs.