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Pakistan orders offshore patrol vessel from Netherlands’ Damen
June 26, 2017
The Damen Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) 1800. Photo credit: Damen Shipyards

Pakistan orders offshore patrol vessel from Netherlands’ Damen

The Pakistan Navy has ordered a “multipurpose offshore patrol vessel” (OPV) from the Dutch shipbuilder Damen Shipyards on Monday, June 12.

The contract as signed by the Managing Director of Karachi Shipyards & Engineering Works (KSEW) Rear Admiral Hasan Nasir, an official from Damen Shipyards and the Director of Military Procurement (Navy) Commodore Shafqat Azad.

The Netherlands’ Ambassador to Pakistan Jeannette Seppen and the Secretary of Defence Production Lt. Gen. (R) Syed Muhammad Owais were also present at the signing event.

In in its official press release, Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence Production (MoDP) states that the new OPV will have a length of 90 m, top speed of 22 knots and full-load displacement of 1,900 tons.

As per the MoDP, the multi-mission OPV “is especially suited for anti surface [and] anti air operations, maritime security operations, day [and] night helicopter operations, combat search and rescue, and surveillance and intelligence gathering operations.”

The OPV will be constructed at KSEW.

Notes & Comments:

Though not as fast or well-armed as corvettes and frigates, OPVs are optimized for long-range and long-endurance operations, such as policing a country’s exclusive economic zone against maritime criminal activity, such as trafficking and piracy.

The MoDP‘s press statement did not state the specific Damen ship the Pakistan Navy is buying, but the specifications (of 90 m and 1,900 tons) suggest that it is could be the Damen OPV 1800.

The Damen OPV 1800 is slightly shorter at 83 m, but it has a top speed of 22 knots and displacement of 1,800 tons. It has a ferry range of 5,000 nm and endurance of 30 days. It’s flight deck and hangar are large enough for a Sea King-sized helicopter.

Unveiled in 2015, the OPV 1800 is among a series of ‘second-generation’ OPV Damen is marketing along with its Multi-Mission Bay (MM Bay) modules concept.

The MM Bay modules enable the end-user to configure the OPV for a variety of roles without modifying the core design. MM Bay modules for search-and-rescue, mine countermeasures, counter-piracy and counter-narcotics operations are available. The OPV 1800 can carry up to three MM Bay modules.

In terms of armaments, the OPV 1800 can be configured with a 76-mm main gun and two 20-mm guns. Its sensor suite can include a medium range surveillance radar and electro-optical fire control system.

In March 2017, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) unveiled an OPV design based on the Damen OPV 1800. As per IHS Jane’s, the MMEA is acquiring three of these OPVs for $167 million U.S.

Pakistan’s acquisitions show that it is pursuing corvette-sized ships to recapitalize its surface fleet. Cost is a major factor behind these decisions, corvettes are cheaper to procure and operate than frigates.

In May, KSEW signed a letter-of-intent with Turkish defence contractor Savunma Teknolojileri Mühendislik ve Ticaret (STM) to construct four 2,300-ton MILGEM Ada corvettes for the Pakistan Navy. It will ink the agreement by the end of June. The Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA) is receiving two Chinese 1,500-ton maritime patrol vessels (MPV).

  • Ali Afzal

    Nice…. Pakistan should increase the fleet of its Maritime Security Agency. This OPV looks awesome & will be very helpful.

  • bill

    I am surprised to see so much funding for PMSA operations as we are already getting 6 Chinese ( even have got some) ships for PMSA operation ranging from 500 to 1500 tons then why another OPV from Netherlands.

    We should first focus on our Navy. Though we have signed agreements for subs and corvettes but they are for medium to long term i.e shall take 5-10 Years time. However our F21 frigates have passed their useful life and sole OHP is under armed. Further the most modern frigates F22P have short range SAM coverage up to 15KM only. We should at least spend some money to get some ships at earliest as well as upgrade SAMs on our F22 frigates along with sole OHP.

    • It’s a lot of investment relative for the PMSA, but the cumulative value of these OPV, MPV, etc programs isn’t cross more than $200 m. Each MILGEM corvette and S26P submarine costs $250 m and $350 m, respectively.

      • Steve

        Bilal, strange that only ONE has been ordered. What’s the point, or maybe more are in the pipeline. Bit suspicious that. I share the frustration of people about us buying small and smaller ships only. I also agree with bill that Type-21 and OHP are just old junk, and need to be sold off or scrapped. They are death traps in any subcontinental conflict and too large to be sent after pirates/AQ types. Also Milgem is a generic term. Are we buying Ada or TF-100 class? I suppose TF-2000 class is out of the question because of size/costs. I hope as a minimum we get TF-100 with VLS. Anything else will be a waste of time, and not a big technological step up from F22P. I also hope the West release weapons these ships have been configured to, meaning Harpoons etc. Not happy buying untested Turkish equivalents. I hope a decision has not been made by us to keep the navy A2/AD only, i.e. subs, and not much else, hence the buying of baby ships.

