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The Impact of Pakistan’s Harba dual-AShM and LACM


On January 03, the Pakistan Navy announced that it test-fired a new anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM) with land-attack capabilities, the “Harba.” The dual-ASCM/land-attack cruise missile (LACM) was fired from an Azmat-class fast attack craft (FAC), the PNS Himmat. Seemingly based on the Babur-series of LACM, the Harba ASCM is a sub-sonic, sea-skimming ASCM with an inertial navigation system (INS)-based mid-course guidance suite and active-homing terminal stage seeker. Pakistan did not disclose the specific seeker type it is using or the Harba’s range, though the land-attack mission could indicate a long-range mission that is commensurate with the Babur Version 2 ground-launch cruise missile (GLCM) or Babur 3 submarine launch cruise missile (SLCM). However, the Harba ASCM does provide Pakistan with its own anti-ship warfare (AShW) munition and another strategic deployment option, joining the Babur 3 SLCM.

By deploying the Harba ASCM from aboard an Azmat FAC, a 500-ton surface combatant inherently lacking in a long-range surface surveillance and tracking radar to independently use the Harba ASCM to its fullest range, the Pakistan Navy has demonstrated that it has formed a network-enabled warfare environment – i.e. a system that connects the Azmat FAC to off-board sensors to provide situational awareness, targeting and mid-course guidance for the Harba ASCM fired from the Azmat FAC. Secondly, testing the Harba ASCM from the Azmat FAC shows that Pakistan has the ability and willingness to deploy potent long-range land-attack capabilities from low-cost – and potentially scalable in the future – launch platforms. The Harba is the first piece of Pakistan’s effort to improve its anti-access and area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities to guard its littoral waters, exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and sea-lines-of-communications (SLOC).

The Harba dual-ASCM and LACM

The Harba ASCM joins the Babur and Babur Version 2 GLCM, Babur 3 SLCM and Ra’ad/Ra’ad II air-launched cruise missile (ALCM) as among Pakistan’s stand-off range munitions. The Babur and Ra’ad-series, while capable of deploying conventional (e.g. high-explosive, blast fragmentation and/or penetrator) warheads, they are considered strategic weapons by the Army, Navy and Air Force. In other words, they are a means to deploy miniaturized nuclear warheads using a wide variety of platforms, including small platforms such as combat aircraft and submarines in the case of the Ra’ad/Ra’ad II and Babur 3, respectively.

Pakistan did not specify if the Harba ASCM will have a strategic role (though it is plausible if it is based on the Babur-series). There had been anticipation of a new ship-based ASCM following Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence Production’s (MoDP) disclosure of a ship-based launcher for an ASCM and LACM in its 2014-2015 yearbook. This launcher was due for completion by October 2018. Later, the design for the PNS Himmat and the fourth Azmat FAC, which is currently under-construction at Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works (KSEW), had showed a 2×3 aft-positioned missile launch system instead of the 2×4 system for the shorter-range C-802A found on the preceding two Azmat FAC (i.e. PNS Azmat and PNS Dehshat) and the F-22P. In March 2017, Pakistan test-fired a long-range anti-ship missile from the shore that the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) said featured “advanced technology and avionics [for] … engagement of targets at sea.”

It should be noted that in April 2016, the Pakistan Navy had tested another shore-based ASCM designated “Zarb.” Observers believe that the Zarb was in fact the Chinese C-602, which would provide a heavier (i.e. 300 kg) warhead and longer range than the C-802A. In the absence of official confirmation from Pakistan, one could reasonably speculate that the Harba and Zarb are connected (i.e. C-602-derived). However, the Harba’s land-attack capability could also be taken as an indicator for a link to the Babur, especially as the Babur’s longer-range envelope would position the Harba as a credible land-attack threat. In this respect, the Harba could be derived from either the Babur Version 2 GLCM or the Babur 3 SLCM, which offer 700 km and 450 km in range, respectively. In either case, it is a large range improvement over the C-802A.

