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The Quiet Rise of the Pakistan Navy (Part 2)

Last week, the Pakistan Navy (PN) appointed a new Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Admiral Naveed Ashraf, who will succeed Admiral Amjad Khan Niazi in the PN’s top role. Like his predecessor, Admiral Ashraf will inherit an expansive modernization effort across the PN’s surface, sub-surface, and aviation domains, one that is arguably unprecedented in scope and complexity in the PN’s history.

In part one of this report, Quwa reviewed the PN’s roadmap for expanding its surface fleet across frigates, corvettes, offshore patrol vessels (OPV), and patrol boats. Part two will explore the PN’s sub-surface, rotary and fixed-wing aviation, drone, and munitions procurement plans.

Things are quieter on the sub-surface front, though that has much to do with the secrecy surrounding the PN’s ‘silent service.’ In 2015, the PN ordered eight S26-based air-independent propulsion (AIP)-equipped submarines (SSP) from China Shipbuilding & Offshore International Co. Ltd (CSOC). Under the contract, the first four ships would be built in China, while the remaining four in Pakistan by KSEW.

Christened as the Hangor-class, the first four boats were due for delivery in 2023. However, Germany’s refusal to release MTU-396 diesel engines likely delayed the program, pushing the PN to leverage China’s CHD620 in its place. KSEW also confirmed that the Hangor-class SSP will use a Sterling AIP system, which is a standard feature of the S26. Thus, it is unlikely that the PN pursued many modifications to the baseline S26 aside from making it compatible with the Babur-3 submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM).

KSEW is building at least two of the four remaining Hangor-class SSPs; it laid the keel for the fifth boat and cut the steel of the sixth boat in December 2022. The PN is due to receive all eight boats by 2028, joining the three Agosta 90Bs with upgraded sensors and other subsystems. Overall, the PN will have 11 SSPs, i.e., second only to India in terms of size in the region, but relatively large considering Pakistan has a markedly smaller coast. This does not include specialized boats, like miniature submarines…

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