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Pakistan Navy at the Helm of new millennium

Fifty years down the lane very few people in Pakistan fully appreciate the maritime compulsions of the country and their effect on the security of the country and well being of its populace.

Since 1965, when the Pakistan Navy bombarded Dwarka, 200 miles South East of Karachi, and the Indian Navy was caught napping in various harbours, India has embarked on a programme of its Navy's expansion. After the 1971 War this growth received greater fillip and till 1995 the annual capital development budget for the Indian Navy was higher than that for the Indian Army or the Indian Air Force. The sole purpose of this Indian Naval expansion has been the achievement of hegemony in the Indian Ocean region politically and militarily. A by-product of this Indian design would be the ability to control all the trade in the Indian Ocean in a similar manner as the Portuguese did in the 16th Century AD and thereafter the British from the middle of the 18th Century onward till the end of the Imperialistic era early this century.

To wont to vaunt is a universal desire and much more so in those who lack a feeling of security. To be able to accept or admit one's weakness, failing or mistake is much more demanding and often very painful. It is, however, a sign of maturity and of self-confidence. It is also the first step towards improvement. Having passed through those interminable dark days of 1971 to 1973, the Pakistan Navy began to receive appreciation of its need and ergo over the years it has developed a naval aviation, a submarine force, a new Naval base and capability to construct submarines and missile boats, give them a cutting edge over other regional navies.

The elevation of Pakistan Navy can be categorised into following phases:

a) Modernisation of Type-21 Ships.
b) Construction of Missile Craft.
c) Construction of Jinnah Naval Base.
d) Construction of Agosta 90-B Submarine.
e) Establishment of Maritime Technological Complex (MTC).

Pakistan Navy after the return of Brooks & Garcia was stripped down to the level where its strategic balance with mighty Indian Navy arsenal was not more than few 40's vintage Gearing and Two not so potent Leanders. At this juncture of history where the Pakistan Naval power was at its lowest ebb, the Naval Command embarked on a very ambitious and technically challenging task of acquiring Six Ex Amazon Class frigates with minimum armament and then retrofitted them with state of art equipment procured through various non US manufacturer. This type of modernisation was first in history; the mammoth task of installation and then interfacing with existing old communication system and new weapons/sensors was a task which has no precedence in Naval History.

The Naval dockyard with his meagre resources and not so well trained men power started the project and amazingly completed first ship's modernisation in stipulated time frame with no assistance from any corner. The trials of the lead ship were so encouraging that the world leaders of weapons installation and integration were almost puzzled by the performance of the ship during operations. It was this historic mile stone that changed the course of Pakistan Naval destiny and the Navy got the confidence to build new ships with our own resources and install state of the art equipment. The man power trained during the process became an asset to this institution and provided valuable technical expertise to future projects.

The need of indigenous shipbuilding can not be over emphasised, as it requires years of pains taking efforts before achieving meaningful results on the ground. The infrastructure, the skill/expertise of work force and the local industrial support, all need to attain a certain degree of reliability before any viable warship construction programme can materialise. Pakistan Navy has been endeavouring for the last two decades to channel all its resources to bring to reality the long cherished dream of riding over the wave of Arabian Sea with indigenously built ships & crafts.

PN Dockyard started the construction activities with support craft. The experience and expertise gained over the years in rebuild of Naval vessels has enabled PN Dockyard to accomplish ship construction programme including some rather ambitious projects with available resources. PN Dockyard reached its milestone when it launched its first indigenously built gunboat PNS LARKANA in year 1994. On the occasion of Golden Jubilee of Pakistan, PNS JALALAT, a missile craft fitted with state of art equipment was commissioned. A second missile boat of similar type has already been commissioned and plans are all ready for the launch of third and fourth missile craft simultaneously.

At the time of partition Karachi was the only port capable of handing cargo vessels. Within the Karachi port a small area was allocated to the Navy to berth its warships. Gradually Karachi harbour was developed to meet the commercial and military requirements of the country. The Pakistan Navy felt the need for a port away from Karachi soon after partition for both diversification of traffic as well as strategic requirements. Pakistan Navy realising the urgency of the requirement as early as 1954 made considerable efforts to survey the coast of Pakistan with a view to find the most suitable site for a second port. Among the places considered were Gwadar, Pasni, Ormara, Jiwani and Sonmiani. Gwadar and Ormara were found to be the most suitable place for construction of the new port.

