Pakistan will acquire four modern frigates and eight submarines from its close ally China as part of the efforts to modernise Pakistan Navy and add to its offensive capabilities, its chief has said.
China on January 29 launched the second Type 054A/P multi-purpose naval missile frigate for the Pakistan Navy (PN). The guided-missile frigate is the mainstay of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, with 30 vessels in commission.
Chinese naval experts say the Type 054A, on which the Type 054A/P is based, is China’s most advanced frigate with an improved radar system and long-range missiles.
The Pakistan Navy has contracted the construction of four Type 054A/P frigates from China since 2017, and the first ship was launched in August 2020.
As part of the modernisation, the PN is replacing its existing ageing platforms with acquisitions from friendly countries along with transfer of technology for their in-country construction, Admiral M Amjad Khan Niazi told China’s state-run Global Times.
“The PN and PLA (People’s Liberation Army) Navy’s historic and deep-rooted relations constitute a key element. The PN has been operating Chinese-origin platforms since the early 1970s. Cooperation between the PN and PLA Navy in various domains ranges from construction of naval platforms to bilateral exercises, training and high-level exchange visits”, he said.
Naval collaboration between the two countries has been strengthened with the procurement of F-22P frigates, fast attack craft (missile), helicopters and state-of-the-art survey ship, he said.
“The PN has also contracted construction of eight Hangor-class submarines, four Type 054A/P ships and medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned combat aerial vehicles from China”, he said.
“The contract for acquisition of eight Hangor-class submarines was signed with China Shipbuilding and Offshore International Co Ltd. Of these, four submarines will be constructed in China while the other four will be built in Pakistan. These submarines, once inducted, would substantially add to the offensive capability of the PN Fleet”, he said.
With the changing threat dynamics and enhanced maritime security requirements, induction of modern and potent surface platforms like frigates, corvettes and offshore patrol vessels has assumed greater urgency, Niazi said.
“We are also looking at acquisition of modern helicopters, corvettes and shallow-water attack submarines”, he said.
On the changing maritime security environment in the Indian Ocean region, Niazi said, adding that Pakistan’s maritime security is intertwined with the maritime environment in the Indian Ocean region which is rapidly transforming.
“On our Western flank, the US-Iran standoff has vacillated, posing risks to ships plying along the international Sea Lines of Communication (SLOCs). The ongoing conflicts in Yemen and Syria are also impacting regional maritime security,” he said.
“In the non-traditional domain and across the wider region, maritime terrorism, piracy, drugs trafficking and human smuggling are some of the major challenges being faced today. In short, the challenge to our regional maritime security is an ominous hybrid mix of traditional and non-traditional threats”, he said.