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Possible details of Pakistan’s frigate purchase from China
February 22, 2018
PNS Saif visiting Shanghai, China. Photo source: Xinhua

Possible details of Pakistan’s frigate purchase from China

The commanding officer of a Pakistan Navy frigate on a goodwill visit to China told Shanghai TV that the Pakistan Navy will procure the Type 054A frigate from China.

The Zulfiqar-class (F-22P) frigate PNS Saif was welcomed to Wusong Naval Port on December 01. The PNS Saif’s commanding officer, Capt. Shahzad Iqbal, told local media that the ship travelled “more than 9,000 nautical miles from Pakistan to Shanghai,” stopping by Sri Lanka and Thailand while en route to China.

Pakistan operates four F-22P frigates. Derived from the Type 053H3 patrol frigate, the F-22P is equipped for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and anti-ship warfare (AShW) operations.

It is armed with two quad-cell (2×4) launchers for the C-802 anti-ship missile (AShM) and two triple (2×3) launchers for ET-52C lightweight ASW torpedoes. The F-22P is also equipped with an eight-cell FM-90N surface-to-air missile (SAM) system for short-range air defence (SHORAD) coverage.

Besides goodwill interaction, the PNS Saif will also participate in exercises with the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). During a Chinese media visit, Capt. Iqbal told Shanghai TV that the Pakistan Navy will procure Type 054A frigates from China. The Type 054A is the mainstay of the PLAN fleet.

Notes & Comments:

In October, the outgoing Chief of Naval Staff Adm. Muhammad Zakaullah announced that Pakistan had reached a deal to procure new frigates from China. Zakaullah did not specify the model of the new frigates or the number of ships the Pakistan Navy will be procuring. Reports from 2012 had pegged the Pakistan Navy procuring upgraded or improved versions of the F-22P.

If Shanghai TV is correct, Pakistan could be procuring one of the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation’s (CSIC) 4,000-ton frigate designs. According to IHS Jane’s, the 4,000-ton frigate design is based on the Type 054A. It has an endurance of 21 days, length of 135 m, range of 4,000 nautical miles (cruising at 18 knots) and top speed of 26 knots. It has 32 vertical-launch system (VLS) cells, one 76 mm main naval gun, two 30 mm guns and a 24-cell FL-3000N point-defence missile system (PDMS).

The CSIC 4,000-ton frigate is available in two variants: one with a target-illuminator to guide the semi-active radar-homing (SARH) HQ-16 SAM. The second is without a target-illuminator, but it possesses longer VLS cells. The second variant appears to have been designed to carry SAMs with active terminal-stage seekers and potentially other kinds of missiles, such as land-attack cruise missiles (LACM).

CSOC 4,000-ton frigate with target illuminator.

 

CSOC 4,000-ton frigate without target illuminator, but with longer/higher VLS.

 

The latter variant is interesting in that it would maximize the utility of the 4,000-ton frigate’s use of active phased-array radar (APAR) and passive over-the-horizon radar (OTHR). Using the China Educational Instrument and Equipment Corp (CEIEC) SLR-66 as a benchmark, the frigate’s APAR could have a range of 280 km, while the OTHR would have a range of 500 km. The OTHR would provide the ship with stand-off range air and surface surveillance coverage, while the APAR can guide long-range SAM and/or AShM. The VLS cells would bode well for potential LACM usage (Pakistan has the 700-km range Babur 2). Pakistan could also configure the ship to carry long-range SAM for area-wide anti-air warfare coverage.

The caveat to this is whether Pakistan will in fact proceed with the CSOC 4,000-ton frigates as shown in the models, or a pared down model to reduce costs. However, if pared down, these ships are still large enough to be upgraded with APAR, OTHR and heightened VLS cells in the future.

  • Faisal

    i am a little bit confused about strategy. In the absence of long range aircrafts and knowing India has Brahmos and others. Why we want to invest more in surface ships and not the fast moving missile boats and Submarines. Will surface ships not be sitting ducks with their slow speed and big size.

