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Pakistan Defence Review: News Updates

The Pakistan Navy Commissions its new 17,000-ton Auxiliary Ship

On 16 October, the Pakistan Navy (PN) commissioned a new 17,000-ton auxiliary support ship and tanker.[1]

Designated PNS Moawin, Pakistan inked a contract for the tanker from Turkey’s Savunma Teknolojileri Mühendislik A.Ş. (STM) in January 2013. The price was reportedly $90 million US.[2] Prior to this ship, PNS Moawin was the name of a Dutch-built Poolster-class tanker in the PN; this new tanker is replacing it.

PNS Moawin’s steel-cutting ceremony had occurred at Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works (KSEW) in November 2013. KSEW laid its keel in March 2014 and, in turn, constructed the ship by August 2016, at which point the Moawin was launched for sea trials.[3] In April 2018, it conducted its first survey mission.

As with almost all KSEW programs, the Moawin was built under license by STM and with support – through Kits of Material (KoM) and technical documentation – of the original equipment manufacturer (OEM).[4]

It is an off-the-shelf design, but KSEW lead the construction, integration and testing/trials of the Moawin. A key point in regards to integration is the fact that KSEW – under STM’s guidance – paired electronics and weapons from different suppliers, i.e., Turkey’s Aselsan and the UK’s Kelvin Hughes, among others.

The PNS Moawin has a full-load displacement of 16,400 tons. It has a hull length of 158.4 m and is capable of reaching a maximum speed of 20 knots when at full load. When at a cruise speed of 15 knots, the PNS Moawin has a range of 10,000 nautical miles.[5] The PNS Moawin is equipped with two Replenishment-at-Sea (RAS) masts (for solid and liquid cargo), a helicopter hangar capable of supporting a Sea King-class and a Dauphin (i.e. Z-9EC)-class helicopter, and two Aselsan STOP 25 mm cannons.[6]

It is not known when the PN intends to replace its other large auxiliary ship, i.e. the Fuqing-class PNS Nasr.

The PNS Nasr is (compared to the Poolster-class PNS Moawin) a newer ship; launched and commissioned in 1980 and 1987, respectively. For the PN, it is already 30 years of age. The natural course of action would be to procure a second STM designed ship and standardize the large auxiliary fleet on one platform.

In its yearbook for 2015-2016, Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence Production (MoDP) listed the construction of a new submarine rescue and salvage vessel as a prospective program.[7] Seeing that the PN is slated to operate 11 air-independent propulsion (AIP)-powered submarines by 2028 (and that too with potentially an additional set of miniature submarines), this could become a priority for the 2020s.

In terms of STM, this marks the completion of its first major naval project in Pakistan. STM is also leading the upgrade of Pakistan’s Agosta 90B submarines as well as construction of MILGEM Ada corvettes.

Pakistan Aeronautical Complex to Receive a CNC Machine from Turkey

In July, Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) signed a contract with Turkey’s Usel Makina for the purchase of the latter’s CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machines. Specifically, PAC is procuring a four-axis CNC Water Jet Cutting Machine.[8] PAC will reportedly use the CNC machine to manufacture aircraft parts.[9]

PAC is slated to take delivery of the CNC machine in November.[10] CNC machines – e.g. cutting machines, drilling machines, etc – are subtractive manufacturing systems. These work by taking materials, such as a slab of aviation-grade or ship-grade steel, and shaping it in various ways (e.g. cutting) into a part, such as a hardpoint station. In manufacturing realms where any margin of error or variance is not acceptable, CNC machining must be done with a very high level of precision.

Thus, to see PAC procure such machinery from Turkey is interesting, especially since – at least in aviation – such systems are sought from the West. This is also Usel Makina’s first CNC machine sale to an aviation industry vendor.[11] Interestingly, PAC recently issued a tender for a CNC jig boring machine as well as a CNC milling machine, both of which should be of US or European origin.[12][13] However, PAC’s purchase from Usel Makina suggests a willingness to explore new (and potentially more affordable) alternatives.

