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Pakistan orders two corvettes from US-based Swiftships
February 22, 2018
Swiftships Swift Corvette (75 m). Photo source: Swiftships

Pakistan orders two corvettes from US-based Swiftships

In an interview with Mönch, Swiftships CEO Shehraze Shah stated that the Pakistan Navy placed an order for two 75m corvettes from the Louisana-based shipbuilding company. Shah also stated that the Pakistan Navy (PN) is a customer of the Swiftships’ 11m Special Operation Craft Riverine (SOC-R), which the PN has deployed for counterinsurgency (COIN) and drug-interdiction missions.

In its August 2017 issue, Marine News was told that Pakistan ordered two 75 Swift Corvettes with an option for two more in 2020. “Swiftships has partnered with Lockheed Martin to offer these 1,500-to 2,000-ton ships to the client,” said Shah, adding that the corvettes will be equipped with Lockheed Martin’s Combat Management System. Pakistan is expected to use these ships in its Combined Task Force 150/151 deployments.

Notes & Comments:

The 75m Swift Corvette is a multi-purpose platform for addressing both conventional and asymmetrical security threats. According to Swiftships, the Swift Corvette can also deploy rigid-hulled inflatable boats (RHIB) for special operation forces (SOF) missions and VBSS (visit, board, search and seizure) operations. At a speed of 15 knots, the Swift Corvette has a range of 4,000 nm and endurance of 25 days. It has a top speed of 30 knots. The corvette can operate in sea conditions of up to Sea State 6. If built with steel, the Swift Corvette would reportedly have a displacement of 1,640 tons, while an aluminium superstructure would enable for a displacement of under 1,000 tons and speed of over 30 knots.

In June, the Pakistan Navy signed an order for two offshore patrol vessels (OPV) from Damen Shipyards. The previous Chief of Naval Staff Admiral (retired) Muhammad Zakaullah stated that one of the OPVs will be built at Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works (KSEW). The intended role for the Damen OPVs is “anti surface [and] anti air operations, maritime security operations, day [and] night helicopter operations, combat search and rescue, and surveillance and intelligence gathering operations.” Based on the technical specifications provided by the PN, it appears that the Damen OPV is a variant of the OPV 1800.

Based on Swiftships’ description of the Swift Corvette, it appears that the PN is acquiring the corvette to augment the Damen OPVs in the aforementioned roles. In fact, the Swift Corvette is configurable with a 76mm main gun, two 30mm guns, anti-ship missiles (AShM), Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) for very short-range air defence (VSHORAD) coverage, decoy launchers and two Mk93 50 calibre mounts with Mk16 tripods. It also has an aft deck and hangar sufficient for a utility helicopter. It can also deploy ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), which are also in service with the PN.

It appears that the Pakistan Navy intends for a tiered surface fleet.

The Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA) is taking delivery of six new Chinese maritime patrol vessels (MPV) – i.e. two 1,500-ton and four 600-ton MPV designs. These could assume law-enforcement, exclusive economic zone (EEZ) monitoring and humanitarian assistance and disaster-relief (HADR) operations.

The Pakistan Navy-proper is building a separate fleet comprising of two Damen OPVs and two Swift Corvettes, which can address high-risk asymmetrical threats (e.g. piracy, anti-narcotics, etc) while also monitoring Pakistan’s EEZ. In wartime, these ships can potentially pivot into anti-access and area denial (A2/AD) assets (e.g. the Swift Corvette is configurable with AShM).

The final tier would be that of frigates, such as the four serving Zulfiqar-class (F-22P) and forthcoming new frigates from China. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also told the Daily Sabah that Ankara and Islamabad were still in talks for the sale of four MILGEM Ada corvettes. In May, Pakistan had signed a letter-of-intent for four MILGEM Ada corvettes, but it has not yet inked the order.

The common aspects tying these larger platforms are anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and anti-ship warfare (AShW). However, anti-air warfare (AAW) would be conditional on how the PN chooses to configure each design. For example, it has the option of retrofitting the F-22P with a vertical launch system (VLS) and/or choosing to incorporate VLS to the new-built Chinese frigates and/or Ada corvettes. Besides providing the ASW aspect of the PN’s A2/AD efforts, these larger ships may also carry land-attack cruise missile (LACM). By 2018, Pakistan is to complete the development of a ship-based launcher compatible for firing LACMs.

The SOC-R is designed for SOF missions. It can operate in conditions of up to Sea State 2, but it can survive in Sea State 4. With a full load, the SOC-R has a top speed of over 50 knots. If capped at 35 knots, it has a range of more than 200 nm. The SOC-R can insert and extract 6-14 troops. Armament options include one 30mm gun and/or two Mk90 50-caliber mounts with Mk16 tripods.

