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The Pakistan Navy’s Frigate Options
March 28, 2017
A mock-up of the High Performance Frigate designed by the Chinese Shipbuilding & Offshore International Co. (CSOC). Photo credit: Chinese Military Review

The Pakistan Navy’s Frigate Options

15 February 2016

By Bilal Khan

‘Frigates’ are surface warships. These warships are the mainstay of a naval fleet, often serving in roles such as patrolling a country’s maritime space, escorting other ships, and engaging in direct combat operations against enemy naval assets. A modern frigate is a multi-mission system, most often equipped for anti-ship warfare (AShW), anti-submarine warfare (ASW), and anti-air warfare (AAW).

It is important to understand that modern frigates, i.e. systems equipped with sufficient AAW capabilities, are indispensable naval assets. Yes, diesel-electric submarines (SSKs) have emerged as major threats for all surface combatants, but for one to possess the maximum possible flexibility in using their own SSKs, it is imperative they have the means to counter systems designed to track and hunt SSKs, such as maritime patrol aircraft (MPA).

A frigate equipped with sufficient AAW capabilities, particularly in the form of medium-range surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), is an example of an effective countermeasure. Unfortunately, the Pakistan Navy (PN) is completely lacking in this regard, and there is no clear roadmap as to when or how this will be resolved.

The PN’s current fleet is composed of one FFG-7 (Oliver Hazard Perry-class), five ex-Royal Navy Type-21 (Amazon-class) and four F-22P (Zulfiqar-class) frigates. Taken together, the FFG-7, Type-21 and F-22P are decent AShW and ASW platforms, but their collective AAW capabilities are restricted to short-range air defence (SHORAD) systems. For example, the FM-90 SAM used on the F-22P has a maximum engagement range of 15km. While this is good for protecting the vessel, it does not offer area wide air defence coverage.

Moreover, the PN’s Type-21s are heavily aged platforms that are basically in need of being phased out. Once these ships are gone, the PN will be left with a glaring capability gap in its surface fleet. In order to rectify this problem, the PN had originally hoped to acquire up to six retired FFG-7/Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates from the U.S., but general hostility in Congress towards Pakistan closed this avenue. Instead, the PN will have to look for used frigates in other countries.

For the PN, it may not be prudent to heavily invest in upgrading used platforms. At this stage, the PN simply needs ships it can operate in accordance with its peacetime needs, such as its participation in Combined Task Force 150. But in terms of the long-term, the PN will be best served by selecting a new-generation platform, which it can then build-upon to develop a solution tuned to its specific needs. While several options may exist in this regard, it is likely that the PN would ultimately select China Shipbuilding and Offshore International Co. (CSOC) as its partner in this project.

It is worth noting that the PN is acquiring eight new submarines from CSOC, hence it is well within the realm of reason to see the PN expand that partnership into the area of frigates. In fact, CSOC even has an export-focused design, i.e. the “High Performance Frigate.” The 3700 ton High Performance Frigate utilizes a stealthy hull design meant to reduce the ship’s radar and infrared signatures. With a length of 135 metres, maximum speed of 28 knots, and a crew of around 110 personnel, the High Performance Frigate is essentially a medium-sized multi-mission frigate.

According to the defence news site Navy Recognition, CSOC’s design incorporates a 32-cell vertical launch system (VLS). These VLS cells could be used to deploy medium-range SAMs, such as the Chinese HHQ-16, which has a range of at least 40km. In addition, the frigate can be equipped with two anti-ship missile (AShM) quad-launchers and a 76.2mm main naval gun. Two close-in weapon-systems (CIWS) and a point-defence missile system (PDMS) are also present for protection against incoming anti-ship missiles.

Interestingly, CSOC did not specify the frigate’s ASW capabilities. Instead, CSOC representatives told Navy Recognition that it “depends on customer needs.” Since CSOC did not explicitly mention that the VLS was restricted to SAMs, it is possible that the design could be configured to carry (in addition to two triple ASW torpedo launchers) a VLS-launched rocket-powered torpedo solution, such as the CY-5. This would confer the High Performance Frigate with VL-ASROC-style ASW capabilities. While a modern frigate’s torpedo tubes give it ASW capabilities, ASROC-like capability can offer additional engagement range.