However, such purchases also highlight a major gap in Pakistan’s manufacturing capabilities. By importing CNC machining, the likes of PAC and others can shape primary materials into parts. However, the reliance on overseas suppliers has shifted ‘up the channel’ (so to speak). This is both a high fiscal cost and foreign-currency strain; fortunately, both are recoverable through exporting manufacturing services.

Though PAC has seen success with its Super Mushshak (Turkey’s first batch is due by end of 2018), Pakistan has yet to see a markedly noticeable return-on-investment (ROI) in terms of aviation exports. Granted, it has saved by reducing some imports (e.g. by manufacturing over half of the JF-17’s airframe). However, it can accrue greater foreign currency savings by mastering machining and materials sourcing (e.g. steel).

In contrast, Usel Makina’s deal with Pakistan underlines the progress Turkey is making on indigenizing its overall manufacturing chain. For Pakistan, actual indigenization (and significant opportunity for exports) rests in domestically developing and producing such critical systems. In the interim, Pakistan is prioritizing the pursuit of markets for its manufacturing services and foreign investment in its aviation industry.[14]

Pakistan’s Siemens Mobile Pulse-Doppler Radars (MPDR) Soldier On

Based on a series of tenders released in September and October, it is evident that the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) is still using its Siemens Mobile Pulse-Doppler Radars (MPDR).[15][16]

The documentation highlight that the PAF is seeking spare parts and new components (albeit, relatively low-tech ones) for overhauling the MPDR. Inducted in the 1980s, the PAF has 45 MPDRs in three variants: two mobile types – each with a range of 45 km – and one transportable, 60-km range system.

Being a mechanically-steered, single-array system, the MPDR is an antiquated piece for today’s air warfare environment, one filled with DRFM (Digital Radio Frequency Memory)-based electronic warfare (EW) and electronic countermeasures (ECM) jamming. The PAF’s low-level coverage is at a disadvantage.

However, the MPDR is – and apparently will be for the foreseeable future – the PAF’s mainstay low-level air defence sensor. It is unclear when the PAF will proceed to replacing the MPDR, but it should not be a matter of “if” but “when” seeing the technology gap in place.

In terms of low-level radars, Pakistan’s prospective suppliers include Leonardo (Kronos), Saab (Giraffe 4A), Nanjing Research Institute of Electronic Technology (NRIET), Thales and – seeing the Pakistan Navy’s (PN) dealings with the company – Hensoldt (which, interestingly, absorbed Siemens’ MPDR support work).

For the PAF, key factors driving a selection would be cost, maturity and performance. The latter two issues would likely preclude the PAF from an emergent supplier (e.g. Ukraine and Turkey). Ultimately, availability of financing (e.g. a line-of-credit or term-based installments) will likely trigger new procurement.

Sea Spark 2018: Pakistan Commences its Marquee Naval Exercise

On 15 October, the Pakistan Navy initiated its marquee maritime exercise, Sea Spark 2018. According to a press release by Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), the exercise will span for “over two months” in the Arabian Sea and will involve the Pakistan Army and Pakistan Air Force (PAF).[17]

In previous iterations of the exercise, the PAF deployed its Karakoram Eagle airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft. Be it providing stand-off range and over-the-horizon radar coverage, long-range targeting, anti-ship warfare (AShW) support or air defence support (via JF-17s and Mirage 5PAs), there are many ways through which the PAF factors into the PN’s operational planning.

Interestingly, Sea Spark 2018 is a long exercise – i.e. two months. This duration suggests that Sea Spark’s scope is complex and, seeing Pakistan’s procurement line through the short, medium and long-terms, this will only grow in complexity (despite Pakistan’s fiscal constraints).

One area of interest to the PN will be validating its expanding network-enabled warfare capabilities, which are centered on the Naval Information Exchange System (NIXS) from Turkey’s MilSOFT.[18] The NIXS aims to make all networked assets benefit from the situational awareness of other assets, including AEW&C, surface warship-based radars, land-based radars, radars onboard helicopters (e.g. the PN’s Sea Kings use  Leonardo Seaspray 5300 AESA radars) and electronic intelligence (ELINT) information from submarines.[19]

Talks Underway with Turkey for ‘Small-Scale’ Defence Purchases

During the commissioning ceremony of the Pakistan Navy’s (PN) new tanker, the PNS Moawin, Turkey’s Undersecretary for Defence Industries (SSM) İsmail Demir, announced that Turkey is in talks with Pakistan to sell small quantities of electronic warfare (EW) systems and other armaments.[20]

Demir also confirmed that the PN’s MILGEM Ada corvette and the Pakistan Army’s T129 ATAK purchases were in effect. He stated that work is underway to secure an export permit process (likely in reference to the T129’s CTS800 turboshaft engines) for the ATAK. Likewise, planning is underway for constructing the PN’s MILGEM Ada corvettes – two of the ships will be built by Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works.

