Saudi Arabia became the first Middle East nation to publicly exhibit its nuclear-capable missiles. The long-range, liquid propellant DF-3 ballistic missile (NATO designated CSS-2), purchased from China 27 years ago, was displayed for the first time at a Saudi military parade Tuesday, April 29, in the eastern military town of Hafar Al-Batin, at the junction of the Saudi-Kuwaiti-Iraqi borders.
The DF-3 has a range of 2,650 km and carries a payload of 2,150 kg. It is equipped with a single nuclear warhead with a 1-3 MT yield.
Watched by a wide array of Saudi defense and military dignitaries, headed by Crown Prince and Deputy Prime Minister Salman bin Abdulaziz, the parade marked the end of the large-scale “Abdullah’s Sword” military war game.
Conspicuous on the saluting stand was the Pakistani Chief of Staff Gen. Raheel Sharif alongside eminent visitors, including King Hamad of Bahrain and Sheikh Muhammad bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi.
DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources report the event was deliberately loaded with highly-significant messages, the foremost of which was that the Middle East is in the throes of a nuclear arms race in the wake of the Iranian program.
1. The oil kingdom was saying loud and clear that it has obtained nuclear missiles and is ready to use them in the event of an armed conflict with Iran.
2. The message for Washington was that Riyadh adheres to its adamant objections to the comprehensive accord for resolving the Iranian nuclear question which is racing toward its finale with the six world powers led by the US. The Saudis share Israel’s conviction that this pact – far from dismantling Iran’s nuclear capacity – will seal the Islamic Republic’s elevation to the status of pre-nuclear power. The result will be a Middle East war in which the Saudis will take part.
3. The participation of the nuclear DF-3 missiles in the “Abdullah’s Sword” exercise signified Riyadh’s estimate that the coming conflict will see the use of nuclear weapons.
4. By showing off their ageing Chinese missiles, the Saudis intimated that they had acquired the more advanced generation of this weapon, which they are keeping under wraps. DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources report that in recent visits to Beijing, high-ranking Saudi officials negotiated the purchase of Dong-Feng 21 (DF-21), whose range is shorter, 1,700 km, but more precise and effective in view of its terminal radar guidance system. The West has no information about when the new Chinese missiles were delivered to Saudi Arabia.
5. The presence of the top Pakistani soldier at the parade of military and nuclear hardware was meant as corroboration of Islamabad’s active role as the source of the Saudi nuclear arsenal.
6. The Saudis no longer rely on the American nuclear umbrella. They are developing their own nuclear strike force with the help of China and Pakistan.