However, it is difficult to determine which of the two platforms could have been selected for the Harba. Theoretically, the Babur 3 could make sense from a standardization standpoint as it would mean the Navy need only maintain a single missile platform for its surface and sub-surface requirements. However, it is unclear how much standardization matters. For example, it is possible that the miniature propulsion (e.g. mini-turbojet or turbofan), flight control systems and mid-course INS guidance are the same between the Babur 3 and Babur Version 2, but that the difference stems from reduced airframe size (for fitting into submarine torpedo tubes, which could mean less room for fuel and, in turn, less range). Furthermore, the Babur 3 necessitates encapsulation for it to undertake underwater launch. If the encapsulation and/or de-encapsulation process cannot be done outside of the missile’s production facility, then the benefit of standardization between the surface and sub-surface missiles is limited. Why select the Babur 3 for the Harba and its lesser range if the Babur V.2 with 700 km can be had (and fit in the PNS Himmat’s launcher)?

Besides range, the second question is the utility of a sub-sonic ASCM in an age where supersonic-cruising ASCM – such as the CM-302 – are available. Through a sustained cruising speed of Mach 2 to Mach 3, a supersonic cruising ASCM substantially reduces the reaction time available to air defences to counter it, and even if it can counter it at close range (e.g. closer than 5 km), there is a risk that debris – driven by supersonic momentum – could itself be a tangible threat to the target’s electronics, such as radar and an electronics support measures (ESM) system. Genuine defensibility requires an air defence system that can provide long-range target detection and tracking (of a very fast-moving target) along with a surface-to-air missile (SAM) system that can travel at an equivalent or higher speed. The MBDA Aster 30 is a potentially suitable system as it has a range of over 100 km and speed of Mach 4.5 (the Aster 15, while shorter-ranged at 30 km can reach Mach 3.5).[1] The U.S. also has its own analogous solution – the Standard Missile 6.

In the case of the Pakistan Navy, the only substantive air defence system to come is the one accompanying the Type 054A frigate. Pakistan reportedly has one Type 054A on order with plans for an additional two ships in the same configuration as the Type 054As of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). Official details regarding the HHQ-16/LY-80N on board with PLAN Type 054A are not readily available, though Army Recognition claims the LY-80N has a speed of Mach 3.[2]  For Pakistan, this may be the start of a credible shield against the BrahMos, though the HHQ-9, which reportedly can intercept a supersonic missile at up to 50 km (and aircraft at 125 km)[3], providing a longer range buffer compared to the LY-80N. However, based on the information available, this is not a factor in the foreseeable future, hence Pakistan does not appear to have a defensibility plan for the BrahMos. Thus, the focus would have to be on analogous capability using an off-the-shelf design, such as China’s CM-302 or CX-1.

That said, it would be erroneous to suggest that subsonic ASCM do not have a role. Rather, development of these designs is continuing, even in the West, but with an increasing emphasis on reducing the missile airframe’s radar cross-section (RCS), i.e. its detectability on radar, and infrared (IR) signature. In contrast to supersonic ASCM, which aims to reduce defensive reaction time through speed, a ‘stealthy’ sub-sonic ASCM aims to reduce defensive reaction by slipping through radar coverage nets. This would occur by not only trying to fly through a radar’s coverage gap – i.e. “radar shadow” caused by the curvature of the earth – but also through a small RCS airframe, ideally pushing the detectability threshold such that it would be too late to intercept by the time it is detected. Specific technical data is not available, but in general, sub-sonic ASCM could theoretically have the advantage of maintaining a longer sea-skimming flight profile. At low-altitude, there is greater air density, which for a supersonic ASCM could result in range and/or speed penalties if it flies at low-altitude for too long. The BrahMos, operates variably by initially cruising at higher altitude, and then dropping to sea-skimming at its terminal stage. In this respect, a capable air defence system could be alerted of the BrahMos’ entry earlier than a subsonic ASCM as the former is at a higher altitude, but the BrahMos’ markedly higher speed also makes it more difficult to track it as a target.

However, the above advantages of a subsonic ASCM are general descriptions. It should be noted that the navies of the West also define weapon systems for addressing threats from less-equipped countries. In the case of subsonic ASCM, the assumption in the U.S. and Western Europe may be that prospective foes will not have sufficiently capable radar sensor suites to detect stealthy subsonic ASCMs. Outside of NATO, there are few countries with AEW&C and over-the-horizon (OTH) radars for illuminating the gaps left by surface radars or possessing advanced point-defence missile systems (PDMS) with electro-optical (EO) trackers and high operating frequency targeting radars for tracking missiles. While Pakistan is progressing in terms of building its defensibility to subsonic ASCM threats, as is India, which is a concern for Pakistan and the long-term utility of the Harba ASCM. In tandem with continued subsonic ASCM development (e.g. continued RCS reduction and range increases), a supersonic ASCM ought to be sought, its absence is now an issue of parity wherein Pakistan neither has a defensibility program for supersonic ASCM while it also lacks an analogous capability. It would make sense to at least secure the latter as a deterrence.

