Pakistan Navy

The Pakistan Navy has some 24,000 personnel. The force includes a small Naval Air Arm and the approximately 2,000 member paramilitary Maritime Security Agency, charged primarily with protecting Pakistan's exclusive economic zone. The naval reserve consists of about 5,000 personnel.
The navy has four commands:

    COMPAK - the fleet;
    COMLOG - the logistics;
    COMFORNAV - naval installations in the north of Pakistan;
    COMKAR - naval headquarters and theony major base at Karachi.

Even though the Indo-Pakistan War of December 1971 was primarily fought on land, the navies of the two countries played an important role in the conflict. In the eastern front, the Gulf of Bengala, the Indian navy deployed the Vikrant carrier battle group, with anti-submarine (ASW) escorts, which conducted air strikes against Pakistani ships based at Cox's Bazar and against Pakistani air force (PAF) airfields. After a number of successful strikes, the Indian navy was then able to launch a limited amphibious assault, with Polnochny class LSTs, gaining control of Cox's Bazar and exploiting also the efforts of Bengali rebels. A Pakistani submarine (a French-made Daphne class) was able to torpedo an Indian frigate (INS Khukri) scoring the first success of a diesel boat since the Second World War. During the same operations, PNS Ghali, an elderly former US Tench class submarine was sunk by the Indian escorts, aided by Constellation aircraft used as temporary maritime patrol aircraft.

On the western front, Pakistani ships trying to protect Karachi harbor suffered heavy losses against the aggressive hit-and-run tactics of the Indian Osa missile boats led by Petya class frigates. A Pakistani destroyer, PNS Khaibar, patrolling the waters outside Karachi was sunk and the harbor facilities themselves were heavily damaged by Styx missiles launched by the Indian Osas whose radar seekers had an easy task in locking onto the large fuel tanks.

By 17 December, a truce was signed thus ending the short conflict. The war is the only one, except for the Falkland's conflict, where submarines faced aircraft carriers, escorts and landing ships in a scenario more reminiscent of the Second World War. It was also the first and large-scale use of anti-ship missiles. Moreover, the war is still the only regional conflict with a significant naval component. America, Britain and the Soviet Union deployed a significant proportion of their fleets to try to exert control over the situation but the crisis was resolved only by the outcome on the battlefield. India was criticized by the UN General Assembly vote of 7 December 1971 (104 votes against 11) but was, nevertheless, able to reach its goal and separate Eastern Pakistan, subsequently Bangladesh, from its historical enemy.

The naval inventory:

Until 1972, the Pakistani navy was mainly composed of old, former British ships, plus some former US minesweepers and auxiliaries. However, the most important element of the fleet was composed of French-made submarines of the Daphne class; these had been commissioned in 1970. After being defeated by India in 1971, there was a progressive move towards China, as Islamabad and Beijing then had a common enemy. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, the USA provided six Gearing (FRAM I) destroyers which represented the bulk of the surface fleet, while a fourth Daphne was procured from Portugal in 1975: two Agosta class submarines arrived in 1978.

With the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, Pakistan became the stronghold of the West against the communist invaders. A large amount of money and material was subsequently invested in the Pakistani forces, although the navy was not the first priority.

Nonetheless, the 1980s represented a major step forward in the capabilities of Pakistan's naval forces. In 1982, a former British destroyer of the County class (Babur) was purchased. It underwent major refits in order to improve her close-in defences and was used until 1993 as a flagship and training ship for midshipmen. Eight Chinese-made missile boats also provided an improved coastal defence force, four of the vessels being of the Huangfeng (Osa) class and four of the Hegu (Komar) class. Two former British Leander class frigates joined the fleet in 1988, followed by four former US Garcia class frigates and four former US Brooke class guided missile frigates; these were re-commissioned in 1989.

By now, the Pakistani navy had a strong group of surface combatants. The major improvements were represented by the air defence capability given by the US-made Standard missiles placed onboard the Brooke class, the ASW capabilities of all the escorts, the anti-missile defence bestowed by the Vulcan-Phalanx Mk 15 system on many destroyers and frigates, and the additional Chinese-made quad 23 mm guns on many ships. The anti-ship capability was also very much improved by the installation of Harpoon launchers aboard the former Gearing class destroyers, air-launched AM-39 Exocets onboard six Sea King helicopters and Mirage-5 land-based fighters. Notably, the six submarines also have a great capability when fitted with sub-Harpoon.

One of the major talking points at the Euronaval exhibition was the announcement of Pakistan's order for three Agosta 90B submarines. The Pakistani navy has operated an underwater squadron for many years, comprising four Daphne-class boats, which entered service in 1969-70, and two Agosta-class (right), which were originally built for the South African navy but were snapped up by Pakistan in 1979-80, when the UN embargo prevented delivery. There are also four Italian-built SX-756-class midget submarines, delivered in 1988. The Daphne-class boats are approaching the ends of their useful lives, and the competition to replace them has been fierce; the finalists reportedly being designs from China, France and Sweden, joined at the last minute by an unsolicited offer of the four redundant Upholder-class boats from the UK. The result, however, was a victory for France's DCN International with the order for three Agosta 90Bs.

Pakistan Navy required a design which would be thoroughly modern, but which will also combine tactical effectiveness with both low purchase cost and low cost of ownership. The Pakistan Navy found the Agosta 90B very attractive, since they are familiar with the design and still have a large amount of spares for the original Agosta-class boats, so an order for the Agosta 90B enables them to reduce capital expenditure and devote more money to the submarine systems. The first of the class, PNS Khalid was delivered to the Pakistan Navy in 2001. The second submarine currently under assembly at KSEW is to join the fleet later this year, with the last to be inducted around 2004. To date, Pakistan is the only developing country to possess submarine-launched anti-ship missiles in the form of SM-39 Exocet.

