If India and Pakistan Went to War: 5 Weapons Pakistan Should Fear

If the unthinkable happened, India has quite the arsenal—including nuclear weapons—to cause Pakistan considerable trouble in a conflict.

Editor’s Note: Please see previous works from our “Weapons of War” series including Five Chinese Weapons of War America Should Fear, Five American Weapons of War China Should Fear, Five Japanese Weapons of War China Should Fear, Five Best Weapons of War from the Soviet Union and Five Taiwanese Weapons of War China Should Fear.

Recently India alleged a series of ceasefire violations—in the form of automatic weapons fire—by Pakistan on the border between the two countries. According to India, it was the sixth attack in just five days. Such events are a reminder that tension remains high on the Indian subcontinent.

The nuclear arsenals of both sides—and the red lines that would trigger their use—have made conventional war much more risky to conduct. The 1999 Kargil War is considered the closest the world has come to a nuclear war since the Cuban Missile Crisis. If India were to use its superiority in ground forces to seize a sizable amount of Pakistani territory, Pakistan could respond with nuclear weapons.

It’s distinctly possible that any future war between India and Pakistan would involve limited action on the ground and full-scale fighting at sea and in the air. India has the upper hand in both, particularly at sea where it would have the ability to blockade Pakistani ports. Pakistan imports 83% of its gasoline consumption, and without sizable reserves the economy would feel the effects of war very quickly. An economic victory, not a purely military one might be the best way to decisively end a war without the use of nuclear weapons.

With that scenario in mind, let’s look at the five Indian weapons Pakistan would fear most in a war.

INS Vikramaditya Aircraft Carrier

Commissioned in November 2013, INS Vikramaditya is the newer and more modern of India’s two aircraft carriers. In the event of war, Vikramaditya would lead an offensive at sea designed to sweep the Pakistani Navy from the field. The nightmare scenario for Pakistan would be Vikramaditya parked off the coast of Karachi, Pakistan’s largest port, enforcing a naval blockade.

Originally built for the Soviet Navy as the anti-submarine aviation cruiser Baku, Vikramaditya was mothballed in 1996 after it became clear post-Cold War Russia could not afford to operate her. The ship was purchased by India in 2004, to be upgraded by Russian shipbuilders to a true aircraft carrier complete with angled flight deck. The updated design deleted all cruiser armament, including two 100mm deck guns, 192 SA-N-9 surface to air missiles and 12 SS-N-12 Sandbox anti-ship missiles.

Vikramaditya is 282 meters long and displaces 44,000 tons, making it less than half the displacement of American supercarriers. Nevertheless Vikramaditya’s powerful air wing is capable of executing air superiority, anti-surface, anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare. The carrier air wing is expected to consist of 24 MiG-29K or Tejas multi-role fighters and 10 anti-submarine warfare helicopters. India has ordered 45 MiG-29Ks, with the first squadron, 303 “Black Panthers” Squadron, stood up in May 2013.

INS Chakra Nuclear Attack Submarine

While INS Vikramaditya would be the visible symbol of a naval blockade, perhaps the real enforcers would be India’s force of 14 attack submarines. The most powerful of India’s submarines is INS Chakra, an Akula-II nuclear-powered attack submarine.

INS Chakra would be able to fulfill a variety of wartime tasks. It would be a real threat to Pakistan’s Navy, particularly her 11 frigates and eight submarines, only three of which are reasonably modern. Chakra is also capable of covertly laying mines in Pakistani waters and conduct surveillance in support of a blockade.

Construction of the submarine that would become Chakra began in 1993, but stalled due to lack of funding. In 2004 the Indian Navy agreed to fund the sub to completion—at a cost of $900 million—in exchange for a future 10 year lease with an option to buy. Delivery to the Indian Navy was supposed to take place in 2010, but transfer was delayed after a 2008 accident that killed 20 Russian Navy personnel and wounded another 21.

At 8,000 tons displacement, Chakra is as large as U.S. Virginia-class nuclear submarines. It has a maximum speed of 30 knots with a maximum operating depth of reportedly 520 meters. The sub not only has a customary large sonar hydrophone array on the bow, but also active and passive arrays scattered over the rest of the hull. Chakra also features a pod-mounted towed hydrophone array.

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