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PNS Saif, Chinese pledge fulfilled – Pak Observer

China’s delivery of the third F-22P frigate PNS Saif to Pakistan Navy is yet another burgeoning proof of Pak-China relations and fulfillment of Chinese pledge to support Pakistan’s defence. In yet another landmark achievement in the expansion of the unwavering bilateral defence cooperation between Pakistan and China, Beijing has delivered the third of the four F-22P frigates PNS Saif to the Pakistan Navy (PN). The newly built warship of the sword class series constructed by Hudong Zhonghua Shipyard Shanghai was delivered in a colourful and impressive ceremony. As per the schedule, the PN’s fourth F-22 frigate, being constructed at the Karachi Shipyard is progressing satisfactorily. This move by the Navy would be of great help to Pakistan in achieving self-reliance towards defence of its territorial waters.

The F-22P or Zulfiquar (sword) class frigate, an improved version of the Chinese Type 053H3, is a general purpose frigate being built by China and Pakistan for the PN. The first ship, PNS Zulfiquar, was handed over to the PN on 30 July 2009 and the second, PNS Shamsheer, on January 23, 2010. The third, after undergoing sea trials has just been handed over, while a fourth is under construction. It has been reported that the F-22P Frigates are equipped with state-of-the-art weapons and sensors. The ships also carry Z9EC helicopters onboard. Pakistan had been negotiating with China for the supply of 4 frigates since the late 1990s. The contract was signed on 4 April 2006 with the conclusion of negotiations for financing and technology transfer. The first three have been built at the Hudong Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai, China, while the last is under construction in Pakistan by Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works (KSEW). The $750 million contract also includes 4-6 Harbin Z-9EC antisubmarine warfare (ASW) helicopters as well as ammunition for the frigates.

With the addition of these ships, the strength of PN Fleet has increased considerably with much needed capabilities, while contributing in enhancement of country’s shipbuilding capabilities. The F-22P hull uses many of the radar cross-section reduction features of China’s Type 054 frigate to help it evade detection by radars mounted on other ships, aircraft and anti-ship missiles. The 76.2 mm caliber main gun is a Chinese development of the Russian AK-176M, the main difference being that the Chinese variant adopts a re-designed stealthy turret to reduce radar detection. The gun is designed to engage ships, aircraft and anti-ship missiles. In front of the main gun are two 6-cell RDC-32 anti-submarine rocket launchers. The frigate’s primary surface-to-surface missile armament comprises eight C-802 subsonic anti-ship missiles carried in two launchers with four cells each, fitted between the foremast and the funnel. These containers are also compatible with the CY series anti-submarine rockets and may be loaded with a combination of anti-ship and anti-submarine weapons.

The FM-90N surface-to-air missile (SAM) system is fitted between the main deck and main gun. The launcher has eight cells each containing one missile and is fitted on a mount that can be elevated and traversed in the direction of the threat. The FM-90N can engage several targets, including supersonic and sub-sonic sea-skimming missiles, using different guidance modes simultaneously. The system is also designed to engage small targets such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). A close-in weapon system (CIWS), the Type 730B, is mounted on the aircraft hangar. Comprising two seven-barrel Gatling guns of 30 mm caliber, the F-22P is believed to be the first ship armed with the Type 730B, which uses off-mount sensors such as the Type 347G radar and the OFC-3 electro-optic director.

The guns are mounted side-by-side on the aircraft hanger, with the off-mount sensors in between. The CIWS can be upgraded with the FL-3000N fire-and-forget missile system by installing up to two single-round FL-3000N launchers on each existing CIWS gun mount. The Harbin Z-9EC anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopter is equipped with surface-search radar, low frequency dipping sonar, radar warning receiver, Doppler navigation system and armed with torpedoes. The helicopter can be armed with one torpedo on the starboard side. A small antenna on the roof may provide a data-link, allowing the Z-9 to act as a relay for targeting data between the ship and long range anti-ship missiles such as the C-802. The beauty of China’s support to Pakistan is that it is willing to provide transfer of technology, help develop the infrastructure for indigenization and soft loans to support the project with no strings attached. Other nations are either just not willing to share technology. Even if they agree to provide transfer of technology, it is at exorbitant costs and may have strings attached. Some nations insist that Pakistani technology is too backward, lacks the skill and wherewithal and is unfit for accepting hi-tech expertise. China has proved over the ages that it considers Pakistan capable and worthy of keeping pace with the latest developments and making strides towards indigenization. The delivery of the F-22 frigates to PN is burgeoning evidence of the long lasting ties between Pakistan and China. In this period of global economic meltdown, China not only has a stable economy but it holds roughly $1.5 trillion in US assets, at least 65 percent of China’s total foreign assets, and it is the second biggest foreign holder of US debt after Japan.

Pak-China joint ventures to produce JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft, K-8 Trainer aircraft, Al-Khalid Tank, F-22 Naval Frigates have given a new dimension to Pak-China cooperation in the field of defense. Heavy Rebuild Factory (HRF) at Taxila, Pakistan Aeronautical Complex at Kamra was also established with Chinese assistance. The Karakoram Highway, the strategic port of Gawadar and nuclear energy reactors are a manifestation of China’s sustained interest in Pakistan, which make it imperative for us to reach out to our Chinese friends for our common endeavours for building a better future for our peoples and overcome the challenges to both nations and strive for prosperity. In these trying times it is imperative that we recognize our true friends and hold on to them steadfastly.

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