    • Tamzid Karim

      No not at all. Frigates are needed to provide Anti Access Area Denial/area air Defense coverage needed for the Submarine’s at high sea. As our Submarine’s are conventional powered, their batteries needs to be recharged for which they need to come up on surface and that is the most critical moment for a Submarine to get detected by hostile ASW aircrafts and helicopter’s. So Frigates with long range area air Defense capability are needed to provide that safe zone to the Submarine’s so the they can safely recharge their batteries, gets resupplied in the high sea (without going back all the way to their home port) and again dive in for their Task.

    • Tamzid Karim

      As for Fast Attack Craft Missile’s (FAC M’s), OPV’s and Corvette’s they are mainly for securing our coastline, Territorial Waters and EEZ from both conventional and unconventional threat’s.

    • bill

      In our own sea boundaries Pak has the capability to maintain sufficient air cover. Even JF17 blockII refueling option has sufficient range.

      The past few wars and future is for better technology if ur enemy penetrates your defenses with long range BMs and CMs then it shall certainly win however if u have sufficient defenses then position shall be more balanced. In next 8 Years though PN subsurface fleet looks much better but surface fleet is the missing link in PN. i.e F22P with FM90 SAM, I highly doubt may survive any Air/Missile attack (multiple strikes). The sole OHP virtually has one ciws meanwhile F21 destroyers have passed their useful life. So we do need to get more capable frigates and corvettes with at least medium range SAMs. We should also check prospects to upgrade our F22Ps with Umokhonto SAMs with range up to 40 KM

  • Hashim Rasheed

    Not having the full knowledge here as to the requirements of the navy, but I feel that Pakistan should have a fleet of destroyers as well, in addition to the frigates. Destroyers provide an extended range of operations while also adding a much more to the firepower than a frigate. However, upgrading the navy’s frigate fleet is also a step in the right direction.

    • PewPew

      I think an issue with destroyers is that they’re also costlier to operate. Larger ships = more crew = more cost for logistics, fuel, re-supply, etc. One other thing to consider is that the frigates of today are larger and longer-ranged than destroyers of old. The 4000 ton 054A would certainly be categorized as a destroyer in the PN, even today.

  • Sami Shahid

    Pakistan should definitely increase the number of its frigates but Navy should also buy JF-17 to strengthen it’s Air Arm.

  • Headstrong

    Frigates were designed mainly as a cost effective and relatively inexpensive escort platform that could protect merchants convoys, supply ships, as well as expeditionary and amphibious forces. They are smaller than destroyers and do not have the same degree of missile-launching capability. Originally, frigates were meant to be focused on one dimension – hence we had anti-air frigates or anti-submarine frigates etc. However, today’s frigates are far more versatile and host a wide variety of weapons including anti-surface, anti-air and anti-submarine all at once. In that sense, the distinction between frigates and destroyers are blurred, except maybe for tonnage and hence range. Another distinction is that destroyers are generally more capable of hosting command and control elements.
    But, in general, today’s frigates can be as deadly as destroyers

    • Steve

      Agree. This is good news for PN. 4 MILGEM and 4 054A would do nicely and be a good start to rebuilding a surface fleet. With 3 bases of Karachi, Qasim and Gwader to protect, a large surface fleet is needed. This will complement a strong submarine arm. Now all we need is 3 squadrons of Su-35 and we would be cooking with gas! Good to see a PN is finally being given priority and getting new weapons. Cheers

      • Headstrong

        Su-35s may be ambitious and unlikely, in my opinion. But you people could get the Chinese equivalents.

      • IIRC IHS Jane’s in 2016 said the PAF was looking for 30-40 Su-35 OR J-10 for procurement in the 2020s as a bridge to 5th-gen fighters.

        Things might have changed since then, but in general it seems there’s a push to get a long-range fighter unit for maritime operations. It’s worth noting that PAF Bholari, the new air base being built in Sindh, will house a maritime ops unit.

