According to Business Recorder, the Pakistan Navy is currently seeking four to six new fast attack craft (FAC) missile boats for guarding Gwadar, Pakistan’s new deep-sea port (and a critical piece of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor or CPEC). Speaking to The Express Tribune, Pakistan Navy officials noted that talks have already begun with Turkey and China for the FACs.
Notes & Comments:
It is likely that these FACs are primarily being sought to patrol littoral waters and to interdict and deter maritime criminal activity, such as trafficking and piracy. However, the inclusion of missile capability would indicate that these boats will double as anti-access and area denial (A2/AD) assets in wartime.
With the Azmat-class and Zarrar-class, the Pakistan Navy has experience operating Chinese and Turkish FACs, respectively. Leveraging its existing logistics and infrastructure base to add new Azmat and/or Zarrar units could be considered the most likely scenario.
The Zarrar-class (i.e. Onuk MRTP-33) is a 35-metre design which, while capable of deploying sub-sonic anti-ship missiles (such as the Harpoon Block-II), is optimized for high-speed travel (47+ knots). With a maximum range of 800 nautical miles, it is also focused for littoral water engagements.
On the other hand, the Azmat-class is a larger and longer range design at 63-tons and 1,000 nautical miles, respectively, but also slower than the MRTP-33 (with a maximum speed of 30 knots). In fact, the Pakistan Navy acquired the Azmat-class FAC to fulfill the patrol duties originally envisaged for its corvette plans, which it had dropped in the late 2000s due to Pakistan’s strenuous economic condition at the time. While classified as a FAC, some Navy officials refer to the Azmat-class FAC as a corvette.
Granted, the Pakistan Navy need not continue with the Azmat or Zarrar, but its decision will be derived on the speed, range, and payload it is looking to acquire through these FACs. While cost will be a primary factor in guiding the Navy’s decision, the entry of compact but capable subsystems (e.g. Saab Sea Giraffe 1X surveillance radar) could enable Pakistan to craft a relatively potent solution out of its future FACs.
For example, Finland’s Hamina-class FAC offers an example of how a small (250-ton) boat can be configured with multi-mission capabilities, including short-range air defence (via the Denel Umkhonto) coverage, with an emphasis on littoral defence and A2/AD.