China has delivered its largest and the most advanced warship – PNS Tughril or 054A/P – to the Pakistan Navy, in what seems to be a major boost to the latter’s naval prowess.
It is the first of the four frigates committed by China, for which a deal was signed between the two allies in 2017. The modern warship 054A/P, named PNS Tughril by Pakistan, has been developed by the Chinese state-owned Hudong Zhonghua Shipyard. According to Chinese analysts, Type 054A frigate has “world-class stealth capability”.
This development comes just days after another ally of Pakistan, Turkey, started construction of the fourth MILGEM Ada class corvette at Karachi.
The deal for the MILGEM was signed between the two Islamic countries in 2018 with the precursor of a transfer of technology accompanying construction and delivery. Turkey is one of the 10 countries in the world that possess the capability to produce its own warships.
With Pakistan being a beneficiary of four warships each from China and Turkey, its defensive and offensive capability is likely to rise exponentially in the face of the Indian Ocean Region assuming enhanced significance in the current geopolitical environment.
Pakistan Navy Chief Adm. Amjad Khan Niazi had remarked earlier this year, “On our Western flank, the US-Iran standoff has vacillated, posing risks to ships plying along the international Sea Lines of Communication (SLOCs). The ongoing conflicts in Yemen and Syria are also impacting regional maritime security.”
The statement delineates the Pakistan Navy’s ambitions in the IOR region and the cascading importance of modernizing its fleet.
China’s 054A Guided Missile Frigate
PNS Tughril, built on the Chinese Jiangkai II or 054A, is the export version of China’s most advanced warship ever built and commissioned. The first of four to be delivered to Pakistan, this war machine is a highly advanced guided-missile frigate, which is expected to boost the combat power of the Pakistan Navy and its operational preparedness.
Deemed as a Chinese-supplied successor to the F-22P frigate, the new Tughril is outfitted with electronic warfare systems, the latest surface, subsurface, and anti-air weapons, as well as combat management systems. Primarily designed for anti-air warfare, the warship boasts the capability of performing anti-surface and anti-submarine missions.
Senior research fellow at China Naval Research Academy, Zhang Junshe, had earlier told Global Times, “Compared to previous Chinese frigates, the new ship has better air defense capability, as it is equipped with an improved radar system and a larger amount of missiles with a longer range.”
The Chinese 054A on which the Pakistan variant Tughril is based was commissioned in 2008. China tried to sell these warships to Thailand in 2013, but lost to South Korea’s modified Gwanggaeto class destroyers.
With the current deal with Pakistan, China’s military export also gets a fillip. Apart from Tughril, China is also assisting the Pakistan Navy in the construction and acquisition of 8 Hangor class submarines.
China’s enhanced role and presence in the Indian Ocean region with its arrays through Gwadar and military base in Djibouti and with India’s role as net security provider being encouraged by the QUAD and larger Indo-Pacific strategy make it imperative for Beijing to arm the Pakistan Navy with the state-of-the-art equipment to create a zero-sum situation between the arch-rivals in the IOR.
Turkey’s Assistance To Pakistan Navy
Turkey started the construction of its Ada class corvette at Karachi under its MILGEM or its national modern warship development program. Earlier, Ankara had supplied the Babur class corvettes to Pakistan under its MILGEM program.
The Ada class corvettes, four in total, are being built by Turkey’s state-run defense firm ASFAT. Two of them are being manufactured in Istanbul while the other two in Pakistan. Turkey and Pakistan have long enjoyed an amicable relationship. However, the defense relationship was significantly upgraded when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan assumed office.
MILGEM vessels are 99 meters long with a displacement capacity of 2400 tons with a speed of 29 nautical miles. These anti-submarine frigates can reportedly be obscured from the radar which can significantly improve the defense capability of the Pakistan Navy, The Eurasian Times reported earlier.
The Ada class corvette is a modern littoral combat ship with high-sea patrol and anti-submarine warfare capability which makes it an ideal vessel for both defense and offense roles. It is very similar to the American Freedom-class littoral combat ships in design and operation.
Launching ceremony of 1st MILGEM Class ship for PN held at Istanbul Naval Shipyard. President of Pakistan Dr Arif Alvi & President of Turkey Mr Tayyip Erdoğan graced the ceremony as chief guests. CNS Adm Muhammad Amjad Khan was also present at the ceremony.(1/2) pic.twitter.com/fyvVzHcDFs
— DGPR (Navy) (@dgprPaknavy) August 15, 2021
According to Pakistani newspaper Dawn, the induction of MILGEM warships will augment Pakistan’s naval capability and contribute to its efforts to maintain peace and security in the Indian Ocean region. Earlier also, Turkey has made direct overtures about arming Pakistan’s Navy with modern equipment to create a balance of power in the IOR without mentioning any country.
As the oceans assume importance, Navies upgrade their presence, geopolitical tectonic plates continue to shift towards the Asian continent and alliances are strengthened, all navies with stakes in the region will continue to modernize their fleet and combat readiness.
Non-traditional security threats on sea notwithstanding, the race could potentially trigger starker fault lines. Pakistan’s modernization of the navy started a couple of years ago but has recently gathered pace. Only time will tell how far it goes.