        As for the PN surface fleet. It seems the plan is for 4 ‘heavy’ or 4,000+ ton FFG supported by eight ‘light’ 2000~3000-ton FFG (i.e. F-22P and MILGEM). So that could be four task forces, each with 1 054A and 2 F-22P/MILGEM.

        • Lasit

          Bilal, are the bases like PNS Pasni or PNS Gwadar substantial enough in therms of naval infra. could not find much from Sat images ..

          • IIRC the PN’s Baluchistan developments are being done in areas not destined for commercial or civil usage. Despite the security focus around Gwadar, I don’t think the PN will maintain infrastructure there (on the hopes that someday it’ll be a regular commercial area). It’s PNS Jinnah, Hameed, etc, that are being developed for various purposes, possibly Pasni down the line as well.

        • Steve

          Excellent plan. Do you include the existing F-22P in this or all new vessels?

        • Asif Khan_47

          PN has already moved partial F-27 & P-3 operations to PNS Siddiq at Turbat. Some of the operations would be moved to Bholari from Masroor this includes installation new LY-80

    • U

      Agreed, I believe PN would call them “Guided Missile Destroyers” i.e if they come with all the mentioned fire power ( SAMs and LACMs ) by the author.

      At the end of the day, I hope all these Wepoans help establish lasting peace in the sub continent and are not actually ever required to be used against anyone.

      • Suhail Farooqui

        Strange philosophy,why should not be used??? in case of war or any Ocean limits violation /,these will be used.

      • These weapon systems are not just a show of power or a ceremonial force but when needed should be used accordingly.

  • Steve

    I hope we build some 054A locally. That will give us much needed experience in warship building. We also badly need to increase range of our primary LACM Babur to 1500 km. Naval HHQ-9 are another no-brainer, as are 2 squadrons of Su-35 or J-11 equipped with supersonic AShM.

    • Manju

      Just a correction, Blue water navy is not for defensive roles but for power projection in high seas. Given the fancy details given by you. There is a cost factor that is the most critical part of it.

      • Steve

        All in good time. Forward planning is important, and it’s good to have aspirations. Mind you the Turks are our strong allies and it will very likely be a joint venture, with PLAN supported as well by us.

    • Kannakeepkalm

      As long as INDIA is there you can never get su35 and about j11 it is possible.But I would say India is way ahead in terms of naval power.This frigates would add aome power to PN but still you are very far.Again su35 deal is impossible.

      • Steve

        India is with America now and has much less leverage on the Russians. We have already bought Mi-35. I am happy to see that you are Putin’s personal friend and privy to cabinet discussions, and know exactly what Russia is going to do. A bit frivolous response but a bit annoyed with Indian stating things categorically when in fact they are getting palpitations and actually trying to reassure themselves.

  • Manju

    Based on the picture above there is a helicopter deck at the aft. But article doesn’t mention any details regarding it.

  • Steve

    For that to happen a rough parity needs to continue. Danger happens when a radical or nationalist government is given over-optimistic advice and try’s to assuage clueless public opinion baying for blood by embarking on a reckless adventure. That’s a slippery slope to a nuclear exchange given the deep seated hatreds in the subcontinent.

    • Headstrong

      Agree, partially. The danger is compounded exponentially when the armed forces of a state has veto over every policy, and has a history of overthrowing civilian governments. Such a state is condemned to having each of its institutions systematically undermined, precisely so that the armed forces can flourish, regardless of the economic condition of the state.
      As regards rough parity, that can exist only between states which are roughly equal – economically, politically, diplomatically, militarily etc. However, if a weaker state aspires to achieve ‘parity’ at any cost, knowing full well that it cannot, that is a cause for destabilisation too. That is where the ‘slippery slope to a nuclear exchange’ comes in – or, in other words, pointing a nuclear gun to its own head so as to achieve its objectives. That may work for a while, but eventually such delusions get exposed.