Photo Source: Swiftships

 

Photo Source: Swiftships

  • Ghufran Ali Quresh

    Wow… I suggest Pak Gov. / PN should contact the remaining shipyards in europe in to buy a single piece of these surface ships as our meager funds dont allow us to buy a couple from all over the world. Just one unit each of a different type with different logistics is the same. That way we can continue to strive for the same level cultural diversity, the Americans so strongly pursue in their society, albeit on a Naval level. It will also satisfy our gratification to have a myriad of ships in different colors and sizes. Roles could be defined after we buy the ships. Naval chief and our Govt beaurucrats/politicians can then look at this cocktail of a fleet and feel good about themselves. After all whose money is it? Is it tax payers? In Pakistan? To hell with tax payers money.

    • Rolexer

      Ghufran, It is time that Pakistani policymakers are cut some slack. They are not at fault i believe, it is just their sad predicament. They do not have many choices to buy from, apart from the US and and its allies like the UK as far as latest state of the art equipment is concerned.
      After all, irrespective of the recent renaissance in the pakistani citizens’ outlook towards the US, policymakers in the country continue to acknowledge that they cannot afford to lose US as an ally. By severing ties with the US,Pakistan has more to lose than to gain is what the government in islamabad firmly believes.
      Blank threats and emphatic claims emanating from PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi notwithstanding, that Pakistan has other sources apart from the US to procure military hardware, Pakistan continues to look towards US for big ticket defense items. If this trend is anywhere an indication, Pak’s historical dependency on US hardware is not dying any time soon.
      Moreover as far as Russia is concerned, Indian Navy is the biggest buyer of Russian Naval equipment in the world. From nuclear submarines worth $2 billion USD, to conventional attack subs and state of the art destroyers, missile frigates and multi billion dollar aircraft carriers. Therefore i dont think Russia would do anything to perturb a country which is one of the predominant drivers of Russian ship industry and consequently economy. Indian Navy alone spends approximately an amount on buying Russian ships which is more than half of Pakistan’s total defense budget.

  • Hammad Hassan

    Why again the US option??? We can go for more OPVs instead.

  • Joseph

    Outright American ships? Pakistan’s relationships with US must have improved.

    • Navid Butt

      With all its hugging and buddy budding,India will never eat Apple pie and play anti China strategic games on behalf of America,as Pakistan did against USSR.U S knows it and will not spoil its relations with Pakistan,unless it has decided to leave Middle East.

  • sami shahid

    What if Congress blocks the sale ? Because they can put up the argument of Pakistan deploying these corvettes against India just like they did before when we were about to purchase 8 Multi Role used second hand vessels from US. Anyway I don’t what will happen but Pakistan should buy naval equipment from Russia.

    • MT

      These wont threaten india minus haropoon so india would keep mum on it.

      Barak and Barak 8 both have capability to kill Exocet and harpoon

      • Rolexer

        MT, a corvette is a small warship. It is traditionally the smallest class of vessel considered to be a proper or “rated” as a warship. In terms of tonnage, the warship class above the corvette is that of the frigate, while the class below consists coastal patrol craft and fast attack craft. In modern terms, a corvette is typically between 500 tons and 2,000 tons. With this kind of displacement it is very hard to equip or arm the corvettes with modern, state of the cruise missiles or heavier and longer range SAMs. In bigger navies that role is predominantly reserved for cruisers, destroyers and frigates. Moreover the ships being bought are just 2 in quantity with a possible follow-on order of 2 more. Both the number and quality is simply insufficient to deter any bigger naval power in the region. Also, countries that border smaller seas, such as the Baltic Sea or the Persian Gulf, are more likely to build the smaller and more manoeuvrable corvettes for littoral operations and for guarding coastal assets. Again the offensive roles of attacking and taking on ships of other navies in open waters rests with more capable destroyers and cruisers, in bigger navies of US, China, Russia & India.
        Lastly, more and more Indian Navy ships are being equipped with BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles. With a range of more than 350 kms. It will be interesting to see if these ships have the kind of missile defense system which can handle a BrahMos missile racing towards them at 4-5 times the speed of sound.