The Pressler Amendment:

The end of Afghan war and the announcement that Pakistan was actively pursuing a nuclear capability prompted the USA to deny further financial and military aid, as demanded by the Pressler Amendment. While the PAF was denied a further 71 F-16 fighters - already paid for (US$ 658 million) but still to be delivered - the navy also suffered from the US decision. The eight US frigates on lease had to be returned in 1993-94 and there was also a stop to providing the long awaited three P-3C Orion - essential for long-range surveillance capabilities - and six SH-2 F/G Seasprite helicopters. However, while the USA denied their supply, other countries were more than willing to sell their materials to compensate. In 1992, France sold a mine-hunter of the Tripartite class, taking her directly from line service. It is also building another two vessels to be delivered in 1995-96. These vessels are of capital importance for keeping Karachi's harbor free of mines.

The current chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Saeed Muhammad Khan, is bringing additional life into the navy. In 1993-94, the UK provided six Type-21 frigates (renamed Tariq class) from its diminishing inventory in order to compensate for the departure of the eight former US frigates. And most importantly, France signed a contract for three Agosta-90B submarines, despite strong protests from India. This last procurement is important for several reasons. For the first time, a developing country will be given boats with air-independent propulsion (AIP). Furthermore, Pakistan will achieve the capability of building advanced submarines. The last boat will be the first one fitted with an AIP module; similar modules will be retrofitted to the first two boats during their first major overhauls.

The Pakistani navy also includes a small special operations' unit, called the Naval Special Service Group (see JIR, Vol. 6, No 3, PP 136-137). The group is based at PNS Iqbal (Karachi) and operates three 110-tonne Italian-made midget submarines and a number of CE2F/X100 two-man chariots of the same origin.

The naval air arm's strength is based on six Sea King helicopters with the ASW equipment removed and armed with AM-39 Exocet missiles. Three Lynx helicopters of British origin are being procured (possibly followed by a second batch of three) for the Tariq frigates, with four older Alouette IIIs already in service for surveillance missions. Two of the latter aircraft are fitted with magnetic anomaly detection (MAD) equipment and all are being given an ASW capability by way of new depth charges. The fixed-wing component includes four Breguet Atlantic maritime patrol aircraft and three Fokker F27-MPA used for surveillance tasks. Five Mirage-5 fighter-bombers, armed with two Exocet AM-39 missiles each, and based at Karachi are operated by the PAF under naval command in the anti-shipping role.

There are two other maritime services, namely the Maritime Security Agency (MSA) and the Coast Guard. The MSA is a naval derivative and is issued mostly with former navy combatants, such as a Gearing class destroyer, four Chinese-built P58 class patrol crafts and four Shanghai-II class fast-attack craft. The agency is charged with EEZ patrol tasks. The small Coast Guard is unusually manned by army personnel and reports to the Ministry of the Interior. The service includes just five small patrol boats.

Domestic production:

The Pakistani military-industrial complex, led by an active minister of defence production, is effectively trying to improve its capabilities. Although less capable than the flourishing Indian industrial base, Pakistan is already able of execute extensive refitting. In the naval field, Pakistan has been able to upgrade most of its inventory by installing new weapon systems. Harpoon anti-ship missiles were fitted onboard former Gearing class destroyers and are currently being installed on the former Type 21 frigates. Vulcan Phalanx close-in weapon systems are replacing the elderly Seacat launchers of the Tariq frigates. Also, the electronic warfare suites and air search radars of the frigates will be replaced by new improved systems. Due to recent tensions with India, the Navy also decided to equip the remaining three Tariq class ships with LY-60, a Chinese SAM similar to the Italian Aspide. With the purchase of the Italian-made midget submarines, Pakistan has negotiated the transfer of a technology package for conducting local maintenance and possibly assembling future boats, although this has yet to be exploited.

Two new naval facilities are presently being built. Port Qasim (Karachi) dockyard is being adapted as a facility for the new Agosta-90Bs, while Ormara (in the Baluchistan Province) will be the replacement for the overcrowded Karachi naval piers. This new base is being built by Belgian and Turkish companies over a three-year period and a contract price of Rs4 billion. It is difficult not to foresee, however, severe difficulties with the local production of advanced submarines. Other developing countries, with a more advanced industrial base than that of Pakistan, had to suffer dramatic failures and delays when they tried to produce such boats under license. Nevertheless, the challenge posed by this program and the possible technology side effects could help to boost Pakistan's industry. This is evedent as Pakistan recently launched a locally built corvette PNS Jalalat into service. It has replaced the earier PNS Jalalat, a 79 ton Haibat (Hegu) class Fast Attack Craft/Missile acquired from China in 1981 now placed in reserve. Other domestically produced crafts include the first indigenously assembled Munsif (Eridan) class minehunter, PNS Mujahid from parts supplied by France's Lorient Dockyard

Western attitude:

Despite the long dispute over the Pressler Amendment and possible violations of both the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), Pakistan is definitely considered a friend by most Western governments. Pakistan provided 7,000 soldiers for the UN expeditionary force in Somalia and is considering the deployment of 3,000 men in Bosnia as peacekeepers. The Islamic question is probably the most puzzling for the West.

Nonetheless, the Pakistani government is actively trying to contain the illegal trade in small arms in the region and fight the illicit traffic in drugs. This seems to be a very good reason for all the Western world to consider Pakistan as a friendly country The important deals in naval material signed in the last few years are proof of this attitude.