      • Steve

        Pakistan has maintained parity in nuclear weapons and also to some extent in conventional that is why there’s been no war for the last 46 years despite a lot of threats from the larger party. Mods this is benign so don’t wield the axe over-enthusiastically

        • Headstrong

          There’s been no war for the last 46 years because Pakistan has been deterred from starting one like it had on previous occasions.
          All previous wars occurred in spite of there being no nuclear shadow. That is precisely what I mean about the delusion of parity by the weaker state.

          • TZK

            The only delusion is on the ‘stronger’ side for thinking they have an edge and that is what Steve refereed to as a potential threat to peace. It strikes me that Pak is imbedded in the Indian Psyche as the only threat that exists to them despite numerous border disputes with China over the years including a war- why pick hostilities on a stronger adversary when you can pick on a weaker one seems to be the logic here.

          • Headstrong

            Oh, India has no illusions about who’s its real enemy. It’s always been China. Pakistan is only the sideshow, but because its more vocal, it takes up more mindspace.
            China has bigger fish to fry, such as catching up with the US. Hence it feeds Pakistan just enough to be a nuisance in the region.
            And, as regards being ‘imbedded’ in psyche, we know who calls whom an ‘existential threat’.
            Yes, delusions by weaker states that they must achieve parity with countries stronger economically, militarily,politically et al at all costs is what causes this threat to peace.

          • TZK

            A nuclear weapon will not differentiate whether one is ‘stronger economically, militarily,politically et al’. As you are stronger why do people like you come on forums like these and start pointless arguments about how India is far superior. A contributor once replied to you and I think that was very apt. His reply was if you are what you claim to be why on earth do you keep comparing yourselves to Pak. You should be comparing yourselves to China!

          • Headstrong

            Don’t kid yourself. I’m not comparing India to Pakistan. I’m only attempting to rid you people of this ‘parity’ delusion. Do read my comment – I’ve written about China being the real threat, and Pakistan being the sidekick. However, this delusion you people have is so deeply embedded, its manifestations do affect India and Indians.
            However, this is so typical. When you people start anything, you should know that there will be a response. If you can’t handle the response, don’t start stuff. Should have thought you people would have learnt this lesson by now…

          • Steve

            I feel a bit of jingo creeping into your discourse mr headstrong. That’s not a way to conduct a discussion. We have thousands of Indians all over the web deluding themselves that they can destroy or ‘teach a lesson’ to Pakistan. It’s pathetic…

          • Headstrong

            Lol! ‘Steve’ preaching about others being jingoistic 😉
            Watch that glasshouse you live in, ‘Steve’. Stones are coming through shortly.
            PS – note the past tense in my comment?

      • Steve

        Well nobody is pointing a nuclear gun at one’s own head but at ones adversary’s head. However nuclear parity has kept the peace and prevented war despite a lot of provocations and threats on both sides. Deterrence does work as it’s plain for everyone to see. Just like NK is pretty much untouchable now despite a lot of hot air, even though the imbalance is 100 times more than any possible Pak/India scenario.

        • Headstrong

          Pakistan has used the card of ‘If we get destabilized, our nukes will fall into the hands of extremists’ far too often. Nobody buys that threat any more. It’s call the ‘Cry Wolf’ syndrome
          Considering that it wac always Pakistan which had initiated the wars thus far, are you saying that your own nuclear weapons deterred you people from initiating war?

          • Steve

            Don’t obsfuscate. It does not suit you. I’m talking about Parakaram and other regular threats from all levels of your government. All that you could come up with was fake surgical strikes against ‘launch pads’ which nobody saw or heard and no video emerged despite hysterical celebration.