Diverse Platform Options

By firing the Harba ASCM/LACM from an Azmat FAC, the Pakistan Navy demonstrated that it can deploy a LACM from a sub-1,000-ton ship. This is important as it indicates the presence of a network-enabled or network-centric warfare environment wherein off-board sensors can guide by data-link missiles fired from detached launchers, which could be from small ships, submarines or even aircraft. While this has always been possible for technically-able countries to achieve, it was the Russians in 2015 who demonstrated the strategic potency of otherwise low-cost vessels, which were in general viewed as AShW threats. The Russians undertook long-range cruise missile strikes into Syria using 900-ton Buyan-M class corvettes stationed in the Caspian Sea. The Azmat FAC is an even lighter ship at 500 tons, but with long-range land-attack capabilities one might intuitively associate with a large frigate or even destroyer.

In a sense, the Harba facilitates the Pakistan Navy’s entry into building genuine “distributed lethality” capabilities. Writing for the U.S. Naval Institute (USNI), the U.S. Navy’s Vice Adm. Thomas Rowden, Rear Adm. Peter Gumataotao and Rear Adm. Peter Fanta defined “distributed lethality” as the following:

[The] condition gained by increasing the offensive power of individual components of the surface force (cruisers, destroyers, littoral combat ships [LCSs], amphibious ships, and logistics ships) and then employing them in dispersed offensive formations known as “hunter-killer SAGs [surface action groups].” [4]

The outcome attained by distributed lethality is that one’s offensive capabilities, such as stand-off range or long-range land-strike, are distributed across many deployment platforms. One advantage of this form is that the loss of one or two ships does not hamper the SAG’s offensive effectiveness as much as losing a frigate in a four-ship flotilla. In fact, one can have ships specialized for land-strike, AShW, anti-submarine warfare (ASW), intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and other segments found in a large integrated multi-mission vessel.  Moreover, one can use low-cost ships to build numerical strength, which can not only help a fleet sustain attrition, but it can also result in continued force presence as some ships are sent to the shore for repair and servicing.

The alternative, or in conjunction, to distributed lethality is concentrating lethality to a single, but highly-capable ship. For example, a large 4,000+ ton frigate or 6,000+ ton destroyer could have vertical launch system (VLS) cells for long-range SAM and LACM, its own ASW suite and slant-mounted ASCM. Pakistan’s forthcoming Type 054A frigates would be an example of a concentrated asset, though it appears that its VLS will be dedicated to the HHQ-16/LY-80 medium-range SAM system. However, the simple presence of a 4,000+ ton frigate platform in the Navy opens the long-term possibility of those ships eventually getting longer VLS for long-range SAM and LACM in the future. It would be disingenuous to discount the value of a concentrated asset in a distributed lethality environment – rather, the two complement one another. It is the Type 054A with its long-range sensors that would guide the Harba onboard the Azmat FAC.

The U.S. Navy had envisioned employing distributed lethality through the Lockheed Martin LCS, a highly advanced ship design meant to obstruct an adversary’s anti-access and area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities. The LCS would operate with support from the U.S. Navy’s destroyers. However, the LCS is a costly design. In Pakistan’s case, which is seeking to deliver distributed lethality for A2/AD, the emphasis should be on building a large fleet of low-cost and less-sophisticated (i.e. limited in terms of complexity, materials and electronics) ships to deploy modern AShW, ASW and anti-air warfare (AAW) capabilities to obstruct the entry of enemy ships, submarines and aircraft. These mainstay ships could operate under the umbrella of the Type 054A, the F-22P and, if the deal is inked, MILGEM, with the three larger platforms each providing sensor coverage and area-wide AAW umbrellas to the smaller ships as they conduct operations.

Network-Enabled Warfare Environment

To fully utilize the Harba ASCM/LACM’s range, the Azmat FAC will require target identification, tracking and mid-course guidance from an off-board sensor. Having tested the Harba ASCM/LACM from the Azmat FAC, the Pakistan Navy is clearly stating that it has such a network and it is utilizable.