It is evident that the CSOC High Performance Frigate design has the features (e.g. VLS) to warrant at least the possibility of serving as the basis of the PN’s next-generation surface fleet. CSOC has developed a balanced design, and if paired with the full-suite of Chinese armaments (i.e. HHQ-16 SAM, C-802 AShM, CY-5 VL-ASROC, FL-3000N PDMS, and Yu-7 ASW torpedo), a fleet of six to eight of these frigates would be an exponential leap compared to the PN’s existing fleet.

Moreover, the PN has the option to customize the design, which it could use to fulfill future requirements. For example, it could work with CSOC to develop an enlarged version with an additional 16 or 32 VLS-cells, which could be allocated for the Babur land-attack cruise missile (LACM) and/or long-range SAMs (100km+). A smaller number (three or four) of these large frigates could compliment a larger number (six to eight) of medium-sized frigates, thereby giving the PN a robust frigate fleet capable of addressing key maritime challenges, especially in wartime.

Unfortunately, Pakistan’s structural economic problems will dampen the PN’s modernization efforts. While an expensive acquisition, a new design offers long-term cost-savings (by freeing the PN of maintaining heavily aged platforms and replacing them more frequently), in addition to enhanced operational capabilities. Given that a fleet of modern multi-mission frigates is vital to Pakistan’s long-term maritime interests, it is imperative that the Pakistan Navy not be put into a situation to compromise on this front.

  • jigsaww

    Part of the problem is of course poor financial situation but a bigger problem is just a general lack of focus on pak navy overall in Pakistan military and gov. It’s been like this for years but it needs to change pretty soon now. Strategically speaking , PN has also put itself on a wrong policy of maintaining a 1:5 ratio with Indian navy. It’s absurd and a strategic sin. And that’s because PN sees itself only as a defensive force. That needs to change to be able to carry out deep penetration ops and providing sound defense and area denial. Two things need to change here fast. First the approach to accepting navy’s critical importance in changing scenario by both the joint military command and the gov. And then this absurd 1:5 ratio. The ratio should never be less than 2.5:5 for PN to be able to guarantee its tasks.

    Writing about this is the first step in that direction so great work here.

    • Unlike the Army and Air Force, the Navy does not need to be recapitalized on a frequent or ongoing basis. An investment of $10 billion U.S. today in frigates, submarines and aircraft will serve Pakistan for the next 40-50 years, that’s a cost sink of about $200mn U.S. a year. That is absolute peanuts when put into the context of defending one’s SLOCs, harbours, and port cities, which collectively account for tens of billions of dollars in economic activity each and every year.

      • jigsaww

        That’s every bit correct. But then who will get this thinking across into the heads of decision makers up there. By every technical analysis, Pakistan is making huge mistake here by treating its navy as some adopted child and putting its needs on the back burner. You should write more about this. I know getting western systems will be outright difficult for setting aside large funds at once, but these deals can be done with china under a strategic protection of mutual assets. Navy will be the key here once CPEC starts functioning by 2018. There is a need for Pakistan to double down on its current surface fleet and ASW assets. If it wasn’t for Strategic command, navy would not even be getting 8 new subs.

        • Abdul Rashid

          “Who will get this thinking across into the heads of decision makers up there”.
          It’s a sorry state of affairs indeed if the decision makers stand in need of a nudge in the right direction by Quwa articles! But I do see share your frustration. So many of Pakistan’s defence related plans for the air force, navy, army and space often build up hope and then somehow fizzle out over time. This seems to be the pattern past ten or so years at least.

          • jigsaww

            They’re too grooved into WOT and fata ops with major focus on army and airforce. Navy itself lacks the spark to push its requirements strongly based on emerging threat perceptions in backdrop of CPEC and more. In that case, it’s always good to raise the voice. I believe army and airforce are doing relatively fine. Navy needs focus.

          • Don’t forget the debt-servicing.

          • It is important to drive home the point of how integral the Navy is to Pakistan’s economic survival.

  • Zaff Hundal

    I thought that the Karachi shipyard is building the zulfiqar type destroyer itself why can it it expand to build bigger ships with the help of Chinese. It is getting vital for the PN to acquire since the protection of Gawadhar port and other strategically important areas.