          • Headstrong

            The only threats I hear are from you people, deluded that you can ever wrest land away from India. Parakram served its purpose, as did the surgical strikes. Note the plural – it’s happened before as well. It’s the reason why you people keep running to the international community to ask India to desist, and why you people keep burning up the hotline between the DGMOs 😉

          • Steve

            Little skirmishes at the LOC happen all the times. We have also inflicted ongoing acknowledged damage with BAT on you guys so resist the tendency to be a mini jingo please. You agreed to a hotline and if you think a bit of shelling will make you ‘win’ you have another think coming. Parakaram accomplished zero apart from getting 100’d of your own soldiers killed in landmine explosions and about the ‘’strikes’ against ‘launch pads’ the less said the better. 😉

          • Headstrong

            Those ‘little skirmishes’ have you people whining all the way to foreign capitals all the time 😉
            And you people may deny the surgical strikes all you want – your generals know they happened. Why do you think no more 26/11s have happened, or any such attack outside J&K, even as there are continued attacks in various cities within Pakistan? 😉

          • Steve

            Good to see you guys are openly advocating and acknowledging terror against Pakistani civilians. That’s the biggest equal-equal in the world and the world knows it!

          • Headstrong

            As I’ve said umpteen times before, ‘Steve’, before starting something, you people should ask yourselves if you’re prepared to face the consequences of your actions. You people don’t often think things through, do you?

      • TZK

        Even when civilian governments have been overthrown the risk of war has not increased due to nuclear weapons on both sides which provide deterrence, everything else is secondary. In trying to maintain parity in conventional weapons the ‘weaker’ side may just be attempting to avoid the first use of its nuclear weapons.

        • Headstrong

          A state which has an army which so dominates its political narrative will always destabilize the region as that army not only collars a majority of its resources, but also has a stake in ensuring no peace, as that would threaten its raison d’etre.

          • TZK

            Nations without strong defensive forces cease to exist and it is incumbent on the armed forces to not only protect the nation from external but internal threats too. Pak citizens have always called on the armed forces to intervene when civilian governments failed them.

          • Headstrong

            Certainly armies have a responsibility to protect the country from external and internal enemies. However, when a state abdicates all its responsibilities to the armed forces, even at the cost of undermining its civilian institutes, then it may as well call itself a military state. And not just for the periods it was under martial law.
            Civilian governments will fail new democracies. That’s in the nature of things. However, mature states persist to do the right thing. Others allow the armed forces to intervene time and again, preventing the growth of functional institutions. Of course the armed forces oblige – and fatten themselves in the process.

          • Steve

            True to form you skew every debate into a criticism of Pakistan army. That’s why we correctly say your public narrative features Pakistan army and ISI a lot more than we talk about India for instance.

          • Headstrong

            One look at your blogs, your defence fora, your media will tell you all about who’s obsessed with whom. Who considers whom an ‘existential threat’.
            And, let’s face it, everyone realises that it is your Army which is holding the region hostage, and holding you people back. And when you people get deluded enough to believe that they are saviours, then your actions affect India. Your own (wiser) people themselves question the role of the army in civilian affairs. But I guess it’s impossible to wake those up who only pretend to sleep…

  • Steve

    CIWS is not good as the primary defence against modern AShM missiles coming in at supersonic speed and doing violent terminal manoeuvres. It may get only a few shots off before missile or debris hits. We need a layered defence that I think Bilal wrote an article on a few months ago.

  • MOHAMMAD HARIS FAHIM

    Well the Indian naval buildup specially the clubbing of Brahmos with Su30mki is what we all must ponder a problem for PN. I watched a video on YouTube which said that Pakistan has Chinese origin cm-400akg as a solution to Indian super Sonic cruise missiles. Does anybody has any concrete info on this? And whether this missile can be launched by our surface and sub surface fleets?

  • Faisal

    We will have to see how the financial realities come into play. Pakistan recently cancelled a multi billion dollar dam project over strict financing terms. China has just cancelled 3 CPEC projects. We will have to see how patient China is going to be with defence funding. It looks like they dont like to give loans like Western world. I could be wrong here but I didn’t get very good vibes from these cancellations.

  • TZK

    I have nothing against the average Indian but cannot stand these arrogant people all over the internet spewing disinformation about Pak and Muslims. I call them HMV’s (his masters own voice) because they delude themselves by thinking that they have replaced the colonials. They may have done that in their country but not anywhere else.

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