Granted, while not under the Navy, the Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) Karakoram Eagle airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) – in use by the No. 4 Squadron – is a critical off-board sensor with its ZDK03 radar. In fact, upon its induction, the PAF stated that the Karakoram Eagle will detect “sea targets … [and] enhance the capabilities of Pakistan Navy.”[5] The technical specifications, such as range and target tracking capabilities, of the China Electronics Technology Group (CETC) ZDK03 are not publicly known.

However, for discussion’s sake, one could use the PAF’s other AEW&C – the Saab 2000-based Erieye – as a general benchmark for the ZDK03. In fact, the PAF has ordered another three Erieye AEW&C to join the three it already has in service, bringing its total fleet to four Erieye.[6] It is plausible that an Erieye could also factor into Pakistan’s maritime combat environment. According to Saab, the Erieye offers a horizontal or surface coverage area of 500,000 km2 and altitude coverage of 18,288 m.[7] The Erieye provides a coverage range of 352 km, which is a key specification for target-tracking and guidance.[8] Saab states that the Erieye extends the horizon limit of a surface-based radar by “10 times over.”[9]

Based on the Erieye’s range, the ZDK03 could plausibly have a range of around 350 km (if not more), which would mean that the ZDK03 (and/or Erieye) can guide the Harba ASCM to a range of up to 350 km. If fired from near Pakistan’s coasts, this would aptly cover Pakistan’s littoral waters, while also enabling ships operating from the inner areas of the EEZ to fire the Harba ASCM into the outer areas of the EEZ (note: Pakistan’s EEZ is 650 km in length and 290,000 km2 in surface area).

The Pakistan Navy has also equipped its ATR-72 maritime patrol aircraft and Sea King helicopters with the Leonardo Seaspray 7300 and 5300 X-band active electronically-scanned array (AESA) radars, respectively.[10] [11] As per Leonardo, the Seaspray 7000 and 5000-series each have a maximum range of 370 km.[12] The Seaspray may be available for guiding the Harba ASCM as well, however it should be noted that besides target tracking, identification and guidance, these airborne radars will also enable the Azmat FAC to have long-range air and surface situational awareness without needing a phased-array radar of its own.

In the future, the Azmat FAC will also benefit from the Type 054A. Pakistan reportedly has one Type 054A on order with plans for two additional ships. Pakistan’s ships will be configured with the same sensor suite and weapons as the Type 054As in use by the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).[13] In this case, these forthcoming ships should come with the Type 366 over-the-horizon (OTH) radar, which is said to be a copy of the Russian Mineral ME.[14] CETC also offers a OTH radar designated the SLR-66, which could potentially be the export variant of the Type 366. An OTH radar complements a standard surface-based radar by providing long-range surface and low-altitude coverage which would not be picked by a surface radar due to the curvature of the earth. According to Indonesia’s Antara News, the SLR-66 – like the Mineral ME – has active and passive modes with ranges of 280 km and 500 km, respectively.[15] Besides using the SLR-66 or Type 366 from the Type 054A, Pakistan could also consider stationing OTH radars on land, which would make sense seeing that the Navy also deploys the Zarb as a coastal AShM.

The forthcoming availability of a low-earth observation (LEO) remote-sensing satellite – i.e. the Pakistan Remote Sensing Satellite (PRSS-1) – would also offer Pakistan a space-based asset for collecting image intelligence (IMINT). The PRSS-1 will be equipped with an electro-optical (EO) system alongside a synthetic aperture radar (SAR).[16] China’s satellite-based SAR technology is capable of achieving resolutions of up to 1 m,[17] which is a step short of Airbus Defence & Space’s (Airbus DS) TerraSAR-X, which can capture at up to 0.25 m.[18] SAR can enable Pakistan to produce IMINT under inclement weather and at night, which will enable the Pakistan Army, Navy and Air Force ascertain fixed high-value targets for land-strikes using their respective cruise missile inventories. In the Navy’s case, this would support the Harba’s LACM profile.

Pakistan is reportedly a military user of China’s BeiDou satellite navigation (SATNAV) system.[19] While there is doubt as to whether China will permit Pakistan to use BeiDou in an active war with India (unless such a conflict also involves China), the BeiDou does provide a SATNAV option for Pakistan’s cruise missiles. Using the PRSS-1 to determine targets, the location coordinates of those targets could be sent to the Harba et. al, with the Harba et. al’s INS suite receiving mid-course correction from BeiDou.

