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Pakistan Navy Ships: Type 054A/P Frigate
May 27, 2020
Photo Source: US Navy via Wikipedia Commons

Pakistan Navy Ships: Type 054A/P Frigate

The Pakistan Navy (PN) has four Type 054A/P frigates on order from China. Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence Production (MoDP) announced two equal-sized orders, one in 2017 and another in 2018. According to the MoDP on 01 June 2018, Pakistan will receive all four Type 054A/Ps by 2021.[1]

China will build all four ships, which is a departure from Pakistan’s approach of constructing at least a part of its ship orders locally. Relying on China Shipbuilding Trading Co. Ltd (CSTC) to manage the entire order was likely a measure to control or minimize costs, and accelerate the delivery timeline.

However, because it will use various export-grade subsystems, the Type 054A/P will bear some differences from its Type 054A counterparts serving with the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).

Timeline of Acquisition

Upon concluding its acquisition of four F-22P frigates (a derivative of the Type 053H3), the PN had sought another four frigates to supplant its older ships, and build-out its fleet. Interest in a more capable Chinese-built frigate was in place since at least 2011, when Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works (KSEW) launched the fourth F-22P frigate for the PN. However, it was not clear if the PN would opt for a further developed version of the F-22P, or a new design, such as the Type 054A. The PN could have ordered these ships earlier, but severe funding shortages in the early 2010s forced it to shelve all major procurement plans.

2017-2018: Orders

In his retirement speech, the outgoing Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Admiral Muhammad Zakaullah, revealed that the PN ordered new frigates from China. However, the CNS did not reveal the make or model of those frigates. In December 2017, a PN spokesperson revealed that the country ordered the Type 054A frigate from China, and was considering an option for two additional ships.[2] The PN exercised that option in 2018.

It is unclear when the PN began negotiating for the Type 054As. However, there is grounds to believe that talks caught momentum in 2015. In 2015, Pakistan’s MoDP ordered eight submarines from China, and an ex-PN official had told Financial Times (FT) that the contract was worth $4 billion to $5 billion US.[3]

FT’s quoted price exceeded the cost estimates of the S20/S26 submarine. In fact, such a price would align with the Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) Type 214, which the PN originally sought in 2009-2010. It seems that the PN ordered a variant of the S26, and even with modifications, a $500 million-plus price-tag per ship is unrealistic. Pakistan is likely paying much less for its new Hangor-class submarines.

Scale mock-up of the new Hangor-class submarine presented by Karachi Shipyards & Engineering Works (KSEW) at IDEAS 2018. Photo Source: Quwa


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However, a combined package of submarines, frigates, and other vessels could fit within the quoted $4-5 billion US price. Thailand ordered the S26T submarine for (on average) $340 million per ship, so a contract for eight submarines would cost around $2.7 billion US.[4] The Type 054A reportedly costs $348 million US per ship.[5] Thus, four ships would cost around $1.39 billion US. Together, the new frigates and submarines plus missiles, torpedoes and helicopters would result in a $4-5 billion US contract.

Interestingly, there was a news report in June 2015 claiming that Pakistan was negotiating with China for six to eight submarines, four ‘Improved F-22P’ and 6 Type 022 fast attack crafts (FAC).[6] Pakistan ordered the submarines, and it actually termed the Type 054A/P as the “F-22P Batch II.” The PN did not order six Type 022 FACs, but it did reveal a requirement for four to six new FACs in 2016.

2018-2021: Scheduled Deliveries

In 2018, the MoDP said the PN will receive all four ships by 2021.[7] Thus far, the PN and CSTC revealed that two ships are under construction: CSTC cut the steel for the first two ships in November 2019, while it laid the keel for the second ship in March 2020. The status of the two remaining ships is not yet known.

The Benefit of Economies-of-Scale

With the Type 054A/P and Hangor, the PN is evidently leveraging the economies-of-scale the Chinese built for their domestic needs to its advantage. The Chinese had offered new export-oriented designs for both frigates and submarines, but the PN opted for mature platforms instead. In fact, the Type 054A and Type-039A (which the S26 is based on) are two designs the Chinese shipbuilding industry is tuned to build cost-effectively and as quickly as possible thanks to dozens of orders it fulfilled for the PLAN.