        • There’s a well-informed member on Pakistan Defence who said the deal was actually for two OPVs, it’s just that one will be built at KSEW (and the other from Damen directly). In any case, as I had stated earlier, it’s a ship for a specific – and necessary – role. I understand the frustration, but fuming online at the Navy for managing things within its fiscal confines is inconsequential and misplaced. The Navy needs ships to assume patrol and policing duties at sea against pirates, traffickers and other criminals – i.e. immediate threats to Pakistan’s economy and integrity of its seas and coasts. This is independent of Pakistan’s conventional wartime needs – even if those were idyllically met with our wishlists, the PN will still need to buy OPVs et. al.

          As for the MILGEM. Specifics re: the PN’s configuration have not been disclosed, but thus far STM has described the PN’s order as MILGEM Ada corvettes. The Turkish Navy didn’t configure the Ada with VLS, but the LF-2400 shows us that the MILGEM Ada design can take on VLS with relatively limited design changes. VLS is doable, but we will need to wait for STM and the PN to release the official configuration. As for Western weapons. Note that the hull/engines, sensors and weapons are each separate factors. If Pakistan is unable to source sensors and weapons from the West, it will get them from elsewhere.

          In any case, the MILGEM Ada is an adept ASW platform, one designed to scour littoral waters for sub-surface threats. If anything, the PN would able to deploy an ASW coverage net over its littoral waters (via MPAs, corvettes and submarines), boosting its A2/AD element. We might scoff at it, but with a tight economic engine and a lack of native merchant trade, it’s a rational focus (for protecting Pakistan’s coastal and littoral assets). In a short-term war scenario, that is the main priority.

          A robust surface fleet is necessary to guard sea lanes and, in turn, guarantee that trade to/from Pakistan continues. However, Pakistan needs its own merchant navy to be substantive enough to make the cost of protecting the sea lanes worthwhile. Ultimately, those $350m+ frigates will need to fend off submarines and long-range AShM strikes. With a merchant fleet of less than 12, it’s going to be a while before those sea lanes are a wartime factor.

          The main issue at this time might be an enemy attempt at blockading Pakistan over the long-term. However, there are some drawbacks to such a strategy – e.g. it could force Pakistan (by necessity) to gear its economy to trade with Central Asia more so than the GCC and Africa. Pakistan may also deploy its own submarines to attempt attacks on those blockading assets. Yes, India could implement ASW coverage, but it would require a lot of assets – with heavy frequency and scope – to interdict AIP submarines at sea. It may be too costly to sustain (over months). But for Pakistan to even have this flexibility, it needs a strong A2/AD element.

          • Khalid Riaz

            Bilal, in a long war, the disruption of energy supplies would be a major challenge. That is why, we nned to develop infrastrure for over land import of enegy e.g. Iran-Pakisan pipline.

            Moreover, we need greater utilizatin of your time

          • Steve

            I agree energy is our Achilles heel. The Iran pipeline is a common sense need. However has been mired in American sanctions issues, our usual lack of funds, and politics of the Middle East with our reliance on Saudi monetary support. Not going to happen soon, not with our current leaders. The Qatar gas deal may soon become another casualty. The Saudis are not demonstrating much maturity, and inter-Arab conflict has the world wondering (and laughing). They keep opening new and totally unnecessary fronts.

          • Steve

            Thank you Bilal, informative as ever. With a $300B economy, mostly maritime, we will need SLOC protection for our own or other merchant ships. I think people understand fiscal realities, however the issue is that we do need a green rather than brown water navy, with robust air defence and anti ship missiles, and some progress toward it will be heartening. We know that an even partial distant blockage will not cross any of our ‘red lines’ but will be enough to bring us to our knees in a few weeks. With CPEC and Gwader it’s rather surprising to see what on the face of it is very slow progress.

          • Honestly, I wouldn’t expect other merchant navies to take a risk in going to Pakistan during a war. It will be up to our own, but at present, it is too small to make a difference in a conflict. It’s not just an issue of buying ships (doable and relatively affordable), but in building the necessary relations with buyers, sellers and gov’t in different countries (so that shippers can afford their trade). This is a long way out for Pakistan.

            To frame it differently. When the PN inked its deal for 8 submarines, it could have split the order down for 4 subs and 4 FFGs, or even 6 subs and 2 FFGs. It didn’t. That tells me that the PN itself has come to the conclusion that fighting over the sea lanes (SLOC) is currently futile. It’d risk $700m+ in ships to fight for $100 m in trade in a short-term conflict.

