Turkey laid the keel for a new Pakistani warship at the Istanbul Naval Shipyard in a ceremony attended by many high-ranking officials last week. This is the third Jinnah-class multipurpose corvette of the Pakistan Navy.
The warship was a part of a contract signed between Islamabad and Istanbul in July 2018 for the acquisition of four MILGEM type corvettes for the Pakistan Navy.
This was the largest single military export deal of Turkey worth $1.5 billion. It involves the construction of two vessels in Turkey and the other two in Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works, Pakistan, along with a transfer of technology.
Coinciding with the commissioning ceremony of TCG Kınalıada attended by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the steel cutting ceremony for the first MILGEM ship for the Pakistan Navy was also held there on September 29, 2019.
The Pakistani iteration of the MILGEM-class would differ slightly from the Turkish ones with the addition of Chinese or Turkish weapon systems.
Designated Jinnah-class by the Pakistan Navy after the first President Mohammad Ali Jinnah, these MILGEM-class ships are multipurpose corvettes and frigates that can be deployed in a range of missions, including reconnaissance, surveillance, early warning, anti-submarine warfare, surface-to-surface and surface-to-air warfare, and amphibious operations.
A Pakistan Navy statement highlighted the capabilities the MILGEM would bring to its surface fleet. It said:
“The MILGEM-class Corvettes will be one of the most technologically advanced stealth surface platforms of Pakistan Navy Fleet. The vessel is equipped with state-of-the-art weapons & modern sensors including surface to surface, surface to air missiles, anti-submarine weapons, and Command & Control system. Induction of these ship in Pakistan Navy would significantly add to the lethality of Pakistan Navy’s capabilities and contribute in maintaining peace, security, and balance of power in Indian Ocean Region.”
However, the vessel’s exact configuration for the Pakistan Navy hasn’t been made public yet. But some information, given in a public statement by Admiral Abbasi during the Aman Naval Exercise held in 2019, mentioned that the ships [Pakistan Navy configuration] will be equipped with a 16-Cell VLS behind the main gun for Chinese-made medium-range air defense missiles, probably LY-80/HHQ-16 variant, according to Naval News.
The report also speculated the main armament of the vessel to be the Turkish-made Harbah or the Chinese C-802 anti-ship missiles. The ship could also feature the Turkish Aselsan built Gökdeniz close-in weapon system in place of the RAM missile launcher of the Turkish Navy ships.
Turkey and Pakistan share deep military and diplomatic relations. Apart from being united by the cultural and religious ties, Turkey also supports Pakistan’s position of holding a plebiscite under the UN to decide if Kashmir wants to join Pakistan, a position which Turkish President Erdogan reaffirmed in a joint address to the Pakistani parliament and which was attended by Pakistan’s military high command.
Pakistan and Turkey also signed an agreement to buy 30 T-129 ATAK attack helicopters made by Turkish Aerospace Industries. But, the deal stalled due to licensing issues for the necessary export permit from the US Department of Defense for the LHTEC T800-4A engine for the T129.