In a sense, the Type 054A/P and Hangor reflect the PN’s need to meet its near-term requirements, while (in contrast) the MILGEM/Jinnah-class frigate is aimed at addressing the future.


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Pakistan’s Type 054A/P Frigate

The Type 054A Jiangkai II-class is the mainstay multi-mission frigate of the PLAN. The first Type 054As (529 and 530) were commissioned in January 2008.[8] Since then, China built 30 Type 054As for the PLAN. [9]

The Type 054A is a derivative of the Type 054, one of China’s earlier low radar cross-section (RCS) designs. In addition to making a low-RCS design a mainstay in the PLAN fleet, the Type 054A also normalized area-wide anti-air warfare (AAW) coverage with a 32-cell vertical launch system (VLS) and HQ-16 surface-to-air missile (SAM). Otherwise, the Type 054A is armed with standard-fare anti-ship warfare (AShW) and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capabilities: two quad-cell launchers for the YJ-83 anti-ship missile (AShM), two triple-cell launchers for the Yu-7 lightweight ASW torpedo, and one 76-mm main gun, among others.

Specifications

In terms of its length and displacement, the Type 054A/P will be the PN’s largest warship and, due to the equipment it will carry, may serve as a command ship for frigate/corvette-class flotillas.

The Type 054A’s specifications are as follows:

  • Length: 134.1 m
  • Beam: 15.2 m
  • Draft: 4.05 m
  • Top speed: 27 knots
  • Range: 8,000 nautical miles at 15 knots
  • Crew: 180 to 190
  • Displacement: 4,053 (full load).[10]

Weapon Systems

Initial news reports indicated that the PN would pattern the subsystems and weapon systems of its Type 054A/P frigates along similar lines to the PLAN’s Type 054As. However, it appears that some modifications will come through, notably in terms of the anti-ship warfare (AShW) capabilities.

Anti-Ship/Surface Warfare

Unlike the PLAN, the PN is not opting for the dual quad-cell configuration (which would allow it to use the C-802 from the Type 054A/P). Rather, the illustration shown during the steel cutting ceremony of the first two ships in 2019 show a different AShW system.

This system could be the two triple-cell suite of the PN’s in-house Harbah, an AShM that can double as a land-attack cruise missile (LACM). It can also be dual two-cell systems for a new supersonic-cruising ASCM. The PN has a ‘supersonic missile’ in the development pipeline, so either outcome is plausible.

Harbah-anti-ship-missile-Pakistan

The Harba anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM) being fired from the Azmat-class fast attack craft (FAC) PNS Himmat. Photo source: Associated Press of Pakistan


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Anti-Air Warfare

The Type 054A/P will be equipped with a 32-cell VLS. The PN will likely use the LY-80N, the export version of the HQ-16. However, it is not known if the LY-80N the PN is procuring is the existing 40 km version, or the new 70 km-range variant revealed in 2016.

The LY-80-series utilize semi-active radar-homing (SARH) seekers, so they rely on a surface radar to track the target until the missile is in proximity to the target. The benefit of SARH is that the missile’s seeker only requires a receiver module, which helps lower costs. However, to function, the off-board guidance radar must be active and track/illuminate the target. If that radar is inoperable due to damage, or the need to reduce visibility to enemy electronic warfare (EW), the SAM will not work effectively.

Model of the LY-80N and its VLS. Photo Source: East Pendulum

The LY-80N is reportedly on offer as both a solution for new Chinese frigate models and a standalone suite for existing ships (and, presumably, as a off-the-shelf weapon for non-Chinese designs).

Interestingly, the PN opted against acquiring the FL-3000N point-defence missile system (PDMS), which is China’s counterpart to the Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM). Instead, the PN is equipping the Type 054A/P with two close-in-weapon-system (CIWS) turrets, likely the Type 730. The Type 730 offers a range of 3,500 m against aircraft and 2,500 m against missiles. It can fire 4,000 rounds a minute.[11]

Anti-Submarine Warfare

The Type 054A/P’s ASW configuration will likely mirror the F-22P’s ASW suite. The F-22P is equipped with two triple-cell ET-52C launchers, which can deploy the Yu-7 lightweight torpedo (LWT). In addition, the F-22P is armed with two six-cell RDC-32 ASW rocket-launchers.