            There is certainly the risk of India trying to establish a Maritime Exclusion Zone (MEZ) on Pakistan’s SLOC as a long-term policy, but that’d be a very expensive effort for them. The PN is investing in 8 AIP submarines for a reason – i.e. to reduce the incentive for an Indian MEZ. Those Indian ships will have to fend off Pakistani submarines. Yes, India has excellent ASW resources, but that doesn’t change the incredible effort (and funds) they’ll need to employ to fight 11 (!) AIP submarines in open waters. That’s unprecedented.

            Moreover, Pakistan can restructure its economy to grow in relation to Central Asia. Pakistan has the opportunity to benefit from the demand of food and manufactured goods in Central Asia. It’s possible to re-orient parts of the coastal economy (e.g. industrial sites in Karachi) to look in that direction.

          • Khalid Riaz

            Bilal, I am not sure I quite agree with the proposition that the navy would be risking “700m+ in ships to fight for $100 m in trade in a short-term conflict”.

            Pakistan’s annual trade is US dollars 65 billion plus. Even in a 6-week long conflict, 6-7 billion dollars worth of marchandise and fuel would be at stake.

          • I was specifically referring to the likely volume produced by Pakistan’s <10 merchant ships. We can't rely on foreign merchants to make their way through a war zone, it'll be up to Pakistani ones and, sadly, there aren't many. I do agree that Pakistan will need to greatly expand its own merchant navy. Even a state-owned one with a great many ships and vast vendor connections would be great, a part of its profit could be put to building a strong surface warship fleet.

          • amar

            Hi bilal,I guess by the time Pakistan adds those 8 Chinese subs, India would have added 12 new conventional subs and at least 4-5 nuclear submarines. Not to mention both P-28 and P-28A class of ASW ships. This coupled with P8i forms a very potent anti submarine force that India can bring forth in time of war.
            In my view, Pakistani naval high command knows it too well that a surface confrontation with IN is bound to result in annihilation of PN. So the only chance they’ve is to form a potent sub surface arm. With this they can hope to at least make the war a bit costly for India that’s all. But with on going inductions and developments in India,I doubt how will Pakistani 11 subs compare against a combined sub surface fleet of 25-26(nuclear and conventional combined).

          • Steve

            That’s why I suggested earlier that we think of developing cost effective small satellite imaging and targeting, launched by China if needed, and something akin to DF-21D. We are good at building road mobile MRBM. Chinese help can be sought. Buying a whole new surface navy is a lot more expensive and at least we can threaten ships as far away as Bombay with this. It will be A2/AD on steroids, with no current reliable counter.

          • amar

            Hi steve! There is nothing like “imagining and targeting” mini satellite.
            For something like DF21, you’d need the following-
            1) OTH radars that can provide rough location of aircraft carriers.
            2) an array of imaging satellite to provide you track of your enemy carrier.
            3) and lastly an active seeker or IIR on board the missile itself to steer it to the target in terminal phase.
            Now Pakistan neither has technology nor the financial resources to build an array of imaging satellites that will have constant watch over Arabian sea. Now the reason why you’d need an array of satellites is because these imaging sats are in low earth orbit and hence pass over a fixed area at a certain interval of time hence to have full coverage you’d need more than one satellite.
            In the end,Pakistan would be better off with some Chinese weapon than going all by itself

          • Steve

            Of course I understand the concept. For imaging you can’t have geosynchronous so you need an orbital array. I was talking about imaging satellites for locating targets which you also talk about. Satellites are being miniaturised and getting cheaper now as we all know, and scores can be put in orbit simultaneously. Seekers of course will be needed. I did mention help from China so we are in agreement! If we can’t get into this, there is not much hope for PN as people seem to think we have given up on a surface fleet.

          • amar

            No disrespect my friend but surface confrontation between IN and PN, the latter is a dead fish! Period! The only arena where PN can at least hope to make things a bit costly for IN is sub surface warfare. And that’s the reason why PN went for 8 subs and not 6subs+2 frigates or 4subs+4frigates– because they know very well where to invest the precious resources they’ve got.

          • Steve

            Do we want to change the situation or are we resigned to the status quo, potentially for decades.

  • Quraishi

    Y does Pakistan always order such baby ships, when other countries are going for full scale destroyers.
    Such vessels are ping pong when it comes to war, it seems these purchases are just done to make people happy, and perhaps to have a reason for foreign trips.

    • OPVs aren’t being sought to fight wars, but to patrol the seas for low-intensity and asymmetrical threats such as piracy, trafficking, etc. While an OPV is of little-to-no use in a conventional war, it stakes its value in mitigating recurring problems at sea that can (if left unchecked) cost Pakistan in peacetime.

      • Quraishi

        But this is all what Pakistan gets, I don’t think Pakistan have any high end destroyers. What internal conflict in Pakistan has done is shifted the military focus from big war assets to such smaller assets in all lines of military, now we see huge investment in counter insurgrncy small arms etc. equipment that will be of very little use in a war.

