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Damen Shipyards Launches Fourth Pakistan Navy OPV

On 21 February, Damen Shipyards launched the fourth Yarmouk-class offshore patron vessel (OPV) for the Pakistan Navy (PN) from its facilities in Galati, Romania.

Though the fourth Damen OPV ordered by the PN, this ship – i.e., PNS Yamama (274) – is the second of the ‘Batch-II’ variant, which is larger and more capable than the first pair of Yarmouk-class OPVs. The first Batch-II OPV, PNS Hunain, was launched for sea trials in September 2023.

The PN initiated its OPV program in 2017 through an order for two Damen OPV 1900s plus an option for two additional ships from the Netherlands. The PN inducted the first two ships – i.e., PNS Yarmouk and PNS Tabuk – in February 2020 and May 2020, respectively.

Based on Damen’s OPV 1900 design, the first two ships have a displacement of 2,300 tons each. The Yarmouk-class has a length of 90 m, top speed of 23 knots, endurance of 40 days, and crew of over 60 personnel. The PN acquired ships to support a wide range of missions, including maritime security and policing, surveillance and intelligence, and search-and-rescue, among others.

The Yarmouk-class OPVs will likely be the PN’s main asset for policing Pakistan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Basically, it will support the PN’s anti-smuggling/piracy, counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism, fishery control, and humanitarian and disaster-relief operations. This would free the PN’s frigate and corvette assets to focus on their core missions and, potentially, reduce the risk of damage in peacetime resulting from asymmetrical maritime missions.

That said, the PN does intend to leverage the Yarmouk-class OPVs in wartime. The first two Yarmouk-class OPVs can be configured with anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM) and close-in-weapons-systems (CIWS), giving it long-range strike and point-defence anti-air capabilities. The Damen OPV 1900 can also carry two special mission containers, which the PN could use for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) or mine countermeasures (MCM), thus making these OPVs versatile when required.

With a displacement of 2,600 tons, the Batch-II OPV is larger than the preceding two ships and more capable in its anti-ship warfare (AShW) and anti-air warfare (AAW) potential. Based on the illustration of the ship released by Damen, the Batch-II can carry a supersonic-cruising ASCM (possibly the CM-302) in a two-by-two configuration as well as vertical launch system (VLS) cells for a medium-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) system, possibly the MBDA CAMM-ER.

However, it should be noted that the PN’s OPVs have the technical potential to be configured along those lines. The PN may not configure the ships to their potential in the near-term. Rather, its primary priority is likely to acquire the OPVs to expand its sea policing capabilities, thus, the main focus will likely be on integrating the OPVs’ sensor suites – e.g., main search radar, electronic support measures (ESM) and electronic intelligence systems (ELINT), etc., and small-caliber weapons.

That said, the mock ups and illustrations show that the PN is aware of how to leverage an advantage of its new OPVs. Damen had designed these OPVs according to commercial standards, which result in lower acquisition costs. For reference, Malaysia paid around $55-60 million for each Damen OPV 180. The PN likely paid a similar amount for each of its OPVs.

With a relatively low ‘floor’ in terms of cost, the PN has significant vertical room to invest in the OPVs’ sensors and weapons. Hence, one could eventually see these OPVs leverage comparable radars and ESM/ELINT to the PN’s warships, like the Babur-class corvette. In fact, as Pakistan works to localize its radar and ESM/ELINT sensor solutions, this standardization is quite likely.

This approach will help the PN save additional costs, which leaves significant budgetary space to configure these OPVs with high-impact weapons, like the CM-302 and CAMM-ER, which can also be found on the Tughril-class (Type 054A/P) frigate and Babur-class (MILGEM) corvette, respectively.

In 2020, the PN leadership said that it was negotiating for six OPVs of “larger tonnage” to follow on to the first two Yarmouk-class OPVs. The “larger tonnage” design was evidently the Batch-II OPV, but it is unclear if the PN is still committed to ordering additional ships. If this plan is still in play, then the PN could potentially order four additional Batch-II OPVs, giving it a total fleet of eight ships.

Besides growing its sea policing and wartime anti-access and area-denial (AA/AD) capabilities, these OPVs could help reinforce niche wartime roles – such as surface-based ASW and MCM – without the need to invest in dedicated, specialized warships.

 

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