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Turkey & Pakistan conduct bilateral naval exercise
November 20, 2018
The TCG Büyükada and a Pakistan Navy F-22P frigate. Photo credit: Inter Services Public Relations

Turkey & Pakistan conduct bilateral naval exercise

Over the weekend, the Turkish Navy and Pakistan Navy conducted a naval exercise in the Arabian Sea.

According to an official press release from Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), the two navies undertook tasks in “anti-air warfare operations, communication drills and joint maneuvers [involving] surface ships, aircraft and helicopters.”

Based on the photos released by ISPR, the Turkish Navy corvette TCG Büyükada participated with at least one Pakistan Navy Zulfiqar-class F-22P frigate as well as an Alouette III utility helicopter.

Pakistan’s Deputy Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Z.M. Abbasi was also briefed on the TCG Büyükada

Notes & Comments:

The Turkish naval vendor Savunma Teknolojileri Mühendislik ve Ticaret A.Ş. (STM) is currently in talks with the Pakistan Navy to develop a corvette along the lines of the Ada-class.

Representatives from STM and the Turkish Undersecretariat for Defence Industries also took part in the TCG Büyükada’s tour to the region, which had included visits to Djibouti, Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

The Pakistan Navy had originally sought the Ada-class corvette in the late 2000s to bolster its surface fleet, which was – and still is – comprised of heavily aged Type 21-class frigates. However, strenuous economic conditions had forced Pakistan to walk away from the initiative.

In June 2016, the Pakistan Navy renewed its interest in the platform, and the Turkish Ministry of Defence even forwarded a request to release a $400 million U.S. loan to help finance a ship sale to Pakistan. In August, STM announced that it was in discussions with the Pakistan Navy.

The Pakistan Navy is likely interested in the notion of procuring lower cost – but lighter displacement – surface combatants to supplant its aging ships. Modern sub-3000-ton vessels can mount capable on-board sensor, electronic support measures, and armament suites, enabling them to serve as effective multi-mission platforms. In general, these ships can be acquired and operated relatively affordably.

That said, while a modern hull could potentially be acquired in the range of a reasonable $150-170 million, the real costs of a modern warship will be only be understood once the onboard electronics and weapons suite is finalized. In other words, the STM surface warship program could be a big-ticket acquisition if the Pakistan Navy opts to immediately outfit the ships with industry standard subsystems, especially credible anti-air warfare (AAW) systems.

On the other hand, the Pakistan Navy believes it has a need for new surface ships to properly manage Pakistan’s exclusive economic zone and to fulfill its coalition commitments. It would not be surprising, especially considering economic uncertainty, if a relatively modest corvette package is pursued. In other words, modern AAW capabilities may not be an immediate priority with these ships, not if financing is to become a challenge.