The Pakistan Navy Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Muhammad Zakaullah announced that efforts were underway to procure new surface warships for the Pakistan Navy fleet.
The Associated Press of Pakistan reports that the statement was made during the award ceremony of the annual Pakistan Navy Fleet Efficiency Competition.
Admiral Zakaullah also noted that the submarines being procured from China, now officially designated Hangor-class submarines (in honour of the Daphne diesel-electric submarines the Navy retired in 2006), will contribute significantly to the Navy’s operational capabilities.
Notes & Comments:
In 2016, the Pakistan Navy outlined the steps it intended to take to modernize and better prepare itself to defend Pakistan’s emerging maritime security interests. In his address, Admiral Zakaullah likely referred to the ongoing talks with the Turkish naval solutions vendor Savunma Teknolojileri Mühendislik A.Ş. (STM) for four MILGEM warships, which STM aims to finalize in 2017. The potential scope of configuration for these ships is wide in that it could result in a thinly armed solution for peacetime operations to a light frigate capable of medium-range anti-air warfare (AAW).
Interestingly, analysts are observing that the Navy is adding new anti-access and area denial (A2/AD) capabilities. For example, Defense News outlined that the fourth Azmat-class fast attack craft (FAC) will incorporate improvements in “weaponry, sensors and materials.” Official illustrations of the fourth Azmat-class FAC showcase a 2×3 anti-ship missile (AShM) launcher, which is a contrast from the 2×4 AShM system seen on serving Azmat-class FACs.
This has led some to speculate that the fourth Azmat FAC could be equipped with a longer range and/or heavier payload AShM, such as the Zarb (thought by some to be the C-602) or an AShM version of the Babur land-attack cruise missile. As per the Ministry of Defence Production’s 2014-2015 yearbook, the Directorate General of Munitions Production (DGMP) was tasked with “the indigenous developing of ship-borne system with Land Attack Missile and Anti ship Missile.” If referring to a launcher, the fourth Azmat FAC could be an early test platform for this system and, potentially, an AShM Babur.
This is not news. The details offered in this section are not authoritative pieces of information, but rather, perspectives of the author.
If an Azmat FAC is on track to be armed with long-range attack capabilities (e.g. 700 km Babur), then the prospect of Pakistan deploying the launcher – along with large surface-to-surface missiles such as the Babur, Zarb, or potentially even supersonic cruising missiles such as the CM-302 or CX-1 – on other surface platforms, such as frigates, is plausible. Frigates especially considering that one could equip long-range surveillance and tracking radars to such ships, enabling them to fully utilize their missile loads and, potentially, guide missiles launched from FACs and submarines. The MILGEM-G frigate would be an interesting platform since its mock-ups show a 2×8 AShM load (i.e. 16 AShMs), in contrast to the 2×4 AShM load on the MILGEM corvette.