    • Violet

      That is how US will keep or plans to keep Pakistan on a leash for the foreseeable future. And Pakistan, laughably enough, continues to let US exercise control over it. You can rest assured that after the recent barrage of words and hostile statements from higher ups in the washington, any sale of any ‘american’ hardware to Pakistan will invariably be attached with a long list of dos and donts. Something which is not announced to the press and are kept away from the public domain. Moreover, this wont be a ‘one-time’ purchase as it may seem to some people. Combat ships require heavy maintenance in terms of engine, sensor equipment and weapon systems on board. All the future spare parts and supplies are going to be sourced from the US, making Pakistan dependent on US as long as it operates these corvettes.

  • Asif Khan_47

    H Khan says there are four ships by 2020 and he also says that the Turkish deal is dead since CNS said buying more Frigates from China

    • Re: Swiftships it’s 2 firm with option for 2 more by 2020.

      Re: MILGEM, possibly.

      • Asif Khan_47

        What he said was 4 Swifts by 2020. MILGEM he says is more dead than possible. Now I just looked at ADA and Swift specs they are similar, so, why get two boats of similar specs. H Khan said that Swifts are for CTF-151

        • The specs might seem similar, but there are differences between wartime corvettes such as the Ada and OPVs such as the Swift Corvette.

          The Swift’s displacement is from 1,500 ton to 2,000 ton, but with an all steel hull and superstructure. The Ada uses a steel hull with composite superstructure, lending for lower RCS (in addition to other efforts made to lowering IR detection, acoustic detection, etc). The Ada also has ASW capabilities via torpedo tubes, which the Swift does not. The Ada also has double the AShM load compared to the Swift corvette (8 vs 4), but this is assuming the Swift will even be armed to that extent. Design wise, the Ada was also extended (via the LF-2400 program) by 10 m to incorporate a 16-cell VLS for SAM.

  • Sinan Cagrı Kurt

    India is starting to have military relations with US, and US seems to not interested in Pakistan as close ally anymore. Buying new systems from US doesn’t seem great idea.

  • Asif Khan_47

    I must admit I am not much of a guy for naval warfare but as I wrote earlier that I do discuss with H Khan quite often. Since you put forward your analysis I did a cut and paste of your response and sent it out to Khan sahib. We talked for some time about this and informed me that he has co-authored a piece with some really good authority on PN and it would be soon published. He did not mention where it would be published.

    Well, this is more or less what he said since we were talking over Skype he did write few lines which I will paste. One thing he did mention to me that he did remember your argument about ” the Ada was also extended (via the LF-2400 program) by 10 m to incorporate a 16-cell VLS for SAM” he claims this is a long shot and believes that PN is not thinking this way.

    Regarding comparing Ada with 75m. He claims that technologically there is no comparison between them. He says that 75m is far superior. These vessels fulfill ABS High-Speed Naval Craft Rules and have LM innovative Combat Management System. A contract with PN was signed in 2016 (never gave me the exact date or the cost), for two 75m Corvettes for Pakistan navy to be delivered by the end of 2018. From they [Swiftships] will produce two more for PN by 2020. These Corvettes are combat vessels with ASW and suited for anti-aircraft and anti-vessel operations. PN will use these vessels for CTF 150/151 missions and protect EEZ. These vessels weigh between 1,500-2,000 tons, they are very fast. these vessels are being built under a joint contract with LM. They are designated as multi-mission Corvette with integrated all fire-control technology. Amongst the missions are maritime securities, SAR, surveillance. These vessels will provide PN with cutting-edge capabilities that would take the technology level of PN to another level. Regarding lack of ASW, he said that since it has pretty big helideck an ASW assigned Z-9 would be conducive since F-22P also utilize Z-9 for ASW. Plus harpoons would be primary anti-vessel weapons. 75m range and endurance are slightly greater than Ada plus 75m come with sea refueling feature which most of the vessels that specs don’t possess.

    PS: He did mention that in coming weeks Pakdef forum will be up interfaced with FB and Twitter.

    • The Swift Corvettes can be configured with surface-level torpedo tube, so ASW can be had if the PN chooses to configure them that way.

      Thanks for sharing, BTW. Much appreciated.

  • U

    Can some one please explain to me how is that out of all these OPVs and MPVs that Pak has ordered this Swiftship is shortest in length at 75m but the most heavily armed compared to the Damen OPV at 90m and the PMSA’s Chinese MPV at 95m which by the way is almost unarmed.

    Secondly my opinion about all this secret shopping that Pak has been doing from All over the World is that only God knows what they are upto! People can just hope that they are spending money with best interest of the country in mind. Rest we will find out when India comes with Brahmos and Baraks.