Contributing to Anti-Access and Area-Denial (A2/AD)

Anti-access (A2) refers to preventing an adversary from entering a specified area, while area-denial (AD) is to render an area unusable by an opposing force. Pakistan’s objective would be to maintain A2 of its coastal areas, littoral waters, EEZ and sea-lanes. The collapse of A2/AD in 1971 resulted in the Indian Navy executing two attacks using Vidyut-class missile boats armed with Styx ASCMs. The first attack was Operation Trident on December 04 1971 wherein three Styx-armed boats were towed into the vicinity of Pakistan’s littoral waters. Using the Styx, these boats were able to sink three of the Pakistan Navy’s ships, including the destroyer PNS Khaibar. In a second operation, only four days later on December 08, the Styx-armed boats struck a Pakistan Navy tanker as well as fuel storage tanks. In addition, the boat also sunk two civilian ships, one belonging to the U.K and the other to Panama.[20]

Thus, threats to coastal and littoral assets need not only emanate from frigates or submarines, they can occur from FACs and aircraft as well. For Pakistan, the stakes have risen due to the advent of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which not only involves Chinese investment in Gwadar, but can – in the ideal scenario of Chinese shipping running through Gwadar – involve the Chinese private sector. The risk of damage to either one could be a severe setback for Pakistan as a secure zone for maritime shipping, thus putting the key coastal economy of Karachi and, potentially, Gwadar in jeopardy. India could look to exploiting this fact by seeking to impose a Maritime Exclusion Zone (MEZ) upon Pakistan’s EEZ and SLOC, thereby dissuading merchant ships from operating to and from Pakistan.

The Zarb ASCM, JF-17 multi-role fighter, MRTP-33 FAC and the Pakistan Navy Marines provide a layered approach to guarding the coastline, especially from an intrusion emanating from the shared coastal link between India and Pakistan. For example, airborne and land-based radars could pick-up enemy FAC intrusion, alerting the Zarb ASCM to fire upon them. The MRTP-33 – especially once it is armed with a ASCM – can utilize its high-speed travel to reach an area and also fire (albeit shorter-ranged) ASCMs. The JF-17 can provide a defensive presence from the air against enemy aerial and surface intrusion, while the Marines can mobilize to prevent asymmetrical amphibious activity. However, from Pakistan’s perspective, the risk of a MEZ upon its EEZ and SLOC is the next issue of concern, and this is not confined to a hot-war. In periods of escalating tension – which can span for months – India could potentially consider imposing a MEZ as a means to pressure Pakistan.

The Pakistan Navy’s purchase of eight air-independent propulsion (AIP)-powered submarines was a major step in strengthening Pakistan’s naval A2/AD capabilities in its EEZ and SLOC. For India, the presence of these submarines in Pakistan’s EEZ and SLOC would necessitate a heavy anti-submarine warfare (ASW) operation, one that will require the use of many frigates and aircraft. Besides Pakistan’s AIP submarines, the former would also be exposed to long-range ASCM firing from Pakistan’s coastal batteries and its ships operating from littoral waters, such as the Azmat FAC and potentially others in the future. The AEW&C, Type 054A and – potentially in the future – land-based OTH radars would provide Pakistan with a strong situational radar coverage umbrella of its maritime environment, i.e. the EEZ and SLOC, which can lend to long-range target tracking for the Harba and potentially other ASCMs.

It is worth noting that a long-range maritime operations fighter would be of value in this context, i.e. providing the PAF a means to actively threaten Indian Navy ASW helicopters and MPA from long-range, threaten Indian Navy surface ships (ideally with a supersonic-cruising ASCM) and contest airspace with the Indian Navy’s fighters.[21] Interestingly, the PAF recently raised a new main operating base northeast of Karachi, PAF Bholari, for providing close air support (CAS) to land operations and to support maritime operations. While in-flight refueling could enable the JF-17 to operate at sea, for truly covering Pakistan’s EEZ and SLOC, a large long-range fighter is necessary to mitigate the need for fuel tanks and to dedicate weapon-stations for a sizable load of air-to-air and air-to-surface munitions.

