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Pakistan Signs Contract for Type 054A Frigates from China

On 01 June, Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence Production (MoDP) signed a contract with China Shipbuilding Trading Co. Ltd. (CSTC) for two Type 054A frigates for the Pakistan Navy (PN). However, according to the MoDP and the PN (as reported by the state-owned Associated Press of Pakistan: APP)[1], this order is a follow-on to an earlier order, also for two Type 054As. The PN is to receive four Type 054As by 2021.[2]

News of Pakistan procuring the Type 054A began in October 2017 through statements from the previous Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Admiral Muhammad Zakaullah. In his retirement speech, Zakaullah announced that the Pakistan Navy concluded a deal for new Chinese frigates.

In December 2017, the commanding officer of the F-22P frigate PNS Saif – i.e. Capt. Shahzad Iqbal – had told Shanghai TV that the PN would procure the Type 054A. Shortly after, Defense News confirmed from a Pakistan Navy official that a single Type 054A with an option for two more.[3]

According to Defense News, Pakistan’s forthcoming Type 054As will be configured with the same weapons and subsystems as their People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) counterparts.[4] Notable subsystems in the PLAN Type 054A include the Type 366 over the horizon (OTH) radar and Type-382 3D air search radar.

However, if the PN’s frigates are configured differently, then CSIC has at least two export variants. First, a version centered on a four-panel active phased-array radar (APAR). Second, a variant using APAR coupled with an OTH radar, likely the China Educational Instrument and Equipment Corp (CEIEC) SLR-66.

In terms of munitions, the Type 054A would provide the PN with its first platform equipped with vertical-launch system (VLS) cells for surface-to-air missiles (SAM). Today, the PLAN deploys the HHQ-16 medium-range surface-to-air missile (MR-SAM) from the Type 054A’s VLS. The HHQ-16 has a range of 40 km.

The Type 054A is also armed with a dual-quad-cell (2×4) anti-ship missiles (AShM), dual-triple (2×3) anti-submarine warfare (ASW) torpedoes, one 76-mm main gun and Type 1130 close-in-weapons-system (CIWS). The aft helicopter hangar and deck can support a medium-weight ASW helicopter, notably the Harbin Z-9EC. CSIC’s export versions offer the FL-3000N point defence missile system (PDMS) instead.

The Type 054A – i.e. Jiangkai II – displaces at 4,000 tons. It was designed as a multi-mission platform that can undertake anti-ship warfare (AShW), anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and anti-air warfare (AAW) roles. The PN expects its forthcoming frigates to “substantially enhance [its] war fighting capabilities, while [also] effectively contributing towards Maritime Security Operations in the region.”

This is the PN’s second big-ticket acquisition from China in recent years. In 2015, Pakistan inked a contract with China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) for eight air-independent propulsion (AIP)-equipped submarines (SSP). The PN is slated to have all eight of these SSPs by 2028.

The exact model of Pakistan’s AIP submarine is not known, though it has been speculated to be the S26 – i.e. the AIP-equipped version of the double-hulled S20. Thailand agreed to purchase three S26Ts for $1.02 billion US. Based on that price, a Pakistani S26 deal would be valued at least $2.7 billion US. In 2015, Gabe Collins (via The Diplomat) estimated the Type 054A to roughly cost $348 million US per ship.[5] Based on these estimates, Pakistan’s current naval acquisitions from China would amount to at least $4 billion US.

Expected Capability Improvements

The most significant outcome of these acquisitions will arguably be the provision of capable sub-surface and surface-based platforms for launching long-range cruise missiles, notably the Harba dual-AShM and land-attack cruise missile (LACM) and the Babur submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM).

In terms of the Harba AShM/LACM, the Type 054A’s Type 366 (or SLR-66) OTH radar will provide the PN the ability to detect and track surface targets such as ships at long-range (280 km). It would follow that the Harba will be fitted to the Type 054A, but the PN may use the Type 054A to provide off-board target detection and tracking to other Harba-equipped ships, such as the Azmat-class fast attack craft (FAC).

Second, the Type 054A would be the PN’s first vessel with VLS and an opportunity to bring credible AAW capabilities at-sea. Currently, the Type 054A is equipped with the 40 km-range HHQ-16, which – while an improvement over the PN’s non-existing AAW element – is a comparatively modest solution to the threats emerging at the hands of the Indian Navy. However, the availability of a platform that is sufficiently large to handle VLS cells, especially in numbers (i.e. 32+) opens the door to credible long-term upgrades.

Be it from China or a third-party supplier, the Type 054As could one-day be fitted with a medium-to-long-range SAM system. Granted, the ideal scenario would be to see it fitted with such as system from the on-set, though this is unlikely considering there is neither an applicable solution of that kind in China (the HQ-9 is a larger missile than the HQ-16) nor has the PN voiced the need for it as of yet. Nonetheless, this is an area that the Chinese will continue developing, it is of direct interest to their maritime security ambitions.

