The Multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle (MIRV) is a missile payload system that can carry multiple warheads, each with the ability to hit a different target. The MIRVs are ballistic missiles with multiple warheads that hit different targets, so this is an area attack weapon. The United States of America first developed this technology to counter the Anti-Ballistic Missile Defense systems of the Soviet Union.

This type of Missile is mainly developed to enhance the capability of the first strike and its credibility for its strategic forces. These weapons also damage the enemy’s key installations more because several small warheads can cause far more significant damage to the enemy than one warhead.

MIRVs reduce the number of missiles and launch facilities used in combat. These systems allow the possessor to target multiple targets with a single missile and warheads.

These missiles also allow the state to evade the enemy’s Ballistic Missiles Defence Systems (BMD) because it is harder to intercept MIRVs equipped than to intercept and neutralize other ballistic missiles containing just a single warhead.

A ballistic missile containing MIRV capability can have up to 14 independent nuclear warheads. Therefore, in Economic and military terms, MIRVs-capable ballistic missiles reduce the effectiveness of the Ballistic Missile Defense Weapon system.

Since gaining their independence in 1947, Pakistan and India have dealt with a standing relationship. A significant turning point occurred in May 1998 when both countries conducted nuclear weapons tests one after the other. This marked the beginning of a period of stability in South Asia, mainly driven by deterrence. The possession of arsenals was a deterrent, discouraging large-scale military conflicts and promoting cautious behavior. This dynamic has shaped policies by highlighting the importance of nuclear capabilities in maintaining peace and stability amidst ongoing regional tensions.

India developed and tested Ballistic Missile Defence systems or BMDs by justifying that India needs protection from the nuclear threat coming from China towards India. This step by India proved detrimental to South Asian Nuclear Deterrence Stability because, in reality, China was not showing any threat emanating posture to India, and this BMD was to be utilized against Pakistani Nuclear capable ballistic missiles. So, to balance this move by India and maintain deterrence stability in the South Asian Region, Pakistan started developing its indigenous MIRV capable Ballistic Missiles.

In January 2017, Pakistan tested its first MIRV-capable Ballistic Missile named “Ababeel”. According to the official press release of ISPR, “Development of this weapon system is aimed at ensuring survivability of Pakistan’s Ballistic missiles in the growing regional Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) environment.” This Missile can carry up to 3 to 8 Re-entry vehicles of different payloads. This Missile has a range of 2200 km or 1400 miles. This Missile was made to balance deterrence stability between India and Pakistan after India developed MIRV-based Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles Agni V and Prithvi Ballistic Missile Defence System.

Similarly, India Developed MIRV capable ballistic missiles to counter the so-called threat from China as it fielded its own Anti-Ballistic Missiles to protect Chinese land from foreign Nuclear Attacks. India tested its 1st MIRV capable Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile or ICBM Agni-V on April 19, 2012, with a reported range of 5000+ km. This Missile is expected to feature 2-10 MIRVs, but this capability is contested by Multiple Indian sources due to conflicting statements. In 2003, former DRDO Chairman VK Saraswat stated that the DRDO was developing MIRV technology for the Agni V Ballistic Missile, while his successor Avinash Chandra revealed that Agni V is not planning to carry MIRVs.

DRDO is developing MIRVs for a different Missile, which is contemplated to be Agni VI, which is currently in the initial stages of development.

This implies that India is trying to pursue its hegemonic ambitions in South Asia by developing MIRV-capable Inter-continental Ballistic missiles when there was no credible threat from any state to India. Deterrence stability with Pakistan was also established. This type of weapon system nullifies the capabilities of Ballistic Missile Defence Systems. It ensures that the first strike on the enemy is successful and decapitates the enemy even to launch the second strike in retaliation.

The introduction of Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicle (MIRV) technology has significantly changed the dynamics of warfare in South Asia. Initially designed to respond to ballistic missile defense systems, MIRVs have become a crucial element of the region’s deterrence strategies. Both India and Pakistan, as nuclear-armed countries, have pursued MIRV capabilities due to evolving threat perceptions.

India focuses mainly on concerns related to China, while Pakistan’s development of MIRV ballistic missiles showcases a delicate balance of power dynamics. However, these advancements challenge maintaining deterrence stability and highlight the importance of discussions, arms control initiatives, and responsible deployment to ensure lasting peace and security in South Asia.

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