        • Pakistan signed a multi-billion dollar for eight submarines in 2015. In fact, Pakistan could have actually split this into a fewer submarines for some frigates, but it didn’t. There is a clear intent to build a very strong subsurface arm, which will serve as a vital anti-access and area denial (A2/AD) tool against enemy naval intrusion, especially in Pakistan’s littoral waters. These OPVs might be “ping pong”, but no adversary would take the threat of 11 AIP-equipped submarines lightly, not a single one considering the difficulty of a successful offensive anti-sub warfare operation.

          Protecting Pakistan’s littoral waters and coastal assets is the Navy’s primary wartime goal at this time and its acquisitions reflect the goal fairly well. While this isn’t ideal in that little emphasis will be had in guarding the sea lanes and guaranteeing sea trade, Pakistan as a country has yet to build a sizable sea trading arm worth protecting (Pakistan has less than a dozen merchant ships under its ownership).

          As for the OPVs. Their value stems from being able to address low-intensity maritime threats without having to commit – and risk – substantially costlier hardware, such as the F-22P and (in time) MILGEM.

        • Arkitek Reyes

          1900 ton’s are not baby ships they are heavy OPV’s reputedly as per the manufacturers brochures its blue water capable. What Pakistan arms it with will decide with finality if it will last long during extensive war issues.

    • You are quite right sir, after more than 70 years, still we are not able to unveil even one such weapon,s system , just corruption , and lack of visionary leadership, what the hell are doing marine engineers , just cheating the nation ,and always begging for secon hand and junk systems.

      • Quraishi

        It’s coz Pakistanis ground army takes most of the budget, and are heavily involved in politics. The vision is too localized and focused on ground wars and power, whereas most big countries focus on navies. With a population of 200milliom and those too quiet well armed, a full fledge invasion of Pakistan by any army is practically impossible.
        Primarily solution rests in the strategic command structure of army.
        Joint chief of staff should lead the army fully, all 3 branches and the competition should be open to general level officers from all 3 branches.
        Solely army’s monopoly of command should end.
        There maybe a be a much higher quality officer to lead the army but he maybe left out as the selection is only from the army core.
        Joint chief of staff leading will also bring about more synergy and integration, resulting in better and more efficient investment of resources, with a direct broader prospective while making strategic decisions.
        The reason army structure is designed as such in Pakistan and India is not to give to much power to one person, but this is not resolved the issue of military over throwing the political government, so it’s purpose is not achieved, thus keeping a command structure or lesser efficiency and effectiveness is useless.

        • Im thankfull to you sir , for your handy, consised and precised comment ,but im afraid in future ,coz our corrupt and puppet politicians are not learning a lesson and trying to politicise the army as a whole ,that can be a fatal and demorelizing and can damaged the the whole structure ,though they are very professional and acknowleged all over the world ,but fighting is being demoralized by the corruption at all levels in the country ,especially targetting the armed forces and intelligence agencies by our own previous and present government ministers at differents events , thats embarassing, any thanks you very much sir.

  • Kazmi

    It is unwise to use the artillery gun to shoot the sparrow. So, smaller weapons are used for smaller targets and heavy weapons for bigger target. Before selecting the right type of weapon one has to conceive and analyse the threat level, threat direction and the battle terrain, weather, it is ground, air or sea. The small ships are being purchased in particular perspective to mitigate the low level risks posed by the particular regional and global state/non state forces to our sea line of communication and exclusive economical zone.
    Considering the prevailing economical situation of the country, purchase of such light naval arsenal is a smart solution and is commendable. However, how many ships Pakistan is purchasing from Nether Land, is not clear so for. It would be a great kind if Bilal could let me know.

    • The MoDP says that KSEW is building one, but a credible member on Pakistan Defence said that two are on order. Having seen the person’s past reports, I am inclined to accept his info, especially since it doesn’t contradict the official statement. One being built at KSEW doesn’t mean two aren’t on order.

      Worth noting that Damen also has a cutter design in the Damen Stan 4207, which is similar in specifications and capability to the GRC43M the PMSA had wanted from the U.S. From what I can find, each one costs around $15-20 m a boat. Who knows, it’ll be interesting to see if the PMSA builds out its fleet with more Damen ships in the coming years.

  • Just another point to the discussion here. I understand acquisitions such as this seem iffy in light of the region’s naval environment, but it shouldn’t be seen in that light.

    Fundamentally, the PMSA is like a paramilitary sea-arm. It is an instrument for guaranteeing low-level security tasks at sea so that the Navy-proper is free from committing its wartime assets. In another sense, a specialized – and well-equipped – PMSA helps protect Pakistan’s naval assets (e.g. ships, infrastructure, dockyards, etc) from asymmetrical threats.

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