On 23 March 2020, the Pakistan Navy’s (PN) Directorate General of Public Relations (DGPR) announced via social media that China Shipbuilding Trading Co. Limited (CSTC) laid the keel of the PN’s second Type 054A/P frigate at the Hudong Zhonghua Shipyard.
The PN currently has four Type 054A/P frigates on order, all of which due for delivery by 2021.
CSTC started work on the first two frigates in 2018, while the construction of the third and fourth ships in November 2019. In fact, the PN ordered the Type 054A/Ps in two equal batches, with the first order inked 2017, and the second in the summer of 2018.
Pakistan’s Type 054A/P Frigates Will Be Both a Defensive Asset and an Offensive Option. See How.
The Type 054A/P displaces at 4,200 tons. It was designed as a multi-mission platform capable of anti-ship warfare (AShW), anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and anti-air warfare (AAW). It currently serves as the mainstay frigate of China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), which operates 30 Type 054As.
The ships Pakistan is getting are similar to their PLAN counterparts, except they make use of export-grade versions of key subsystems and weapons. Pakistan’s Type 054A/Ps will house a 32-cell vertical launch system (VLS) carrying the LY-80N medium-range surface-to-air missile (SAM), two triple ASW torpedo tubes, and a possibly different AShW capability.
Official illustrations of the Type 054A/P in 2018 showed either a two-by-three or two-by-two cell suite for anti-ship cruising missiles (ASCM). This modification could be for compatibility with Pakistan’s locally manufactured ‘Harbah’ dual-ASCM/land-attack cruise missiles (LACM). If derived from the Babur LACM (which is likely), the Harbah ASCM/LACM should have a range of 450 km to 700 km-plus.
On the other hand, the PN might have opted to equip several of these frigates with one of China’s new supersonic-cruising ASCM, such as the HD-1A or CM-302. Interestingly, the PN also has its own program for a supersonic-cruising missile. In any case, weapon integration on ships can occur after construction and sea trials, so the PN might opt to configure these ships in Pakistan.
Finally, the Type 054A/P is one of two major naval procurement programs from China; the other is the PN’s order of eight new submarines equipped with air-independent propulsion (AIP) systems. Pakistan inked the submarine order in 2015, it is scheduled to start receiving the new submarines from 2022.