  • Zaff Hundal

    As usual very good read. Bilal Khan can you do an analysis on Pakistan satellite and cyber programmes. Please

    • MT

      Pak is way behind country like indonesia in rocket technology.
      Indonesia atleast makes inhouse sounding rocket. Pak uses chinese long march 1 1970 tech for solid rocket engine technology.
      The diameter of engine & specific impulse is ditto similar to one posted by vhundst company

      pak needs to start from scratch. with in 25 yrs pak can attempt to send 50kg object into low earth which require speed up to 24 mach

      • Muhammad Shahid

        By posting here bla bla bla (india nay ye b lay liya wo b lay liya)……Ground realities are not going to change that Indians even cant pluck a single under hair of Pak. End of Talk.

        • MT

          pak is on verge of debt trap.
          without American aid pak ll collapse in a year

          • Muhammad Shahid

            Right. USA need Pak in any case and Pak not going to collapse. Not only USA, but China, KSA also desparately need Pak. So, you can continue with yours wet day dreams. No problem.

            Now see : USA sold only 8 F-16s to Pak…….Aur India kee phat k galay mein pad gayee…..Sahee kaha na maine??? Now think when PN will get 8 Submarines from China…………..India bechara to wad jaay ga na jahan say nikla tha!!!!

            BTW with CPEC in process, very soon Chinese Navy will also start operation in Arabian sea. Who knows in case of a naval war, indian fleet sink in Arabian sea by Chinese submarines….!!!

          • MT

            1.- Pak have got us trapped in Afghanistan–So you can extort them for few more bilion until they vacate in 2018–then you can forget all the military and civilian aid

            2. No harm in buying weapons–All we want is for Pak to pay for them from their pockets—– We will pressurize on Ameircan to not give those weapons as doles
            3. Lol——–CPEC is another myth–Not even 1 bill$ investment have come in 2 years– Chinese navy can come to Arabian sea at their risk-_P8i will poach their submarines 1 by 1

            4— In 1971, 1 navy lost 60% of its ships— Lets hope it doesnt get repeated

          • Muhammad Shahid

            1- This is a matter between USA and Pak. India beech mein aisay hee sala ban raha hay

            2- This is a matter between USA and Pak. India beech mein aisay hee sala ban raha hay

            3- This is a matter between USA and Pak. India beech mein aisay hee sala ban raha hay

            4- One country lost almost 50% Kashmir to Pak in 1948 (we will get remaining 50% soon), 70% Air Force in 1965 and Kargil Peak5353 in 1999 (still under Pak Control). Let us hope Pak will repeat it again when time came.

            By the Way: This is not 1971 and Pak do not have to defend a land 1000 miles away. Mind it.

          • MT

            Pak won 25% kashmir from king..India joined the war after pak was next to srinagar.
            Pak had lost more land and more of everything in 1965.

            Pak didn’t have capacity to continue with was with no munition.
            Kargil war caused u tag of jihadi state with loss of 4000soldiers

          • SP

            Lets not underestimate each other. Pakistan needs to do something major and build a strong navy otherwise the gap with India will widen. Indian has ambitions to be a naval power and sees the Indian Ocean as its backyard. I think that an aircraft carrier is needed by Pakistan and the submarines need to be nuclear powered. Pakistan Navy cannot be solely for defence but must take the offence in case of war and it must counter Indian naval ambitions.

          • MT

            I m being realistic–

            Indian navy is the best arm of India– India naval shipbuilders and DRDO build more than 70% of all equipments with in India

            1. Pakistan lacks ability to make surface ships–Karachi shipyard is good in assembling and screw driver job
            2. Pakistan havent made a single nuclear reactor–Khushab and other reactors were designed,manufactured by China– with poor industrial capability:Pakistan cant produce most of reactor components

            3. Nuclear reactor requires miniaturization of Pressure heavy water reactor

            4. Chinese are struggling with aircraft carrier– 1 Carrier requires 3 bill$..
            And cost keeps going up if you start sourcing components from west!

          • Muhammad Shahid

            Realistically : Pak will acquire carrier killers from China (Who knows we already have a few). We are waiting you Carriers.

            Pak made something or not…..: india sala lagta hay!!! y u r taking so much tension that Pak makes nothing?