  • Lasit

    i am just wondering about the kind of requirements Pakistan has for its coastal defence. these proposed procurements are all seems to be geared to meet the coastal defence and low level threats, but how these are going to be used in a bigger conflict, against a much capable navy is a question mark.

    if the proposal is coastal defence, then pakistan should opt for soft loan from China and buy chinese vessels. a deal with a US company can buckle anyday without much of a warning…

    • These ships will likely pivot to A2/AD in war. However, one of the reasons for the Swift Corvettes appears to be driven in part to have dedicated assets for coalition operations, e.g. CTF-150/151. Despite the political tension today, Pakistan’s defence planners want to maintain ties with their counterparts in the U.S. and keep engaging with NATO and US allies on a regular basis. The wartime stuff will basically come from China, e.g. Hangor (II) submarines, new Chinese frigates, etc.

      • Violet

        But to have A2 and AD roles you need to be armed with long range SAM systems, a much more capable radar, as well as Anti ship (ASh) munitions. I dont think all of these features, including the ASW role as you mentioned, can be simultaneously incorporated into a corvette having a displacement of <2000 tons. All these roles (long range sams, better radar, capable anti ship role etc.) are better suited for much heavier designs such as frigates, destroyers and cruisers. I mean it is quite possible that to some extent the swiftship corvettes might be armed with anti air and anti ship missiles, but i highly doubt it would be as capable as that of any contemporary frigates or destroyers in operation with modern navies.

        Also, Bilal i would like to congratulate you for maintaining such an excellent website. Your insight in these matters are really informative and are highly appreciated. Taking this opportunity i have two lingering questions which i would like to know the answers to.
        1.) Are there any updates regarding the recent visit of Gen Bajwa to Russia and the specific details of his visit? Do you have any information regarding that as the normal press (both pakistani and international media) is absolutely silent regarding his recent trip to Russia. Do you think it is deliberate and if yes what could be the reason for the same?
        2.) Do you think that defense related news and news regarding modernisation plans of Pakistan's armed forces are not made public and is deliberately kept from public knowledge as much as possible? Atleast compared to other countries like the US and Europe? Because PN had allegedly signed the deal for these 2 corvettes last year itself but only now we are getting to know about it. Transparency is lacking when compared to other nations and the reporting is deliberately delayed i feel. What are your thoughts on this?

        • 1. I’ll need to ask someone. The visit was kept under the radar even by the PID, FO and ISPR to the extent it’s as though Bajwa never went.

          2. Not sure about ‘secret’. Not every deal or prospective deal is messaged through widely accessible media channels, but to be honest, the Swift Corvette stuff was likely known to those in the industry (esp. in the US). Generally, the genuinely secretive programs are done in intergovernmental agreements (IGA), and IGAs are indeed double-edged swords. On the one hand, there’s no transparency. On the other hand, it protects potential deals from third-party interference. For example, if you have a big-ticket item on the table with Russia, would you want India to know about it?

          • Headstrong

            Does Pakistan seek competitive bidding in the form of RFPs etc? Or does the Pak Army carry out its own trials and decide?

          • Violet

            Makes perfect sense. After all many countries keep the defense deals under wraps until much later, to avoid interference and sabotage from third parties. Middle Eastern countries are probably more notorious in this regard than any other country in the world.
            Moreover, thanks a ton for your reply and a very candid explanation of things. One thing which can be said is that there is a deliberate attempt to keep Gen. Bajwa’s visit to Russia under wraps. There could be a multitude of different reasons behind this, open for some wide speculation.
            However could you please keep us updated once more details are made available and when you come across any new developments?
            Thank you, again!

        • Joseph

          I think in case of swiftships, it might have something to do with the
          fact that they are American ships. What if the deal was rejected by US
          government? It would be a bit embarrassing to Pakistan Navy and
          government in general, so I think it is understandable to release the
          details now when things are more certain.

          • Lockheed Martin is managing the sale, so I expect approval from the DoD was gained in some capacity. Granted, we didn’t see a formal notification from the State Dept via DSCA, but not all DoD FMS contracts end up there (case: the 40 MRAPs, Raytheon thermal sights and Colt M4s sold to Pakistan).

  • Syed Arbab Shah

    1. Was some form of ToT not possible in this deal, be it just sub assembly?
    2. Why not opt for Aluminum super structure albeit with an increased cost but with added benefit of lower displacement and increased speed and endurance?

    • Ultimately, it’s an issue of funding and the requirement. (1) all-steel hull is cheaper and (2) for CTF-150/151 specifically the corvettes won’t require much more than various automated guns, helicopter deck and RFIBs (for VBSS, HADR, etc). The ToT part is unfortunate, but I don’t think KSEW would have gotten much more than final assembly.

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