Subsystems

It is unclear what subsystems the PN will use onboard the Type 054A/P. First, using the Type 054A as the basis to infer the PN’s configuration may not be accurate. So, for example, the official illustration of the Type 054A/P shows a different main search radar compared to the Type 054A. Moreover, the PN is using export-grade equipment, so the exact specifications and capabilities may differ between both variants.

Main Search Radar

The illustration shown during the steel-cutting ceremony of the first two ships show that the Type 054A/P could use the SRC2410C phased-array radar. The specifications are not known, but the radar’s range and other capabilities could be comparable to the Thales SMART-S Mk2.

The SRC2410C will support the Type 054A/P’s anti-air and anti-ship warfare capabilities, both onboard the frigate (i.e., LY-80 SAM and C-802/Harbah AShM) and off-board on other ships, such as the FAC(M).

Over-the-Horizon Radar

One of the Type 054A’s marquee features is its over-the-horizon-radar (OTHR). It is unclear if the PN would use an OTHR with its Type 054A/P, but an export-grade system – i.e., SLR-66 – is available. With an OTHR, the Type 054A can track targets that would otherwise operate in its main radar’s blind spot (resulting from the curvature of the Earth). The main benefit is additional situational awareness, which the Type 054A/P can share with other ships and aircraft through the PN’s network-enabled warfare environment.

Other Subsystems

Details about the Type 054A/P’s electronic support measures (ESM), combat management system (CMS), and other subsystems are not known at this time. This information will likely be available during the 2020 International Defence Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS 2020). However, the forthcoming MILGEM could set a benchmark of the performance and capabilities the PN would look for in the Type 054A/P’s subsystems.

[1]  “Pakistan Signs Contract to Acquire Two Chinese Naval Warships”. Associated Press of Pakistan. 01 June 2018. URL: http://www.app.com.pk/pakistan-signs-contract-acquire-two-chinese-naval-warships/ (Last Accessed: 02 June 2018).

[2] 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/

[3] Farhan Bokhari and Charles Clover. “Pakistan nears deal to buy 8 Chinese submarines.” Financial Times. 01 April 2015. URL: https://www.ft.com/content/a2c22012-d845-11e4-ba53-00144feab7de

[4] Zhao Yusha. “Thailand buys 3 Chinese subs for $1 billion.” Global Times. 04 July 2016. URL: http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/992089.shtml

[5] Gabe Collins. “How Much Do China’s Warships Actually Cost?” The Diplomat. 18 June 2015. URL: https://thediplomat.com/2015/06/how-much-do-chinas-warships-actually-cost/

[6] Usman Ansari. “Pakistan Seeks To Energize Naval Modernization.” DefenseNews. 17 June 2015. URL: https://www.defensenews.com/naval/2015/06/17/pakistan-seeks-to-energize-naval-modernization/

[7] “Pakistan Signs Contract To Acquire Two Chinese Naval Warships”. Associated Press of Pakistan. 01 June 2018. URL: http://www.app.com.pk/pakistan-signs-contract-acquire-two-chinese-naval-warships/ (Last Accessed: 02 June 2018).

[8] Type 054A Jiangkai-II Class. SinoDefence. 08 September 2017. URL: https://sinodefence.com/type-054a-jiangkai-ii-class/#Specifications

[9] Andrew Tate. “Type 052D destroyer and Type 054A frigate enter service with PLAN.” Jane’s Defence Weekly. 05 March 2019. URL: https://web.archive.org/web/20190305214026/https://www.janes.com/article/87014/type-052d-destroyer-and-type-054a-frigate-enter-service-with-plan

[10] Type 054A Jiangkai-II Class. SinoDefence. 08 September 2017. URL: https://sinodefence.com/type-054a-jiangkai-ii-class/#Specifications

[11] “China’s CSSC Unveiled the Type 730C Dual Gun and Missile CIWS.” Navy Recognition. 09 March 2017. URL: https://www.navyrecognition.com/index.php/news/naval-exhibitions/2017-archives/navdex-2017-show-daily-news/4970-china-s-cssc-unveiled-the-type-730c-dual-gun-and-missile-ciws.html

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