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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Khan Research Laboratories
A.Q. Khan Laboratories
Engineering Research Laboratories (ERL)


Kahuta is the site of the Khan Research Laboratories [KRL], Pakistan's main nuclear weapons laboratory as well as an emerging center for long-range missile development. The primary Pakistani fissile-material production facility is located at Kahuta, employing gas centrifuge enrichment technology to produce Highly Enriched Uranium [HEU].

Chinese assistance in the development of gas centrifuges at Kahuta was indicated by the presence of Chinese technicians at the facility in the early 1980s. The uranium enrichment facility began operating in 1984, but suffered serious start up problems. Kahuta began producing HEU in 1986, and Pakistan's fabrication of weapons may have begun soon thereafter, with the HEU hexafluoride being made into uranium metal which was machined into weapon pits. By the late 1980s Pakistan began advertising its nuclear potential by publishing technical articles on centrifuge design, including a 1987 article co-authored by A. Q. Khan on balancing sophisticated ultracentrifuge rotors.

Operating at full capacity, Kahuta is estimated to have the potential to produce enough weapon-grade uranium for as many as 3 to 6 weapons each year. But the gas centrifuge plant has been plagued by chronic delays. As of 1984 there were reportedly approximately 1,000 centrifuges operating at the facility. About 1991, Pakistan installed additional centrifuges, raising its HEU production capacity roughly threefold. By 1991 about 3000 machines were thought to be operating with a production capacity of 30-50 kg U-235/year, enough for 2-3 implosion weapons a year.

In 1988 the US and Pakistan reached an informal understanding, which according to US officials went into effect in 1993, under which Pakistan agreed to freeze production of bomb-grade HEU indefinitely, and to refrain from enriching uranium to a level above 20% U-235. Prior to the 1998 nuclear tests, the US had reportedly obtained intelligence indicating that Pakistan had stopped production of bomb-grade uranium. However, following the tests A.Q. Khan claimed that Pakistan had never stopped making bomb-grade HEU during the 1980s and 1990s, and reportedly US officials said "we don't have enough information" to conclude that Pakistan was not making weapons-grade HEU. As of mid-1998 estimates of Pakistan's HEU inventory ranged between 100 and 500 kilograms. Assuming that Pakistan would need about 20 kilograms for a single weapon, Pakistan's stockpile might be estimated at between 5 and 25 weapons.

In early 1996 it was reported that the A.Q. Khan Research Laboratory received 5,000 ring magnets, which can be used in gas centrifuges, from the China National Nuclear Corporation, a subsidiary of the China National Nuclear Corporation, a state-owned corporation. The US intelligence community believed the magnets were for special suspension bearings at the top of the centrifuge rotating cylinders. The shipment was made between late 1994 and mid-1995 and was reportedly worth $70,000. Some reports suggested that the ring magnets would allow Pakistan to effectively double its capacity to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons production. Pakistan had operated the plant only intermittently, and little information is publicly available concerning annual or total production of weapon-grade uranium at Kahuta.

Albright et al reported in May 2018 that they "first started receiving notice from government sources in the summer of 2015 that Pakistan was receiving specialized equipment for an extension of its centrifuge program at Kahuta and that a new building was being constructed there. In 2016, IHS Janes in collaboration with Project Alpha at Kingís College published a satellite imagery study, backed up by centrifuge-related procurement data, about this site at Kahuta..... it may be a replacement for an aging centrifuge complex at Kahuta built largely in the 1980s and 1990s to produce weapon-grade uranium for nuclear weapons.... The main building, which could hold centrifuge cascades, is about 285 meters by 65 meters, for a total area of about 18,525 square meters. For comparison, the largest building at Kahuta suspected to be related to gas centrifuge enrichment is 106 meters by 85 meters, having an area of approximately 9000 square meters (or roughly half that of the new building).... the cascade halls in the North Korean facility are similar in size to the bays in the new building at Kahuta. In the North Korean case, each hall contains 1032 P-2 centrifuges."

By January 2020 satellite imagery of the suspected gas centrifuge plant being built in Kahuta Pakistan showed vehicles parked alongside the HQ building and a new partition separating the completed area from the ongoing works, possibly indicating the site being partially online.

Kahuta - New Enrichment Plant Kahuta - New Enrichment Plant Kahuta - New Enrichment Plant

Khan Research Laboratories

The Kahuta facility has also been a participant in Pakistan's missile development program. Pakistan operates a ballistic missile research center at Kahuta along with its uranium enrichment operation. KRL has successfully developed and tested Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles based on liquid fuel technology and its associated sub systems. Saudi Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz toured the Kahuta facility in May 1999, possibly in connection with purchases of the Ghauri missiles.

This facility has become almost completely unrecognizable in recent years. Change extraction in recent Google Earth imagery is complicated by the fact that the area of interest is situatated at the intersection of multiple scenes acquired in different seasons, and thus with rather different vegetation coverage.

But at first glance, the complex initially assessed as a joint DPRK-Pakistan missile development facility is absent from recent imagery. A derelict engine test stand is all that remains. Otherwise, the entire complex is simply missing, as though completely obliterated. It may be conjectured that possibly this was a result of a reorientation of Pakistan's missile program away from technical collaboration with the DPRK, towards a work-for-hire cash-and-carry partnership with Saudi Arabia.

KRL has also undertaken many other defense projects of national importance to enable Pakistan to become self-reliant in various sophisticated weapon systems and to save valuable foreign exchange. These projects include:

  • Surface-to-Al-Anti-Aircraft Guided Missiles - Anza Mk 1, and Anza Mk-II.
  • 'Baktar Shikan' Anti-Tank Guided Missile Weapon System.
  • Anti-personnel Mine Sweeping Line Charges.
  • Anti-Tank Mine Clearing Line Charge-Plofadder-195 AT.
  • Laser Range Finder.
  • Laser Threat Sensor
  • Laser Actuated Target
  • Laser Aiming Device
  • Add-On Reactive Armour Kit
  • Anti-Tank Ammunition-Armour Piercing Fin-Stabilized Discordin Sabot (APFSDS)
  • Remote Control Mine Exploder (RCME)
  • Digital Goniometer
  • Power Conditioners for Weapon Systems for TOW ATGM Weapon System, "Baktar Shikan" Weapon System, "ANZA" Training Missile System
  • Switched Mode Power Supplies for LAADS Radar, Skyguard Radar, Air Defense Automation System.
  • Tow Missile Modules

KVR-1000 SPIN-2 Imagery
IKONOS Imagery
Google Earth

Imagery from TerraServer.com Copyright Aerial Images, Inc. and SOVINFORMSPUTNIK. Distribution and publishing in any form requires permission from Aerial Images, Inc.

Credit: spaceimaging.com. Copyright (c) Space Imaging. All RIGHTS RESERVED.
Online and news media distribution or publishing requires permission from Space Imaging.
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Kahuta & KRL
10 meter GSD

Kahuta & KRL
10 meter GSD

A.Q. Khan Laboratories
5 meter GSD

Kahuta & KRL
5 meter GSD

North Production Area


South Production Area


Central Support Area

Access Control

North Housing Area

South Housing Area

Ghauri/Nodong Development Area

Ghauri/Nodong Dynamic Test Facility


Ghauri/Nodong Engine Test Area

Ghauri/Nodong Engine Test Stand



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Page last modified: 24-02-2020 18:30:55 ZULU