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Pakistan Sends Type 21 Frigate Back to the UK

On 25 September 2023, the Pakistan Navy (PN) signed an agreement to transfer a Type 21 frigate, the PNS Tariq, to the United Kingdom (U.K.) where it could become a floating museum.

Specifically, the PN gifted the warship to the Falls of Clyde International (FOCI), which will convert it into a floating museum at the Clyde Maritime Heritage Centre in Glasgow, Scotland.

When it was in service with the Royal Navy (RN), PNS Tariq was the HMS Ambuscade. It was the fourth of eight Type 21 frigates built for the RN between 1974 and 1978. It served in the Falklands War, during which it operated at sea for 83 days. The ship also suffered a collision with the USS Dale in 1983.

HMS Ambuscade – and five other Type 21 frigates – were then sold to the PN in 1993, where it served as a mainstay surface warship until 04 August 2023.

Upon acquiring the ships, the PN implemented a split upgrade. It configured three ships – i.e., PNS Tariq, PNS Khaibar, PNS Tipu Sultan – with a six-cell LY-60N surface-to-air missile (SAM) system. The remaining three – i.e., PNS Badr, PNS Babur, and PNS Shahjahan – were equipped with the Harpoon anti-ship cruising missile (ASCM) in a two-by-four cell configuration.

Thus, the Type 21s in PN service were not true multi-mission combatants; some were configured for anti-air warfare (AAW), while others could leverage anti-ship warfare (AShW) capabilities. Practically, the two sub-variants had to operate in the same flotilla to provide a complete capability.

The Type 21s reflected the general struggle the Pakistani military had with sourcing equipment amid U.S. sanctions (over the nuclear program) and, particularly, the limited focus on naval warfare. From 2015, however, it seemed that Pakistan opted to focus on improving its naval capabilities. The results of this initiative have, thus far, been promising.

For example, the next-generation PNS Tariq (283) is a Babur-class corvette. It will be armed with the Harbah ASCM in a two-by-three configuration (providing more range than the Harpoon), the CAMM-ER SAM system via a 12-cell vertical launch system (VLS), and two-by-three anti-submarine warfare (ASW) torpedo launcher. Not only is the new PNS Tariq a true multi-mission warship, but it is basically more capable across the AShW, AAW, and ASW stack than its preceding counterpart…

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