Overall, Pakistan’s objective with A2/AD – especially A2 – is to make the prospect of imposing a MEZ upon Pakistan’s EEZ and SLOC too costly and risky to consider. ASW is not to be underestimated, against even a few AIP submarines, it is a tedious and costly task for even the largest and most experienced navies. In a paper, the Royal Canadian Navy’s Lt. Com. David P. Finch discussed in-depth why ASW is “arguably the most difficult area of naval warfare.”[22] In general, submarines, especially conventional ones equipped with AIP, are not easy to detect, and for every moment they are unaccounted for, the hunting surface ships will be under threat from the submarine. If Pakistan loses control over its EEZ/SLOC, it will resort to AD and work to destroy as many of India’s high-value ASW assets using submarines, long-range ASCM attacks and, ideally, long-range air operations. In other words, the objective is to force New Delhi to basically accept that a MEZ is not an option in conflict. The presence of the Harba ASCM and the Azmat FAC is intended to add to the scale of dissuading an MEZ attempt by showing that Pakistan can field a quantitatively large number of long-range ASCM-launch platforms.

A Future Mainstay Combatant?

With the availability of the Harba ASCM, it will be interesting to see how the Pakistan Navy follows-up on the Azmat FAC. During the 2016 International Defence Exhibition and Seminar, the Pakistan Navy had a potential requirement of four to six new FACs from either China or Turkey.[23] Although network-enabled warfare has elevated the Azmat FAC into a potent long-range anti-ship and land-strike asset, Pakistan has the option of going further with its next potential batch of sub-1,000-ton ships. In theory, it could model an approach based on the Lockheed Martin LCS, but from the standpoint of a low-cost base platform upon which highly-capable AShW, ASW and AAW weapons can be deployed, either in a stand-alone fashion or as an integrated multi-mission package (though the latter would be costlier).

Using a steel-hull and all-welded steel superstructure similar to offshore patrol vessels (OPV), such as the $60-70 million U.S. Damen OPV 1800, as the base, Pakistan could look for a modularized design wherein ASW, AShW and/or AAW capabilities can be quickly inserted and removed using modules. In peacetime, these ships can operate without their warfighting modules, serving roles such as policing the EEZ and SLOC for criminal activity or, equipped with an ESM module, undertake electronic intelligence (ELINT) activities for the purpose of building Pakistan’s electronic warfare (EW) threat library – i.e. a collection of electromagnetic frequencies for EW jamming and electronic countermeasures (ECM) purposes. In wartime, these OPVs can return to shore and quickly be equipped with warfighting modules.

Leveraging the network-enabled environment of off-board sensors, these ships would not need to have integrated long-range phased-array radars, ESM or EW systems. Rather, the objective is to have these ships operate in littoral waters, but undertake long-range attacks using air coverage from a land-based air defence system and/or the PAF. If deployed to the SLOC, they can do so from the safety of a long-range air defence umbrella provided by a larger ship, such as the Type 054A. Pakistan can “de-couple” the ship construction process from the weaponization element. For example, if it has a modular ship design, it could procure those ships as low-cost OPVs in the near-term, but stagger the procurement of weapon modules over the long-term.

The rationale for a clean-sheet design would be to guarantee that important specifications, such as the ship range and endurance, are not comprised for the sake of weaponization. Moreover, an experienced ship design firm can potentially provide a compact design with greater payload room than the Azmat FAC, enabling the new combatant to carry two weapon modules (e.g. the Harba ASCM along with ASW for self-defence against potential submarine threats or AAW for low-flying aircraft) instead of one module. Other design aspects, such as an aft flight deck for helicopters and launch and recovery system for aerial drones (and potentially surface and sub-surface drones) can also be factored into the program.

An alternative clean-sheet design could emphasize speed and stealth over range. In this case, the ship’s superstructure could be aluminium with composite skin, so as to reduce weight and to reduce the ship’s radar cross-section (RCS). In addition, the standard-fare combined diesel-and-diesel propulsion system, which offers economy for long-range travel, could be swapped with a combined diesel-and-gas system for a higher top speed. This is essentially the design framework of Turkey’s FAC-55 design. While limited in terms of peacetime utility, such a ship could enable Pakistan to undertake “shoot-and-scoot” operations at sea – e.g. by firing a stealthy subsonic ASCM, the FAC could quickly exit an area before the adversary is alerted of the ASCM’s presence. For reference, the Turkish FAC-55 has a top-speed of 55 knots[24], while the Azmat FAC has a top speed of 30 knots.[25]


