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10:32 AM, March 22, 2018
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A telescope unit forming part of the Chinese tracking system, deployed at Pakistan's missile testing facility. Photo: South China Morning Post

Pakistan has bought a powerful tracking system from China that could speed up its military’s efforts of developing multi-warhead missiles, reported South China Morning Post.

A statement on the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) website said China was the first country to export such sensitive equipment to Pakistan.

Zheng Mengwei, a researcher with the CAS Institute of Optics and Electronics in Chengdu, Sichuan province, confirmed in the report that Pakistan had bought a highly sophisticated, large-scale optical tracking and measurement system from China.

The Pakistani military recently deployed the Chinese-made system “at a firing range” for use in testing and developing its new missiles, he said.

The Chinese team enjoyed VIP treatment during the nearly three months it spent in Pakistan assembling and calibrating the tracking system and training technical staff on how to use it, according to the statement.

“The system’s performance surpassed the user’s expectations,” it said, adding that it was considerably more complex than Pakistan’s home-made systems.

An optical system is a critical component in missile testing. It usually comes with a pair of high-performance telescopes equipped with a laser ranger, high-speed camera, infrared detector and a centralised computer system that automatically captures and follows moving targets.

The device records high-resolution images of a missile’s departure from its launcher, stage separation, tail flame and, after the missile re-enters atmosphere, the trajectory of the warheads it releases.

The uniqueness of the Chinese-made system lay in its use of four telescope units, “more than normally required”, Zheng said.

Each telescope, with a detection range of several hundred kilometres, is positioned in a different location, with their timing synchronised precisely with atomic clocks. Together, the telescopes provide visual information of unprecedented detail and accuracy, which missile developers can use to improve designs and engine performance.

Using more telescopes allows the system to track more warheads simultaneously from different angles, reducing the risk of losing a target.

Zheng said he could not elaborate further on the technology nor where in Pakistan it was being used as it involved the country’s defence interests.

China has sold Pakistan many conventional weapons, including warships, fighters, short-range missiles, diesel submarines and surveillance drones.

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