Recapitalizing the Surface Fleet

Currently, the PN surface combatant fleet – specifically in terms of 2,000+ ton vessels – consist of four F-22P frigates, five Type 21 frigates and a single FFG-7 frigate. Originally, the PN had intended to procure a total of six FFG-7s from the US, but the US (notably Congress) was not forthcoming with releasing the last five ships. Thus, the PN’s mainstay frigate fleet is split between the heavily aged Type 21 (acquired second-hand from the UK in the early 1990s) and the F-22P, which were procured from China in 2009-2013.

Evidently, the PN has been negotiating for the Type 054A and the MILGEM Ada corvette in parallel, thus indicating that its future fleet program is one of both replacing old ships and expanding the fleet. The Ada is an ASW-optimized design (lacking VLS). In the PN, it would serve a similar function as the F-22P, though with contemporary sensors and subsystems (which the PN could add to the F-22P at a later date). These eight ASW/AShW-capable ships would augment the four AAW-capable Type 054As.

In effect, the PN could allocate a single Type 054A to two F-22P and/or Ada in each squadron/flotilla and – at a macro-level – maintain two forces comprising of two Type 054A and four F-22P/MILGEM each. The next significant shift is that unlike the current fleet, the PN’s future frigate/corvette assets will not address asymmetrical threats – such as trafficking, piracy and other criminal activity at-sea – as intensively as today. Rather, the purchase of two 1,900-ton offshore patrol vessels (OPV) from Damen Shipyards will enable the PN to concentrate its top-end assets on conventional warfare threats.

With each Damen OPV 1900 likely costing $55-60 m[6], the PN now has a comparatively low-cost, but fully effective, maritime security platform for policing its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in peacetime. Though these OPVs lack the offensive and defensive capabilities of the PN’s top-end assets, they can still carry the necessary sensors (e.g. basic air and surface surveillance radar), weapons (e.g. main gun, remote-weapon stations and pedestal machine guns) and support capabilities (e.g. medium-weight utility helicopter along with recoverable inflatable boats) to execute every peacetime maritime operation.

The OPV fleet could grow. In 2016, the PN had signed a preliminary agreement to purchase two corvettes (with an option for two more) from the US-based shipbuilder Swiftships.[7] The Swift Corvette – i.e. 70 m in length and 1,500 to 2,000 tons in displacement – was slated to have an identical role to the Damen OPV 1900, i.e. “anti-surface and anti-air operations, maritime security, day-and-night helicopter activities, combat search and rescue, and surveillance and intelligence gathering.”[8][9] Though the current state of US-Pakistani ties could scuttle the Swift Corvette deal, the PN could procure additional OPV 1900s.

The final ‘tier’ of the PN fleet is that of FACs. Currently, the PN has three Azmat-class FACs (with a fourth in the pipeline) complemented by two MRTP-33 FACs, two Jurrat-class FACs and two Jalalat-class FACs. In the PN, the FACs serve dual peacetime and wartime functions. In peacetime, they are patrol and policing assets for the EEZ and littoral seas. In wartime, they provide anti-access and area-denial (A2/AD) coverage through their respective AShM load-outs. In 2016, the Pakistan Navy told local media that it was seeking four to six new FACs (to guard Gwadar) and that it opened talks with China and Turkey on the matter.[10]

Thus, the PN’s future composite is threefold: First, an offshore surface combatant fleet comprising of both frigates and corvettes. Second, an offshore maritime security fleet built of OPVs. Third, a littoral sea fleet composed of various FACs for dual-maritime security and A2/AD operations. Though the recapitalization and expansion of the surface fleet has been a much-awaited process, its operational value will rest on the deployment strategy. The Type 054A, though a patrol frigate in the PLAN, is likely to take on a focally vital role in the PN as a key enabler of the PN’s A2/AD efforts (as discussed in an earlier Quwa Premium article, “The Impact of Pakistan’s Harba Dual-AShM and LACM”).

[1] “Pakistan Signs Contract To Acquire Two Chinese Naval Warships”. Associated Press of Pakistan. 01 June 2018. URL: (Last Accessed: 02 June 2018).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Usman Ansari. “Pakistan shops for warships to replace British frigates, modernize Navy.” Defense News. 27 December 2017. URL: (Last Accessed: 02 June 2018).

[4] Ibid.

[5] Gabe Collins. “How Much Do China’s Warships Actually Cost?” The Diplomat. 18 June 2015. URL: (Last Accessed: 02 June 2018).

[6]  Ridzwan Rahmat. “LIMA 2017: MMEA unveils design of new helicopter-capable OPV platform.” Jane’s Navy International. 22 March 2017. URL: (Last Accessed: 28 December 2017).

[7] Susan Buchanan. “Economics & Utility Redefine Today’s Workboat Output.” Marine Link. 23 October 2017. URL: (Last Accessed: 28 December 2017).

[8] Ibid.

[9] “Pakistan to construct multipurpose OPV indigenously.” Associated Press of Pakistan. 12 June 2017. URL: (Last Accessed: 27 December 2017).

[10] Salman Siddiqui. “Pakistan Navy considering buying warships from China, Turkey”. The Express Tribune. 25 November 2016. URL: (Last Accessed: 02 June 2018).

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