Chinese media reports have outlined a construction program involving six of eight S-20 variants of the Type-039A/Type-041 submarine under negotiation; four “Improved F-22P” frigates equipped with enhanced sensors and weaponry (possibly including the HQ-17 surface-to-air missile developed from the Russian Tor 1/SA-N-9); and six Type-022 Hope stealth catamaran missile boats, to be established by Pakistan’s state-owned shipbuilder Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works (KSEW).
These include a foundry, manufacturing facilities to handle all facets of ship construction, berthing facilities, and two graving docks of 26,000 and 18,000 dead weight tons, spread over 71 acres.
A 7,881-ton ship lift transfer system will be finished next year.
KSEW will expand to occupy facilities vacated by the Navy as it transfers from Karachi to Ormara. The Pakistan Navy Dockyard, which is adjacent to KSEW, already has facilities upgraded by the French during construction of Agosta-90B submarines.
Pakistani officials would not comment on these reports. Repeated attempts to secure comment from the Ministry of Defense Production, KSEW, the Navy and federal politicians connected to defense decision-making bodies were bent off. The plan will conform to a Sino-Pakistani agreement for six patrol vessels for Pakistan’s Maritime Security Agency agreed to on June 10, with two built by KSEW.
Author, analyst and former Australian defense attache to Islamabad Brian Cloughley said the base set by the Agosta-90B program that included upgrades to PN Dockyard facilities and the training of some 1,000 civilian technicians greatly facilitated present plans.
Still, Trevor Taylor, professorial research fellow, defense, industries and society, at the Royal United Services Institute highlighted the problems KSEW’s construction and expansion plans could come across.
“Experience from around the universe shows that it is really easy to be optimistic about the difficulty of naval ship building and the time required to complete construction and systems integration,” he stated. “Plans for rapid expansion of warship production are unlikely to go on schedule. The coordinated and sustained application of extensive managerial and technical skills is demanded, and submarines, especially have vital safety dimensions.” He highlights the importance of a sustainable program.
“The lesson from the UK and elsewhere is that, at one time a warship design and build capability is in office, it is best maintained and evolved through a planned and steady drumbeat of programs, rather than a rapid expansion of activity for a circumscribed period of years followed by a sudden decrease in orders. Clearly this involves a consistent position of support for the industry from the political authorities.”
Cloughley is optimistic, nevertheless, that the extensive Chinese help provided to Pakistan in warship building, in accession to the agreements made during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent visit, “indicate that all cases of cooperation will extend and expand.”
He stated this is related to the burgeoning Indo-US relationship, India’s increasingly antagonistic anti-Pakistani rhetoric, and clearer Sino-Indian divisions that stand for the Sino-Pakistan “axis of understanding has become more tangible.”
Therefore, “KSEW can expect considerable input from such as [China Shipbuilding & Offshore International Co]. Money, certainly; but also, and perhaps of more importance, provision of expertise.”
He said China’s help will also further increase the number of skilled technicians as “on that point are many would-be technicians with outstanding potential who cannot receive training,” which China is aware of “and has planned accordingly,” with KSEW also running a breeding plan.
Cloughley said the Chinese investment and involvement will guarantee the program’s sustainability.
“Given China’s amazingly large financial commitment to cooperation with Pakistan, there is no doubt that Beijing will be ringing the strain. And KSEW and many other formations will be pleased to dance to it.”
Though the naval expansion plan is impressive and will ensure future refit and modernization work, analyst Haris Kahn of the Pakistan Military Consortium think tank, said with the decommissioning of Type-21 frigates it still only meets Pakistan’s “minimum naval deterrence.”
“The Navy needs close to 20 large surface vessels [frigates and heavy frigates]” of which at least three should be ships able to provide area air defense, as the “F-22P will not abridge it and the need of long-range SAM coverage is essential.”
“Unluckily, with the grave dearth of funds we have not still heard about anywhere else the Navy is looking to obtain these much-needed vessels,” he appended.
To satisfy its demands for larger warships, Pakistan had hoped to take approximately six Perry-class frigates from the US, but Nilanthi Samaranayake, an Indian Ocean analyst at the US-based CNA, a nonprofit research and analysis organization, said this route is now blanked out “due to congressional obstacles.”
Cloughley cites Indian influence in Washington for their unavailability, but though Pakistan still desires more Perry-class frigates “on easy or gift terms… the lure of Chinese ships combined with the massive [Chinese] investment program and Pakistan’s increasing disenchantment with Washington would appear to militate against any movement [to the US],” and Pakistan will surely look to China in time. –defensenews