            Again i prescribe for u bcoz u have serious Pak phobia disease. Such patients do not live long.
            1) Do not watch excessive Bollywood movies.
            2) Take 96 sleeping pills 3 nights (if u survived 1st and 2nd night)
            3) Keep visiting your psycho doc.

          • MT

            Brahmos anti ship CM is the most potent cruise missile- Barak8 was informally tested against Brahmos–

            India is not scared of chinese brahmos copy!

          • Muhammad Shahid

            U r talking like an excited kid….. Copy or not copy, the function of carrier killer is to drown carriers. So it will do its job even its a copy. Looks u have serious IQ issues!!!

            All weapons systems being produced world wide are copy to each other one or the other way. The function is destruction. Hope you got the bottom line lesson.

            With new dronic weapons systems being produced, these carriers are no more effective in future wars.

          • MT

            Aircraft carrier goes with entire fleet armed with barak8 SAM which is the second best potent naval defense after American SM and RIM systems.
            Barak have range of 70-110km and have one of most sophisticated naval fire control radar

          • SP

            A ship built in Karachi or acquired from China will do exactly the same job.

            China is due to have its second carrier operational soon and then the pace of induction will increase.

            With carrier killer missiles and drone submarines Aircraft carriers could be sitting ducks in case of war with any major power.

          • MT

            Janes and other news source are not sure of capabilities those carrier killer missiles– By the way Barak8 can bring down brahmos which is mother of those chinese copy cats!

          • Muhammad Shahid

            And what Barak8 will do against stealthy CKMs? It will not be able to track it what is coming to its way! and ur carrier will carry everything in the sea bottom with it.

          • MT

            Barark 8system have Israeli Aesa MF STAR radar that can detect RCS object of less than 0.1 meter square. Google the spec.
            cruise missile can’t hide in open sea, Mr high IQ

          • Muhammad Shahid

            On papers it may be looking very effective……..But every system have failures. Do not over estimate machines. remember Her ser ka sawa ser hota hay. Mr. Low IQ.

          • MT

            Barak8 is state of art-something which China cant make over next 5 years! Perhaps chinese copy cat of brahmos might even fail to launch–
            Look at the chinese engine imported in Pakistan!!

          • Muhammad Shahid

            Who cares…??? Even if india buy all weapons systems of world, they still lack courage to attack Pak. U did not understood a simple point I already told u (which even a child can now understand). “It is easy to start a war, but it is too difficult to cap it”. U are always welcome to bring on ur all weapons and see how we respond it…!!! We are not empty handed too.

            We have ruled india for 1000 years. We will re-occupy india SURELY….Mr. Barak8obama.

          • MT

            You saw it in 1971– India wont launch a war but it will force Pak to enter in arms race so that Pakistan end up spending all its budget on Pakistan!

            Lol–Pakistan cant rule their own country–Those who ruled parts of India were afghani, Irani, Uzbek(Babar family)! ! Uneducated & zahil
            Pakjabis worked in horse yard of Maharaja ranjeet singh!

            Dont dream too much–Pak wont sustain another 1-2 decade–It will split apart into 4-5 countries

          • Muhammad Shahid

            Yr language and spellings to describe urdu words are telling me well how educated u r….!!! It is JAHIL not ZAHIL u JAHIL. Understand???

            U baled head / single pony hindus always lacks information about Pak……..Indian companies are dying to do business with Pak. Your govt is crying for MFN which not will be granted. Indians crying to have rout for access to Central Asia, which will not be granted.

            One of indias biggest business group is ready to suck my **** and requesting me to visit them in Mumbai to talk some buck business which I am absolutely not interested. Instead I am giving multi-million dollar business to other countries.

            This is my own single example and Pak is a market of 200 Million people. Indians (were/are/will remain) shit black hindus still treating their own hindus as sub human class like Shooder/Dalit. People even do not have toilets in their homes. I am sure you also have to go out in fields to shit or you must have a single toilet for all of your community. Killing yr own daughters, raping yr own females, living in slums. I am sure you also belong to some slum. Right?

            India was/is like a prostitute….foreigners came here, fucked it and left it. Even some occupied it forcefully like us.

            Now this is not 1971 and Pak do not need to defend a land 1000 miles away and now the services of Mukti Bahni are not available to indians. If you have any miscalculation, come and try.

