Modernization of the Pakistan Navy advances at high speed

The rapprochement between Beijing and Islamabad is well established, especially with regard to military cooperation and defense equipment. Following tensions between the Pakistani and American authorities under cover of a complacency noted vis-à-vis the Taliban rebels and Afghan Islamists, and in particular Osama bin Laden, whose retirement had been identified by the Pakistani secret services since 2009, sets off an uninterrupted series of new sanctions since 2011. Already close to Beijing on defense issues, particularly vis-à-vis the hereditary Indian 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 of the Chinese Narinco, and in 2019 ordered 240 VT4 heavy tanks, an export version of the very modern Type 99A. IN 2019, she ordered 236 self-propelled guns on 15mm SH-155 wheels, always with the same Chinese manufacturer.

The air forces, for their part, developed the JF-17 Thunder light fighter, in cooperation with the Chinese Chengdu, intended to gradually replace the outdated light fighters still in service, such as the mirage III, but also the Chinese Chengdu Q- fighters. 5 and F7 acquired, like the mirage III, in the 70s and 80s. Lighter than the F16, the JF17 also has dimensions, an empty mass (6 tons) and takeoff (11 tons) comparable to the fighter French. 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 ammunition, like the AMRAAM missile and American Sidewinder just like the very powerful missile with long range PL15 Chinese.

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 Tariq class frigates acquired from the United Kingdom in 1994. In 1996, after the return of the Brooke frigates and the 3 Garcia class frigates on loan from the US Navy, Islamabad moved to approached Beijing to study the acquisition of new units, in this case the Type 053 frigates of 3100 tonnes in load, 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 the 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 entered 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 the work did not begin until 2018, however with a very high production rate, since the 4 frigates are expected for 2021 within the Pakistani Navy. 134 meters long for a loaded tonnage of 4100 tons, these ships will be the most powerfully armed surface units of the Pakistani Navy, in particular thanks to the 32 vertical silos using Yu-8 anti-submarine missiles and especially HQ-16 anti-aircraft missiles, the Chinese version of the SA-17 Grizzly from the Russian Buk family with whom the missile was co-developed, and offering a range of 40 km. Importantly, the frigate has advanced anti-submarine warfare capabilities, with MGK-335 hull sonar and H / SJG-206 variable depth towed sonar giving it ASM capabilities on the high seas. laying of the keel of the second unit was carried out on March 23 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 for 4 Ada class corvettes from Turkey, another close ally of Pakistan, these 2500-tonne vessels must all be delivered within 5 years. These versatile corvettes feature anti-ship capabilities with 8 Atmaca long-range missiles, coastal anti-submarines with hull sonar and 2 triple torpedo launchers armed with Mk46 light torpedoes, and self-defense capability aerial reinforced with the presence of a RAM system.

The Ada multipurpose corvettes will complete the Pakistani Navy arsenal by 2025

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

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