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Analysis: The Pakistan Navy’s Surface Fleet Plans
November 17, 2018

Analysis: The Pakistan Navy’s Surface Fleet Plans

In June 2018, the Pakistan Navy announced that it ordered a total of four Type 054A multi-mission frigates through China Shipbuilding Trading Co. Ltd. (CSTC). With induction of the four ships slotted by 2021, it is evident that the PN is aiming to supplant its obsolete Tariq/Babur-class – i.e. former Royal Navy Type 21 – anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and anti-ship warfare (AShW) frigates. Currently, the PN has four of the six Type 21s it had bought in service – the oldest remaining ship (PNS Tariq) was launched in 1975.

Though the relatively tight timeline was to be expected given the obsolescence of the Type 21s (old ships generally add to operating costs due to increasing maintenance and repair issues), the sudden push likely lowers the probability of substantive modifications, at least at induction. Though the first part of the deal (i.e. two ships) was signed in 2017, the average turnaround period of one ship per year is relatively short; not only would the process include construction, but sea trials and subsystem certification as well.

However, it is unclear what the baseline configuration for the Type 054A actually is considering the PN is its first export customer. In late 2017, Defense News reported that the PN would acquire the Type 054A in an identical configuration to the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Jiangkai II-class frigates.[1] But it is not standard practice for the Chinese to sell the exact systems in use by the PLA; rather, Beijing offers export variants (or different, but comparable equivalents) of the PLA’s armaments.

In the case of the Jiangkai II, notable differences would be the incorporation of the LY-80 surface-to-air missile (SAM) system and C-802 anti-ship missile (AShM) in place of the HHQ-16 and YJ-83, respectively, in the PN’s Type 054As.[2] Likewise, the Type 366 over-the-horizon (OTH) radar will also be replaced by an apparent export variant, the SLR-66. Besides fitting its ships with the export variants of each PLAN system, the PN would require specific – albeit potentially less noticeable – changes to effect compatibility as well as interoperability with its other assets. However, the core munitions framework could be near-identical.

In effect, the PN’s Type 054As would deploy the LY-80 SAM – i.e. a range of 40 km – through 32 vertical-launch system (VLS) cells, dual quad-cell (2×4) C-802 AShM, a 76 mm main gun, two 30 mm cannons/close-in-weapons-systems (CIWS) and dual triple (2×3) Yu-7 ASW lightweight torpedoes. In comparison to the PN’s current mainstay frigate, the F-22P, the Type 054A’s principal additions would be the LY-80 medium-range SAM and its OTH radar (for long-range surface target detection for AShMs).


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Thus, the above are basically the capabilities the Type 054As will bring to the PN. First, the Type 054A will provide the PN its first true area-wide anti-air warfare (AAW) capability through the LY80; the PN had lost this capability once it returned its Standard SM-1-equipped Brooke-class frigates. Second, the Type 054A will double the PN’s multi-mission (i.e. AShW, ASW and AAW) surface combatant fleet to eight ships.

This may increase to as many as 12 ships if the PN inks the MILGEM Ada corvette deal it has had on the table with Turkey since 2016. However, even with both surface combatant acquisitions in-place, the PN will not gain the numbers and capabilities necessary to maintain sea-control of key points at its sea-lines-of-communications (SLOC). Rather, the Type 054As (and, if implemented, the MILGEM) will serve to boost the PN’s ongoing efforts to build credible anti-access and area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities.

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[1] Usman Ansari. “Pakistan shops for warships to replace British frigates, modernize Navy.” Defense News. 27 December 2017. URL: https://www.defensenews.com/naval/2017/12/27/pakistan-shops-for-warships-to-replace-british-frigates-modernize-navy/ (Last Accessed: 02 June 2018).

[2](Note: reference for the PLAN Type 054A’s armaments suite) Gabriel Dominguez. “PLAN inducts Type 054A frigate into North Sea Fleet.” IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly. 15 January 2018. URL: http://www.janes.com/article/77048/plan-inducts-type-054a-frigate-into-north-sea-fleet (Last Accessed: 12 June 2018).

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