          • Muhammad Shahid

            Haha…King India….Hahaha. OMG King India…Hahahaha. Joke of the day.
            King indians do not have toilet seats in their houses……and they uses train lines and fields to shit on………Hahaha. King Kong India.

            Which Land lost Pak in 1965? In your usual wet dreams (like your generals who were dreaming to have a party in Lahore Gymkhana)?

            It looks u are living in some fool’s paradise….Do u think Afghans have capacity to continue war?
            Are u observing wars world wide? It is easy to say or start, but it is not each to cap wars once start. It do not require capacities….It require WILL. India better focus on insurgencies in their red corridor. Also count how many soldiers you have lost against Kashmir and Mao insurgencies in during last 10 years!!!

            Ya, we are Jihadi state, that’s why USA is giving us latest planes, radars and weapons…..And Chinese as well. It looks you have no idea or knowledge how govt to govt deals and tasks are done!!! Better come to real world and stop watching excessive Bollywood movies.

          • MT

            1. Kashmir was ruled by a king Hari singh–Pak attacked his country–India got involved after he acceded to India

            2. Atleast india have train and lines while Pakistan is used to importing third standard locomotive from china which rarely works…

            3. India have 3-4 times more than land at time of 1965 ceasefire–You can refer to Time articles from 1965

            4. India have contained naxal violence which is at record low—Pakistani Punjabi jihadis who corss border for jihad get parcelled to hoors with in a month!

            5. Pakistan continues to arm taliban whose leadership is based in Pakistan–These jihadis terrorize peaceful afghani!

            US is paying the extortion hafta/rangdari tax as they dont want to stay in afghanistan for ever—

            China & Pak are enemy of India-So they are likely to keep supporting you!

          • SP

            Treaty is accession has never been made public and is doubtful if it even exists.

            My understanding is that Pakistan acquired as much land as it lost in 1965 war.

            Even now Pakistsn has possession of a couple of peaks in Kashmir after Kargil that it kept.

            1971 war was unwinable in East Pakistan but the soldiers fought bravely despite many shortcomings in the higher leadership.

          • jigsaww

            Here is what actually happened in Kashmir. Rebuttal to indian twisted story with logic.

            The states of Jammu And Kashmir have traditionally been princely states and the last sort-of King of J&K
            was Hari Singh, a Hindu. At the time of partition, J&K was given
            right to decided whether to choose India or Pakistan, since being a
            landlocked land, it was and still is impossible for J&K to become
            and survive as an independent state. Since J&K was to join one of
            the two “democratic” states, it was logical to give people of J&K
            power of vote to decide. Hari singh offered a standstill agreement
            to both Pakistan and India, which india rejected (thus rejecting Kashmiris to decide for themselves) and Pakistan accepted,
            thus upholding and supporting the right of Kashmiris to decide for
            themselves. At the time of partition, more people
            in J&K wanted to be part of Pakistan, democratically. The
            arrangement was almost in place, when The Raja Hari singh, sensing this
            Pakistani-support in Kashmiris, approached India, overriding
            the democratic wishes of the people to make J&K part of India,
            whereas the British as well as the UN openly called for vote of choice
            on part of the people to decide their fate. Nothing of this sort was
            allowed to happen because of direct talks between India’s rulers and
            Kashmir’s King. Indian government in return, basically blackmailed (oh something they’ve been doing since then to everyone in favor of Pakistan) the
            King to accede J&K to india, following which India will enter its
            occupation forces in the land. In all this ruckus, The raja completely
            ignored what the people wanted and hastily acceded J&K to India (which would in today’s world equate to having an installed indian muslim king to sign an accession agreement to make all india part of Pakistan; such is the *cute* proof indians bring of their “legal” right on J&K) and
            thus started the journey of the moralistic indian occupation of
            Kashmir. Pakistan sensed and knew that something in secret was going on
            between
            the King and the Indians, and therefore knew that indian plans to invade
            and take J&K by force. Pakistan then asked its British general to
            intervene in Kashjmir, who declined to help Pakistan to secure rights of
            Kashmiris. As a result Pakistan and India went into
            their first ever war in 1948, the result of which was Pakistan freeing
            40% of J&K. The rest simply fell under indian occupation.

