The Sultan of the Sea
Pakistan Navy (PN) has recently acquired a new frigate, PNS Tughril which is one of the most technologically advanced platforms of the Pakistan Navy surface fleet. With its immense tactical capacity, the PNS Tughril will help the PN in boosting its maritime security efforts, especially in the Indian Ocean. The frigate will ensure that the PN is able to contribute to the national government’s efforts for peace and stability in the region.
As part of its modernisation plan, Pakistan Navy is collaborating with China to strengthen its naval forces to deal with any possible threat in the Indian Ocean Region. As part of the plan, on November 08, 2021, Pakistan Navy inducted into its fleet the Tughril Class or Type 054A/P frigate. With more to come this year, the guided missile frigate PNS Tughril is a technologically advanced and highly capable platform with enormous surface-to- surface, surface-to-air and underwater fire power besides extensive surveillance potentials.
The ongoing geo-economic and geo-strategic great power rivalry in the Indian Ocean and the Indo-US policy to contain China has transformed the strategic environment of the region. This changed strategic outlook has posed serious challenges to Pakistan, especially because India’s inclusion in the US-led Quad and New Delhi’s military agreement with Oman to use its Duqm Port in the Arabian Sea pose serious implications for CPEC owing to threats to Gwadar. Moreover, the 2016 MoU on Logistics Exchange has allowed the US to use India’s military infrastructure on a case-by-case “logistical” basis. Hence, Pakistan’s containment by Indo-US looks all the more plausible with the Indian naval expansion and modernization over 160 ships, submarines and aircraft backed by satellite surveillance and networking, making it a formidable force in the Indian Ocean region. This growing US-India collusion poses serious risks to Pakistan’s territorial waters, raising the spectre of US-Indian “Pakistan containment” strategy. Amid all this, Pakistan’s maritime security, which is intertwined with the maritime environment in the Indian Ocean region, was facing an ominous hybrid mix of traditional and non-traditional maritime security threats and increased the impetus for naval modernisation of Pakistan. In this context, it had become imperative for Pakistan to become a strong sea power so as to deter the Indo-US alliance.
Contract with China
Pakistan Navy contracted the construction of Type 054 AP Frigates from China under a contract signed in 2017. The first–in–class Frigate was launched in August 2020, followed by Second Frigate launching in January 2021 at Chinese Hudong Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai. The commissioning ceremony of PNS Tughril was held in Shanghai, China’s financial hub. It was attended by the Ambassador of Pakistan to China, Moin ul Haq as chief guest.
1. Designed and built by China State Shipbuilding Corporation Limited (CSSC), PNS Tughril is a state-of-the-art, multi role, most modern frigates ever developed by China.
2. It is a highly advanced guided-missile war machine with enormous surface-to-surface, surface-to-air and subsurface firepower besides extensive surveillance potentials.
3. The frigate is equipped with modern combat management and state-of-the-art self-defence capabilities.
4. Prepared with an electronic warfare system, it can, reportedly, simultaneously execute a number of naval warfare missions in a highly intense multi-threat environment.
5. Compared to previous Chinese frigates, the new ship has better air defence capability, as it is equipped with an improved radar system and a larger amount of missiles with a longer range.
6. It is designed for intense anti-air, anti-surface, and anti-submarine operations in the high seas with long-range missiles, improved radar system, electronic warfare, air, and surface surveillance and acoustic sensors, and other combat management system.
7. To operate in South Asia’s dense missile threat environment, the warship has a rapid-reaction, Vertical Launch System-based SAMs. Equipped with medium-range air defence missiles, HHQ-16 SAMs would allow for omni-directional coverages increasing Navy’s anti-air warfare/air defence capabilities against aircraft, helicopters and inbound anti-ship missiles and cruise missiles.
8. It holds the capability to simultaneously execute a number of naval warfare missions in a highly intense multi-threat environment.
9. It is the first Pakistan Navy ship that is equipped with a vertical launch system for surface-to-air missiles. In comparison with mechanical launchers, which can only fire a maximum of one or two missiles at once, a vertical launch system can simultaneously fire multiple missiles as the weapons are stored in a ready-to-fire cell. Vertical launch systems are considered more suitable to deal with large-scale air attacks.
10. PNS Tughril is estimated to have a vertical launch system equipped with 32 missile-launching cells.
11. The warships also contain a 32-cell Vertical Launch System (VLS). Moreover, the warships have a PJ-26 76 mm main naval gun, 2×3 Anti-Submarine Torpedo launchers, 2×6 Type 87 Anti-Submarine rocket launchers, two Type 726-4 18-tube decoy rocket launchers, and two Type 1130 CIWS.
12. The frigate particularly provides PN with a quantum leap in air defence by bridging a previous notable weakness against primary threats from the air.
The Type 054AP is one element of the Pakistan Navy’s ongoing fleet modernisation initiative. Pakistan is also acquiring smaller corvettes from Turkey and up to eight diesel-electric submarines from China.
Another milestone in China-Pakistan relations
Pakistan is always keen to emphasize the status of China as its ‘all-weather friend’, and this relationship has taken on an even greater significance in recent times as both nations are trying to negotiate their place in a rapidly changing world. Both states are cooperating with each other in almost all spheres of life. The cooperation in the defence sector is of utmost importance due to geographical location of Pakistan. China wants to secure its position as an emerging superpower, while Pakistan is playing its part in supporting China so it can reliably benefit in economic and military terms and guard itself against the flakiness of its relations with the US.
The commissioning of PNS Tughril, the most advanced and the largest Pakistan Navy frigate delivered by China, has opened a new chapter in Pakistan-China friendship that has matured over a long period. It will further strengthen the ties between the two neighbourly states. It is expected that, in coming years, both countries will continue to strengthen their strategic and political bond, proving this connection is stronger than steel.
Pakistan believes in promoting peace and harmony in the region. It has remained committed to the international community to maintain stability and curb maritime crimes in all forms. Pakistan is proactively contributing to collaborative maritime security initiatives as a partner to international navies, besides, its sound initiative of Regional Maritime Security Patrol (RMSP) for a secure maritime milieu in the region and beyond. This induction of PNS Tughril will strengthen PN’s deterrence in the region to achieve desired objectives. The induction of these warships would significantly enhance Pakistan’s maritime defence and deterrence capabilities. These ships will boost the potency of our fleet and significantly contribute to maintaining peace and security in the region. The recent evolution of the Pakistan Navy shows how far it has travelled in its quest to be a formidable military component. PNS Tughril will indeed help PN in boosting its efforts, especially in IOR. Pakistan Navy will continue to play its role in contributing to the national government’s efforts for peace and stability in the region.