Pakistan's new Shaheen-III MRBM uses Chinese transporter, says source
Jane's Defence Weekly
Richard D Fisher Jr, Washington DC
Pakistan's new Shaheen-III medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) is carried by a Chinese-made 16-wheel transporter erector launcher (TEL), an Indian government source told IHS Jane's on condition of anonymity.
The Indian source noted that Pakistan began negotiations in 2012 with the China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corporation (CPMIEC), which resulted in the export of "two 16x16 WS-21200s for use as TELs for Shaheen-III missiles".
Pakistan is believed to have taken delivery of the TELs at the end of February or in early March 2016. The source also said that Pakistan's National Engineering and Scientific Commission has set up an assembly line at the Punjab-based National Development Complex to assemble TELs for Pakistani missiles.
The WS-21200 - a previously unreported designation - is manufactured by the Hubei Sanjiang Space Wanshan Special Vehicle Co of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC).
China provided WS-51200 TELs to North Korea in 2011, the Indian source stated. Six of these vehicles currently carry North Korea's KN-08 and KN-14 intercontinental ballistic missiles. "There is no doubt China is involved in the proliferation of missile technology," said the Indian official.
The Shaheen-III's WS-21200 TEL and the WS-51200 used by North Korea have much in common, including the same headlight and direction indicator patterns. One main difference, however, is that the WS-21200 uses a forward-tilting windshield glass structure not used by the WS-51200.
However, this glass structure is used by the 8-wheel TEL cab of Pakistan's Hatf 9 (also known as Nasr) 60 km-range tactical nuclear missile, which is virtually the same as the TEL cab of China's DF-11A short-range ballistic missile made by CASIC.
Revealed to the public for the first time during Pakistan's military parade on 23 March, the Shaheen-III - a surface-to-surface, land-based ballistic missile - is allegedly capable of carrying a nuclear or conventional warhead to a range of 2,750 km.
China's longstanding assistance to Pakistan's conventional and nuclear missile programmes is a matter of record. In the early 2000s the CIA reported to the US Congress that Pakistan required "continued Chinese entity assistance" to develop solid-fuelled short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.
China's recent transfer of the WS-21200 TEL to Pakistan is significant in this context because it is the largest so far made to the South Asian country.
The appearance of a new Chinese-assisted 16-wheel TEL for Pakistan's Shaheen-III MRBM is also a reminder that Beijing continues to play an active role in assisting the long-range missile programmes of Pakistan and North Korea.
Moreover, production or assembly of a large TEL in Pakistan raises the possibility of the vehicle being exported to North Korea, and from there potentially to Iran. Pyongyang maintains active missile technology co-operation with both Tehran and Islamabad.
This might help China avoid the international attention given to its 2011 direct transfer of six Sanjiang-CASIC TELs to North Korea and provide an "indirect" path for Pyongyang and Tehran to acquire TELs for their future larger missiles.