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Pakistan Launches 4th MILGEM Corvette (PNS Tariq – 283)

Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works (KSEW) launched the Pakistan Navy’s (PN) fourth MILGEM Babur-class corvette, PNS Tariq (283), on August 2, 2023. PNS Tariq is the last of the four MILGEM corvettes the PN ordered from Türkiye ’s ASFAT (Askeri Fabrika ve Tersane İşletme) in 2018. Under the $1.5 billion US deal, the PN was to receive four customized MILGEM corvettes as well as ASFAT’s support in designing an original frigate for the PN (i.e., the Jinnah-class frigate program). The first corvette is scheduled for delivery in 2023, and the final ship by 2025. Currently, all four ships are undergoing sea trials.

The Babur-class corvette is a customized variant of the Ada-class anti-submarine warfare (ASW) corvette; based on the same MILGEM platform, the Babur-class corvette is different in a number of ways. First, it is larger with a displacement of 2,888 to 2,988 tons (compared to the Ada-class’ 2,400 tons). It also carries numerous design changes that affect or improve its capabilities in key areas.

The most obvious, and potentially the most significant, is the inclusion of vertical launch system (VLS) cells for anti-air warfare (AAW). Currently, the Babur-class is equipped with 12 VLS cells (i.e., GWS-26), which will be paired with the MBDA Albatros NG (Common Anti-Air Modular Missile Extended Range or CAMM-ER) surface-to-air missile (SAM) system. The CAMM-ER offers a stated range of over 45 km alongside multi-launch or simultaneous target engagement capabilities. Its guidance system comprises of a two-way data-link system that communicates with the surveillance/targeting radar and an active-radar-homing terminal-stage seeker. Once inducted, the CAMM-ER will be the PN’s most sophisticated SAM system and, in turn, the Babur-class corvette will be its most capable AAW vessel in the fleet.

In terms of anti-surface warfare (ASuW), the Babur-class is configured to carry a yet-to-be-disclosed anti-ship missile in a two-by-three-cell configuration. It could either be the domestically produced Harbah anti-ship cruising missile (ASCM), or, potentially, the forthcoming P282. One of the advantages of sourcing an in-house missile is that the PN is not limited to supplier-imposed range restrictions (resulting from MTCR-compliance). Thus, the Babur-class’ anti-ship/surface capabilities could exceed a range of 300 km.

For point-defence purposes, the PN opted to use the Aselsan Gökdeniz close-in-weapon-system (CIWS) in place of the Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM). Interestingly, even when the PN could have acquired a RAM-type solution (e.g., from China), it opted for CIWS instead, indicating that the service prefers CIWS guns instead of point-defence missile systems (PDMS), at least currently.

Otherwise, the Babur-class and Ada-class are similar, using comparable radar and other sensors, electronic support measures (ESM) systems, and other inputs (sourced from the same suppliers, notably Aselsan and Havelsan, among others). Likewise, both ships rely on a combined gas-and-diesel (COGAD) layout for their respective propulsion needs (with General Electric supplying gas turbines for both ships).

With production of the Babur-class corvette concluding, the PN – alongside KSEW, Maritime Technologies Complex (MTC), and the Naval Research and Development Institute (NRDI) – will move towards the Jinnah-class frigate (JCF). The JCF will be Pakistan’s flagship naval project for the next several years as it works to build the country’s capacity to design, configure, and build an original warship.

The JCF will likely play a central role in driving the PN’s goal of expanding its surface fleet to over 20 ‘major vessels’ (alongside more than 30 ships of other types). The JCF will have a displacement of 3,300 tons, hull length of 119.45 m, a width of 15.40 m, range of 4,000 nautical miles, top speed of 26 knots, and a cruising speed of 17 knots. It will be armed with P282 surface-to-surface missiles (SSM) through a two-by-four-cell configuration, a CIWS system, a 76 mm main gun, and a 16-cell VLS. Like the Babur-class corvette, the JCF will be equipped with a main search and targeting radar, fire control radar (FCR), ESM, electronic counter-measures (ECM) system, and other sensors and electronics.

In some ways, the JCF is an iterative improvement over the Babur-class. It is larger, longer ranged, and, in terms of AAW at least, marginally more capable. However, the JCF is also different in some respects, such as using a combined diesel-and-diesel (CODAD) propulsion system instead of CODAG. With the exception of the Babur-class corvettes, the PN’s new ships use CODAD. The PN may have retained the CODAG in the Babur-class for its cruising speed advantage, perhaps to use it for rapid response (e.g., to interdict exposed enemy submarines, sea lane policing, anti-narcotics/trafficking/terrorism operations, etc).

However, it seems that the remaining workhorse ships would use CODAD, thus emphasizing the need for range and endurance. It is not known if the PN would invest in additional CODAG-equipped ships, though it is possible given that they will have built the support base and doctrine via the Babur-class corvette.

The most important aspect of the JCF is not the ship in of itself, but the fact that Türkiye  is helping Pakistan build its capacity to design and build original warships. Moreover, the PN co-owns the intellectual property with ASFAT and, in turn, can manage the platform at will. For example, the PN does not need to consult a specific OEM when sourcing critical inputs (via pre-determined materiel kits); rather, it can speak to input suppliers of its choice and, in turn, have more control over pricing and capability. Gradually, the PN might even be able to source more inputs domestically (assuming Pakistani steel and other industries catch up).

In terms of the JCF’s design itself, it seems that the platform is scalable and flexible. Recently, at the 2023 International Defence Industry Fair (IDEF), ASFAT revealed a new frigate design which seems to be based on the same platform as the JCF. This new design – termed AS3600 – is larger than the JCF (124 m long to the JCF’s 119.45 m, and 3,600 tons displacement compared to the JCF’s 3,300 tons). However, the AS3600 is configured with two 32-cell VLS modules (totaling 64 cells across the ship). This is a tremendous boost in capability compared to the JCF, but potentially speaks to the design’s potential.

It should also be noted that much of the JCF’s combat potential will also depend on the types of weapons and subsystem options available to the PN. Türkiye ’s continued progress in sensors, SAMs, and other inputs could unlock many pathways for upgrades and capability improvements. However, it also seems that the Pakistani military leadership is interested in sourcing advanced munitions locally, such as medium-to-long-range SAMs, long-range SSMs, lightweight ASW torpedoes, and others.

One of the key benefits of driving the JCF is that Pakistan can choose to design its future warships around its domestically designed subsystems and weapons. This would be in addition to sourcing its selection of steel, electronics, propulsion, and other inputs so as to control cost and build resiliency into its supply chain (e.g., by engaging a diverse pool of suppliers).

Overall, the PN has laid a promising basis from which it can build its future fleet in the coming decades. In fact, the JCF design itself could evolve as the PN orders new batches, be it to replace its older ships or to further expand its fleet. One could potentially see a ship of the caliber of the AS3600 sooner than later in the PN (e.g., through a potential JCF Batch-II or Batch-III).


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