It was as far back as 1956 that based on these surveys, the first Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan Navy, Admiral HMS Chaudhry, in the capacity of Advisor of Maritime Affairs to the government, had requested the approval of cabinet for construction of a second port at Ormara and linking it with Sonmiani.

Despite repeated efforts by the Pakistan Navy, no funds for construction of the harbour were provided. After 1971 war it became patently obvious that Pakistan had to overcome its strategic weakness of having to reply upon the single port complex of Karachi - Port Qasim. It was only in September 1992 that approval for construction of phase-I (offshore works) of naval harbour at Ormara, comprising the wharves, piers, breakwaters, approach channels and turning basin, was accorded. The offshore works have now been completed and the naval harbour has been inaugurated. The scale of the marine works in this ambitious and monumental undertaking was simply unprecedented not only within the navy but also in the country, and posed a formidable challenge.

Pakistan Navy has had due share of troubles in execution of this project but have been able to overcome these, by the grace of God, with good teamwork and dedication. It is matter of great satisfaction that this highly complex and vital project at a site devoid of any rail or road link has now been completed. With the completion of Phase-I, the Pakistan navy now has an outpost for operation for its ships and submarines from Ormara. Considerable onshore works and infrastructure development needs to be undertaken urgently to convert this outpost into a proper naval base and funds for this are being sought from the government.

Pakistan Navy started off with Submarine force in year 1964 when PNS/M GHAZI was acquired from USA and the very first in this region. During the span of 15 years, Navy increased its strength to 6, by acquiring first Daphne and then Agosta class submarine. Pakistan Navy in order to enhance its underwater force opted for three new generation Agosta 90-B submarines. These submarines are being purchased on transfer of technology basis. First submarine PNS/M KHALID has recently joined the fleet that has been built in France whereas the second will be built partially in France and in PN Dockyard and the third one would be completely manufactured in PN Dockyard. The most prestigious, demanding and technically challenging construction project ever undertaken by PN Dockyard is the construction of these submarines. PN Dockyard has established a complete new department for the construction of Agosta 90-B, equipped with state of art machinery/equipment to under take this gigantic mission.

The Agosta 90-B is based on Agosta class submarines, the new Agosta will certainly give a qualitative edge to the Navy because they are equipped with Mesma Air independent Propulsion System (AIPS) and SM-39 Exocet anti-ship missiles. These two new technologies, which have never been exported by the French to any other country, will increase the offensive capability of the Navy.

Pakistan Navy has taken a giant step by establishing Maritime Technological Complex (MTC) at Rawat, on the same footing as Kamra, under Ministry of Defence. This project is in its initial phase and the sole purpose of MTC would be research and development. With the sanctions imposed on Pakistan, R&D is the only liable solution to meet its technical and defence requirements. The Naval Research & Development authority housed at PN Dockyard will be integrated in MTC and will provide essential field data for the Command to evaluate and prioritise the development projects. The RDA has already completed various important weapon oriented projects which are under trials at various PN platforms. Their evaluation so far has proved to be highly encouraging and provided in-depth knowledge to developers for fine-tuning the end product before delivering it to Navy.

Pakistan Navy in new millennium is at the crossroad of development, which would be indigenous and self-sustaining. The ambitions, ship building, submarine construction and out fitting all platforms will surely usher in a new era of technical excellence culture not only Pakistan Navy but sister forces in particular and the country in general. The self-sufficiency will reduce dependency on foreign companies and will also help growth of subsidiary vendor outlets inland. This will eliminate pressure on foreign exchange and government budgeting.

The complete commissioning of Jinnah Naval Base will bring a gigantic face uplift of the area and will definitely improve living conditions and life style of local populace. It will bring prosperity and development not only in Ormara but also to all of the adjacent area. The coastal development will increase our resources and will enhance opportunities in best utilisation of EEZ. The Pakistan Navy with its future expansion will open gate of certain enlightenment and development in coastal areas and country.