[1] Press Release. “Pakistan Navy Commissions Fleet Tanker PNS Moawin … a Quantum Leap Towards Indigenization and a Beacon of Pakistan-Turkey Friendship.” Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR). 16 October 2018. URL: https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=4990 (Last Accessed: 20 October 2018).

[2] “Turkish-made military tanker ship joins Pakistan navy.” Daily Sabah. 19 August 2016. URL: https://www.dailysabah.com/defense/2016/08/20/turkish-made-military-tanker-ship-joins-pakistan-navy (Last Accessed: 20 October 2018).

[3] Official Information. Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works. URL: http://www.karachishipyard.com.pk/ongoing-projects/ (Last Accessed: 20 October 2018).

[4] Ibid.

[5] Official Product Information. Delta Marine. URL: http://www.deltamarine.com.tr/pdf/products/Naval%20Ships/Naval_Ships_Portfolio_Delta_Web.pdf (Last Accessed: 20 October 2018).

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ministry of Defence Production (MoDP) Yearbook 2015-2016 Part II. Government of Pakistan. p.86

[8] “Pakistan’s Aeronautical Complex Acquires CNC Machine Manufactured by Usel Makina.” MSI Turkish Defence Review. September 2018. Volume 12. Issue 59.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Tender No: PACB/741/82412003/0696/P-1. “Procurement of CNC JIG Boring Machine.” Government of Pakistan. 19 October 2018. URL: http://www.ppra.org.pk/download.asp?tenderid=%20120871 (Last Accessed: 20 October 2018).

[13] Tender No: PACB/741/82412004/0695/P-1. “Procurement of CNC Milling Machine.” Government of Pakistan. URL: http://ppra.org.pk/download.asp?tenderid=%20120231 (Last Accessed: 20 October 2018).

[14] Tony Osborne. “Pakistan Positioning For Aerospace Services Growth.” Aviation Week & Space Technology. 15 October 2018. URL: http://aviationweek.com/defense/pakistan-positioning-aerospace-services-growth (Last Accessed: 19 October 2018).

[15] Tender No: TS365302E. “Procurement for Spares for MPDR Upgrade DP (Air) Tender AD.” Public Procurement Regulatory Authority. 25 September 2018. URL: http://www.ppra.org.pk/download.asp?tenderid=%20119430 (Last Accessed: 20 October 2018).

[16] Tender No: TS362625E. “Procurement of Spares for Overhauling of ASR of MPDR Sensor.” Public Procurement Regulatory Authority. 10 October 2018. URL: http://www.ppra.org.pk/download.asp?tenderid=%20119430 (Last Accessed: 20 October 2018).

[17] Press Release. “Pakistan Navy Conducts Major Maritime Exercise “Sea Spark 2018” to Validate War Plans.” Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR). 15 October 2018. URL: https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=4989 (Last Accessed: 20 October 2018).

[18] Official Information. MilSOFT. URL: http://www.milsoft.com.tr/en/references/ (Last Accessed: 20 October 2018).

[19] Official Product Information. NIXS. MilSOFT. URL: http://www.milsoft.com.tr/en/portfolio/nixs/ (Last Accessed: 20 October 2018).

[20] “Turkish defense industry delivers one of its largest single-item export projects: Fleet tanker to Pakistan Navy.” Daily Sabah. 16 October 2018. URL: https://www.dailysabah.com/defense/2018/10/17/turkish-defense-industry-delivers-one-of-its-largest-single-item-export-projects-fleet-tanker-to-pakistan-navy (Last Accessed: 20 October 2018).

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