Pakistani ministry of defense has requested the Pakistani government to allow Pakistan Navy to for joint development and co-production of new generation of submarines (SSK) with the China to effectively counter the naval threats faced by the country.
Joint development and coproduction of six diesel electric submarines fitted with the Air Independent Propulsion will be done with China Shipbuilding and Offshore Corporation Limited (SCOC) after the approval by the federal cabinet. Ministry of defense briefed the Pakistani Federal Cabinet that currently Pakistan Navy is facing "critical force imbalance" due to the retirement of earlier submarines and acquisition of new submarines by the Indian Navy.
Defense ministry has requested to allow PN to sign a "mutually agreed draft protocol" for the joint development and coproduction of six submarines. It is understood that talks for acquiring the submarines were first time held during the visit of the president Asif Ali Zardari in 2009. The matter again came under discussion during the visit of the Chinese Premier to Pakistan last year.
Pakistan navy initially want to purchase six submarines with and eventual requirement of nine new generation submarines. Next phase will involve technical discussions with CSOC for the planned development of the new generation submarine which will be fitted with Air Independent Propulsion system to allow it to stay underwater for much longer period of times when compared to old generation submarines like Agosta 70 SSK which need to use snorkel to recharge its batteries every day.
Mutually agreed draft protocol between Pakistan Navy and China Shipbuilding and Offshore Corporation Limited (CSOC) states that submarines will be produced at both CSOC's yard and yards in Pakistan. Both Pakistan and China will make investment to develop new generation of diesel electric submarine which will be fitted with AIP.
China Shipbuilding and Offshore Corporation Limited (CSOC) will head the team which will jointly develop the new generation AIP submarine to meet requirements agreed by both sides. CSOC will also be responsible for final certification of the submarine according to the Chinese standards. This submarine will be capable of launching of torpedoes and missiles of Chinese origin.
Due to the immediate requirement of submarines it has been decided that CSOC will produce first four submarines at its shipyards while remaining two submarines will be produced at the Pakistan Navy’s shipyard which will be upgraded by the CSOC for this purpose.
CSOC will be in charge of conducting tests of all the systems of submarines and will be responsible for the performance of all the SSKs to be produced both in China and Pakistan. CSOC is also going to be reasonable for the transfer of technology, knowledge, material to the shipyards for production of submarines and support package for atleast thirty years. Pakistan navy will provide all the essential facilities for development, production and trails of the submarines in Pakistan.
Once approved Federal Cabinet, this deal will put an end to the Pakistan Navy’s (PN) efforts to purchase new generation submarines. Initial competitors for the contract were France or Germany. France offered to sell its new generation Marlin SSKs to the Pakistan navy.
French offer suffered many setbacks including Pakistan Navy’s basic requirement of equipping its new generation SSK with US RGM-84A Harpoon anti-ship cruise missiles to which DCN wasn’t ready. Pakistan Navy’s views were that Marlin SSKs are essentially paper project which will involve a greater risk on PN’s part.
Currently Pakistan Navy operates three Agosta 90B submarines which are capable to fire SM-39 Exocet anti-ship missile and still need testing for US RGM-84A Harpoon anti-ship cruise missiles while two Agosta 70 SSKs are capable of using Harpoon anti-ship cruise missiles.
German offer involved U-214 SSK which is a product of Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW). Initially U214 was considered a to be favorite to win PNs tender , but the equilibrium shifted towards Chinese offer (Improved Yuan SSKs) due to lower cost and Chinese reliability in difficult times.
Both Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Noman Basheer and Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari seem to have agreed on the Chinese offer as at present PN lacks large amount of funds because of dire economic turmoil in Pakistan.
Pakistan navy has signed a contract with the DCN to upgrade the Pakistan Navy’s two Agosta 70 submarines with SUBTICS combat management systems to enhance their performance.
China has recently produced an Improved Yuan class submarine which is a large conventional submarine which implements some lessons learned by Chinese Navy from the Russian Type 636M Kilo class SSK. Improved Yuan SSK has retractable foreplanes and can fire C-802 anti-ship cruise missile with range of 180km and C-803 anti-ship cruise missile with range of 250 km. Improved Yuan SSK also have six 533mm torpedo tubes and can carry ant combination of 20 torpedoes and anti-ship cruise missile .