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Pakistan’s Naval Chief Outlines Future Procurement Goals

In a series of interviews during the Pakistan Navy’s (PN) marquee exercise, AMAN, the PN Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi, outlined the force’s future capability goals and duties. While summarizing the PN’s big-ticket orders, notably the purchase of 8 new Hangor-class submarines, four Type 054A/P frigates, and four MILGEM Ada corvettes, the CNS hinted that the surface fleet may further grow.

In an interview with Naval Forces (via Monch), the CNS stated, “We are also looking at acquisition of more Corvettes (sic) for effective contribution in the Regional Maritime Security.” Based on the CNS’ comments before that point in the interview, the implication is that the PN could procure additional MILGEM ships.

In July 2018, Pakistan inked a contract with ASFAT A.S. (Military Factories and Shipyards Management Inc) of Turkey for four MILGEM Ada corvettes. In addition to the ships, the $1 billion program will see Pakistan receivecomplete transfer-of-technology” and “intellectual proprietary rights for the design.

The fourth PN MILGEM will be a frigate and, as per a PN official, will initiate a new line of frigates, with its lead ship being the PNS Jinnah. However, it was unclear if the Jinnah-class frigate would be a one-off ship, which was a possibility considering that Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works (KSEW) had two marquee one-off production projects – i.e., the third Agosta 90B submarine and the fourth F-22P frigate.

The CNS’ statement implies that the PN could expand its MILGEM program and, in particular, the Jinnah-class frigate. Interestingly, in a separate interview with Global Village Space, the CNS stated that existing surface warships will also be upgraded. In other words, additional MILGEM ships would not replace the F-22P, thus resulting in an expansion of the PN’s large surface combatants.

The driving impetus for the expansion is the PN’s Regional Maritime Security Patrol (RMSP) initiative. The PN launched the RMSP to “pursue [Pakistan’s] national interests with strategic autonomy.” The move had followed the PN’s decision to withdraw from Combined Task Forces (CTF) 151, but the RMSP appears to be larger in scope than just a stand-in for CTF-151; rather, the RMSP is the framework through which the PN will guarantee the security of Pakistan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and sea lanes.

In effect, the PN is shifting its resources towards fulfilling immediate national interests and, in turn, expand its conventional capabilities to achieve those objectives. In expanding the MILGEM program, the PN would have additional anti-ship warfare (AShW), anti-submarine warfare (ASW), and (assuming the Jinnah-class is an enlarged variant of the Ada such as the LF-2400), anti-air warfare (AAW) assets to deploy at sea.

Ideally, the PN would push for localization across the Jinnah-class’ subsystems, and weapons. In addition to lowering direct procurement costs, it would also enable Pakistan to save on its foreign currency. It will also enable the PN to build a large surface combatant fleet to guard its EEZ.

But if guaranteeing the security of the EEZ is a pressing concern (enough to justify another wave of 2,000+ ton surface warships), then long-range aviation will serve an important role as well.

In the interview with Naval Forces, the CNS stated that the PN is looking to improve its “long range ASW and ASuW capability through induction of modern air platforms.” In August 2018, the CNS stated that the PN “plans to augment the naval aviation fleet with modern LRMPs (long-range maritime patrol aircraft).

Considering how often the CNS has directly or indirectly alluded to LRMPs, it appears that this is a serious program. The most accessible approach for the PN would be to fit a single-aisle business jet platform with AShW and ASW systems and weapons. However, Saab withdrew its Swordfish MPA from its catalog, so it is not on offer unless a customer emerges to absorb the development and testing costs.

But considering how the Swordfish is primarily a package of commercially-off-the-shelf (COTS) systems, the overhead cost should be manageable. However, Pakistan can approach the Swordfish (or another similar platform) with a partner to share the overhead costs.

The second part of the PN’s aviation plans involve the procurement of new multi-mission helicopters. It is unclear what the PN is referring to, though a replacement for its Sea King helicopters – which, technically, are its sole true multi-mission helicopters – seems plausible. This could materialize in one of two ways: a large platform such as the AW101 or a smaller, and lower-cost, approach through the NH-90, S-70i, or Z-20. The latter set could be procured in greater numbers, thus supporting the enlarged surface fleet.

The third aviation goal is for a new medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle. At IDEAS 2018, Turkish Aerospace told Quwa that the PN was in talks for the Anka-S.

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