            I don’t think you need someone else to tell
            you who is on the moral side of Kashmir when you have 1 million
            soldiers deployed in a state. Where curfews take place. Where laws like
            AFSPA are implemented. Where Indian military is accused of crimes and
            genocide by Amnesty International and where media has a total ban.

            India
            has been playing dual faced on
            J&K. On one hand it calls itself the largest democracy in the world,
            and on the other hand, it deals with J&K on dictator-styled Kingly
            behavior by denying kashmiris their vote, by denying UN mandate, and in
            first place by signing a one-sided dictator agreement with the king.

    • Noted 🙂

  • MT

    India can add 1 pak navy every 3 year. India will have 3 nuke submarine+1 russian akuka and 6scorpene by2020.
    Lately india ll widen above surface capabilities.
    Finally with india launching 50SLV by2020.Assuming 1 Slv to piggybacking 2 satellite. and 40% local satelli launches; india ll have mapped every swath of arabian sea with multi spectral resolution satellite.
    Indian intefrated space xelt is evolving with 2 satellite for navy and airforce, 7 satellite for 2000km-+ indian subcontinent up to gulf and south china sea with few cm military resolution.

    • jigsaww

      Clearly way too overrated and exaggerated. It’s not like india can keep adding and adding as if plucking oranges from a tree. These are major projects and require time, money, and resources. India still is a poor country at the end of the day. The indian problem is its mind is stuck on pakistan but ambitions are stuck on china. Pakistan does have disadvantage of low surface vessels at the moment but by 2020/22, it will also have 11 AIP subs equipped for N roles. Two area’s need to be addressed by 2020. Adding destroyers with medium to long range area defence, and new frigates.

      • MT

        Pak navy placed order im October. ai can bet that pak would need at least 10 yrs to build those 8 submarines. Pak is still negotiating sub configuration.
        Pakdef claims that chinese denied SlBM tot.They would offer 2000tons submarine which won’t have VLS.
        Pak have failed to develop submarine version of babur limited by poor solid rocket booster, no experience in developing thrust vector engine fot booster.
        currently popeye class SlCM from Israel needs 7-8meter long torpedo tube to fire 1000km range SlCM.
        Agosta with barely 6meter torpedo tube cant be used to fire any decent range Slcm.
        Indian own AIP technology will be used in 6th scorpene.
        Three more scorpene ll be on order post induction of six scorpene from 2020 which too will have DRDO AIP.
        L&T will work on six SSN construction from 2018 the time third SSBN hull is fabricated.

        Meanwhile india will keep adding modified kamorta frigates, project 17b frigates, vishakapatnam class destroyers.
        Indian second air craft carrier commissions in 2018. Third one may begin construction from COCHIN post 2018.

        india allocated 25% budget to navy.With indian budget growing from 50 bill $ to 100 bill $ by 2022; and indigenous naval component rising from current 70% to 80% in 6-7yrs.

        What matter is indian military space capabilities .India can makes top class satellite for barely 50million $ which china or Europe will bill pak for 250-300million$.
        Indian entire gps installation cost 300 million $ which involves developing 7 satellite and 7 slv.

        • jigsaww

          Stop pasting me this self-praise garbage again and again.
          If Pakistan will need 10 years to build those 8 subs, i think every person on planet will agree that india will take 40 years to build its ships. Even while having support from dozen countries, you ppl basically continue to fail.

          • MT

            Pak cant make basic tin of those ships without chinese help while India makes all of its ships in indian shipyard!

            India have 12+ shipyard making ships,frigates, aircraft carrier and destroyer

          • jigsaww

            The more you shout, the less you listen, and you haven’t been. I’ve said this dozen times before, why!.

            Do yourself a favor and don’t spend your pate on things you do not understand. You’ll heat up that upper section and explode it. It goes fast when its empty.

          • MT

            Its serious discussion–Inability of pak shipyard to make basic OPV vessles make them too dependent on chinese and western doles—

            Why doesnt Pak spend its resources on R&D—– At first, you guys should try to make moped engine and spend money on research which is sustainable long term

          • jigsaww

            No it’s not a serious discussion. It’s your cheap below the belt jibes that you can’t stop typing.

            A serious discussion with you never took off. You are not here for that.

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