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Pakistan’s First MILGEM Corvette Launched – PNS Babur

On 15 August 2021, Istanbul Naval Shipyard (INSY) launched the Pakistan Navy’s (PN) first of four MILGEM corvettes. According to the PN’s Director General of Public Relations, the PN has named the lead ship of the class PNS Babur. PNS Babur is currently slated for delivery in 2023.

Pakistan ordered the four MILGEM corvettes under a reported $1.5 billion U.S. contract in 2018. Turkey’s INSY and Pakistan’s Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works (KSEW) are each building two ships. The PN is slated to receive all four MILGEM Babur-class corvettes by 2025.

The Babur-class is a customized variant of the MILGEM Ada corvette in service with the Turkish Navy.

The PN wanted a multi-mission platform equipped for anti-ship warfare (AShW), anti-submarine warfare (ASW), and anti-air warfare (AAW) from its forthcoming ships. Given that the capability of the PN MILGEM will surpass that of the F-22P frigate, the PN will likely view these ships as “major surface vessels.” This is an important point because the PN intends to build a fleet of at least 20 “major surface vessels.”

The Babur-class’s AShW capability will rely on two triple-cell launchers for a yet-to-be-disclosed anti-ship cruising missile (ASCM). This could be the Harbah, a long-range ASCM that can also double as a land-attack cruise missile (LACM). If derived from the Babur-series, the Harbah could have a range of 450 km to 750 km. However, Pakistan is also pursuing a supersonic ASCM.

In terms of the AAW, the Babur-class will use the MBDA Albatros-NG/Common Anti-Air Modular Missile-Extended Range (CAMM-ER) surface-to-air missile (SAM) system. The CAMM-ER has a range of 40 km. The latest illustrations of the PN MILGEM indicate that the ships will use a 12-cell GWS vertical-launch system (VLS) to deploy the Albatros-NG/CAMM-ER. The Babur-class will also use an Aselsan Gökdeniz dual 35 mm close-in-weapon-system (CIWS) for short-range AAW and point-defense coverage.

The ASW features of the Babur-class are not yet known, but the ship will likely deploy 324 mm lightweight torpedoes in a 2×3 configuration. The torpedoes will likely come from Turkey or Western Europe. The PN will also acquire an ASW helicopter to use in conjunction with the Babur-class corvette.

Overall, the changes resulted in a larger design. The PN MILGEM has a heavier displacement of 2,988 tons (while the Ada has a displacement of 2,400 tons). In addition, the Babur-class corvette is longer at 108.8 m (versus the Ada at 99.56 m). Interestingly, the specifications of the Babur-class are close to the Turkish Navy’s upcoming I-Class frigate, except the latter has a greater capacity for AShW…

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