Modernization of the Pakistan Navy advances at high speed

The close link between Beijing and Islamabad is no longer to be demonstrated, especially with regard to military cooperation and defense equipments. Tensions between the Pakistani and American authorities under the cover of a complacency noted with respect to the Taliban rebels and Afghan Islamists, and in particular Osama bin Laden whose retirement had been identified by the Pakistani secret services since 2009, have sets off an uninterrupted series of new sanctions since 2011 . Already close to Beijing on defense issues, in particular considering the Indian hereditary enemy, Islmabad therefore accelerated its change of allegiance, and shifted the majority of its imported military programs to Chinese industry.

The Pakistani Army received from the 2000s its first Al Khalid tanks derived from the MBT2000 model from the Chinese Narinco, and in 2019 ordered 240 VT4 heavy tanks, an export version of the very modern Type 99A. This same year, it ordered 236 self-propelled 155mm guns SH-15 , always with the same Chinese manufacturer.

The air forces, for their part, developed the light fighter JF-17 Thunder, in cooperation with the Chinese company Chengdu, intended to gradually replace the outdated light fighters still in service, like the Mirage III, but also the Chinese fighters Chengdu Q- 5 and F7 acquired, like the Mirage III, in the 70s and 80s. Lighter than the F16, the JF17 also has dimensions, an empty weight (6 tonnes) and takeoff (11 tonnes) comparable to the French fighter. In its latest block III version , it implements an AESA radar, an IRST and electric flight controls, and is able to implement the most modern Chinese and Western missiles and ammunitions, like the Americans AMRAAM and Sidewinder missiles just like the very powerful long range air-to-air Chinese missile PL15.

The light fighter KF-17 Thunder offers excellent performances and has advanced avionics, bringing it to the level of modern fighters like the F16V

The Pakistani Navy still used a majority of equipment recently acquired from Westerners, such as French Agosta AIP submarines , or Type 21 frigates of the Tariq class acquired second-hand, from the United Kingdom in 1994. In 1996, after the return of the Brooke frigates and the 3 Garcia-class frigates loaned by the US Navy, Islamabad close to Beijing to study the acquisition of new units, in this case the Type 053 frigates of 3100 tonnes loaded, and Type 054 of 3900 tonnes. The first contract for 4 Z-22P frigates of the Zulfiqar class, or Type 053H2 in China, was signed in 2006, and work began in 2008 in Chinese shipyards which were to build the first 3 units of this class specialized in the coastal anti-submarine warfare. Two other units were subsequently ordered. The first 4 units went into service between 2009 and 2013.

Type 053H2 frigates of the Zulfiqar class are specialized in coastal anti-submarine warfare

The order for 4 Type 054AP frigates took longer , and work only started in 2018, with a very high production rate, since the 4 frigates are expected for 2021 in the Pakistani navy. 134 meters long with a tonnage of 4100 tonnes, these ships will be the most powerfully armed surface units of the Pakistani Navy, in particular thanks to the 32 vertical silos implementing anti-submarine missiles Yu-8 and especially anti-aircraft missiles HQ-16, Chinese version of the SA-17 Grizzly of the Russian Buk family with which the missile was co-developed, and offering a range of 40 km. Above all, the frigate has advanced anti-submarine capabilities, with an MGK-335 hull sonar and the towed sonar variable depth H / SJG-206 offering ASW capabilities on the open seas. Laying of the keel of the second unit was carried out on March 23rd 2020 at the Hudong Zhonghua shipyards in the presence of the naval authorities of the two countries.

The 054A frigates are very well armed and equipped ships, capable of fulfilling a wide range of missions in coastal and oceanic areas.

Note that in addition to the Type 053 and 054 frigates, the Pakistani Navy also ordered in 2015 8 AIP Type 039B submarines, the most efficient non-nuclear units in the Chinese arsenal, for a total amount of $ 5 billion. . The submersibles are scheduled to enter service between 2023 and 2028, and are being built simultaneously in China and Pakistan. Finally, in 2018, the Pakistani authorities announced the order of 4 Ada-class corvettes from Turkey, another close ally of Pakistan , these 2500-tons vessels must all be delivered in 5 years. These multipurpose corvettes have anti-ship fighting skills with 8 long-range Atmaca missiles, coastal anti-submarines with a hull sonar and 2 triple torpedo launchers armed with light MkX46 torpedoes, and a self-defense capacity aerial reinforced with the presence of a RAM system.

Ada multi-purpose corvettes will complete the Pakistani naval arsenal by 2025

At the end of this forced modernization phase, the Pakistani Navy will have largely renewed and extended operational capacities, in all fields of action. However, it remains significantly inferior to the Indian Navy, even if the latter has to divide its forces to cope simultaneously with pressure from Beijing and Islamabad. However, with its new fleet, the Pakistani Admiralty will have effective defensive means, probably sufficient to prohibit the Indian navy from the waters bordering its 1046 km of coastline, and perhaps even access to the Arabian Sea.


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