The Government of Pakistan has appointed Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi to the office of Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), succeeding Admiral Muhammad Zakaullah, who will retire on October 06.
Admiral Abbasi was commissioned in 1981 upon graduating from the Pakistan Naval Academy. Abbasi had also received training at the Britannia Royal Naval College in the U.K. According to Daily Pakistan’s profile, Admiral Abbasi held various posts, among them Commandant of the Naval Academy, Director General of the Maritime Security Agency (2010-2011), Commander of the 21st Mine Squadron, Commander of the 25th Destroyer Squadron, Assistant CNS of Operations and Assistant CNS of Plans. Abbasi was also officer of the Navy’s Submarine Branch and had undertaken training in the U.S. in subsurface warfare.
Notes & Comments:
Admiral Zakaullah had overseen the finalization of the Pakistan Navy’s single largest program to-date, the acquisition of the Hangor (II)-class air-independent propulsion (AIP)-powered submarine (SSP) from China.
Pakistan is slated to acquire the first four Hangor (II) SSPs from 2022 to 2023, with the remaining four (to be built at Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works) by 2028. In June 2016, Pakistan awarded the Turkish company Savunma Teknolojileri Mühendislik ve Ticaret A.Ş. (STM) to upgrade the Navy’s Khalid-class (i.e. Agosta 90B) SSPs. The first ship was due for completion in 45 months from June 2016.
The outgoing leadership also inaugurated PNS Hameed, a very-low-frequency radio transmission station to enable transmission to the submerged submarines, which constitute the mainstay of the Navy’s efforts for force modernization and growth. Other programs coming to fruition include, among others, the launch of the Azmat-class fast attack craft (FAC) PNS Himmat, which may be equipped with a dual anti-ship and land-attack cruise missile launch system; the conversion of ATR-72 airliners into anti-submarine warfare-capable maritime patrol aircraft; modernization of Sea King naval multi-role helicopters (IHS Jane’s); and raising of Task Force 88 to guard the Gwadar deep-seaport and its sea-lines-of-communications.
Efforts had also been made to stage a modernization roadmap for the Navy’s surface fleet. In 2016, the Pakistan Navy had engaged with STM to secure a variant of the MILGEM Ada corvette. In May, Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence Production (MoDP) signed a letter-of-intent with its Turkish counterpart and STM to acquire four such ships. The final contract, which was to be signed in June, has yet to be inked. It is unclear if this contract will be signed, but it should be noted that the Hangor (II) SSP program required four years to reach a final signature (with negotiations beginning in 2011 and a deal being signed in 2015).
In 2017, the Navy had shown a demonstrable means to support Pakistan’s strategic interests, i.e. the test-firing of the Babur-3 submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM). The Babur-3 SLCM is envisaged to join the Hangor (II) SSP, providing Pakistan with the capacity for underwater-based strategic strikes.