The availability of the Harba ASCM and the network-enabled warfare environment necessary to fully use its range, especially from a sub-1,000-ton vessel such as the Azmat FAC, has opened the door for Pakistan to examine the idea building a numerically large fleet of simple and low-cost launch platforms supported by few high-end concentrated assets as command/support ships. In effect, potent warfighting capabilities need not be confined to costly 2,000+ or 3,000+ ton corvettes or frigates which, if bought in the quantity necessary to robustly cover Pakistan’s EEZ and SLOC in peace and wartime, could be cost-prohibitive. The potential loss of any one high-end ship would cause a relatively heavy drop in the Navy’s capabilities, thus, the availability of lower-cost ships with comparable offensive outcomes sustains attrition and delivers far-reaching capabilities. However, while the Harba ASCM could be fit to a sub-1,000-ton design such as the Azmat, Pakistan has yet to procure a sub-1,000-ton ship designed around the Harba ASCM or the concept of distributed lethality in general. However, if it takes this route, it would have the ability to vastly improve its A2/AD capabilities through an affordable platform with the versatility to readily be equipped for AShW, ASW or AAW depending on the specific operational need.


[1] Promotional Material. Aster 15 and Aster30. MBDA Missile Systems. URL: (Last Accessed: 06 January 2018).

[2] “HQ-16A LY-80 ground to air defence missile system technical data sheet specifications.” Army Recognition. 16 March 2012. URL: (Last Accessed: 06 January 2018).

[3] Dr. Carlo Kopp. “CPMIEC HQ-9 / HHQ-9 / FD-2000 / FT-2000 Self Propelled Air Defence System.” Air Power Australia. November 2009. URL: (Last Accessed: 06 January 2018).

[4] Vice Adm. Thomas Rowden, Rear Adm. Peter Gumataotao and Rear Adm. Peter Fanta. “Distributed Lethality.” Proceedings Magazine. US Naval Institute. January 2015. Vol. 141/1/1,343. URL: (Last Accessed: 06 January 2018).

[5] Press Release. Pakistan Air Force via Defense Aerospace. 27 February 2015. URL: (Last Accessed: 06 January 2018).

[6] Alan Warnes. “Pakistan to get more Erieyes.” Air Forces Monthly. 19 May 2017. URL: (Last Accessed: 06 January 2018).

[7] Promotional Material. Erieye. Saab. URL: (Last Accessed: 06 January 2018).

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Alan Warnes. “Troubled Waters.” Asian Military Review. 28 August 2017. URL: (Last Accessed: 06 January 2018).

[11] Gabriel Dominguez. “Pakistan Navy test-fires anti-ship missile from Sea King helo.” Jane’s Defence Weekly. 27 September 2017. URL:

[12] Promotional Material. Seaspray 7000E. Leonardo. URL:

[13] Usman Ansari. “Pakistan shops for warships to replace British frigates, modernize Navy.” Defense News. 27 December 2017. URL: (Last Accessed: 06 January 2018).

[14] Andrew Tate. “Another Jiangkai II-class frigate enters service with the Chinese navy.” Jane’s Defence Weekly. 26 June 2017. URL: (Last Accessed: 06 January 2018).

[15] “Indonesia, China agree to review maritime radar procurement.” Antara News. 23 September 2014. URL: (Last Accessed: 06 January 2018).

[16] “Pakistan Remote Sensing Satellite (PRSS-1).” Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO). Government of Pakistan. URL: (Last Accessed: 06 January 2018).

[17] “China launches hi-res SAR imaging satellite.” Xinhua via China Great Wall Industry Corporation. 10 August 2016. URL: (Last Accessed: 06 January 2018).

[18] “TerraSAR-X.” Airbus Defence & Space. URL: (Last Accessed: 06 January 2018).

[19] Jordan Wilson. “China’s Alternative to GPS and its Implications for the United States.” U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. United States Government. 05 January 2017. URL: (Last Accessed: 06 January 2018).

[20] Ian Speller. “Combat operations from sea.” Understanding Naval Warfare. Routledge. 2014.

[21] This is discussed in detail in the Quwa Premium article, “Analysis: The case for Pakistan procuring the FC-31 Gyrfalcon.” 14 December 2017. URL:

[22] Lt. Commander David P. Finch. “Anti-submarine Warfare (ASW) Capability Transformation:

Strategy of Response to Effects Based Warfare.” Collective C2 in Multinational Civil-Military Operations. May 2010.

[23] Salman Siddiqui. “Pakistan Navy considering buying warships from China, Turkey.” The Express Tribune. 25 November 2016. URL: (Last Accessed: 06 January 2018).

[24] Press Release. STM. November 2016. URL: (Last Accessed: 06 January 2018).

[25] Fast Attack Craft (Missile). Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works. URL: (Last Accessed: 08 January 2018).

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