by Lady Michelle-Jennifer Santos, Chief Visionary Founder & Owner
February 3, 2014 (TSR) – Pakistan plans to sign a deal to buy up to six submarines from China before the end of 2014, senior Pakistani government officials according to defense magazine IHS Jane’s Weekly.
A senior Pakistani government minister revealed in March 2011 that China had offered to sell up to six submarines to Pakistan. Although he did not specify details of the boats on offer, he said that “the technical details are almost done”.
Western officials in Islamabad suggest that China’s subsequent international marketing of the ‘S20’ or Yuan-class diesel-electric submarine (SSK) suggests it could be a potential option for Pakistan.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said before his last term ended abruptly in a 1999 military coup that dreamed Pakistan would become an “Asian Tiger,” comparable with the rising economies of Southeast Asia. But Pervez Musharraf and Asif Ali Zardari dashed those hopes: Islamabad is now US$58 billion in debt, and economic growth barely moves.
Now that he is back, the dream got resurrected.
In a national television speech late last year, Sharif reiterated this vision again and promised a robust naval modernization program, which includes a major revamp of Pakistan’s fledgling submarine fleet. As a Muslim-majority country with a fully serviceable Navy (surface vessels, submarines and a naval air arm), the Prime Minister hopes the Pakistan Navy (PN) to become “the guardian navy of the Gulf regions”.
Pakistan’s naval modernisation strategy is centered on a number of goals and issues: To have a sea-based minimum credible nuclear deterrent vis-a-vis India, keeping sea lanes open to Pakistan’s Karachi port, and ensuring a “stable environment in the North Arabian Sea.” To that end, Sharif has promised that he will prioritised “critical projects,” including building and procuring new submarines and frigates, and constructing new naval bases at Turbat and Gwadar.
In May 2011, Wuhan-based China State Shipbuilding Industrial Corp (CSIC) released the first Qing-class conventional attack submarine (SSK) to Shanghai and began a year-long series of sea trials, which included the test-firing of three CJ-10K submarine-launched, 1,500km-range land attack cruise missiles (LACM) capable of being armed with unitary tactical nuclear warheads. Called the Qing-class SSK, it is a variant of the Type 041A Improved Yuan-class SSK, which began its sea trials later in June of that year.
According to India’s national security and defense magazine FORCE, a contract was believed to be inked between CSIC and Pakistan in April 2011 (pages 16-17) which requested for the CSIC’s Wuhan-based Wuchang Shipyard to supply six Qing-class SSKs, all of which to be equipped with a Stirling-cycle AIP system and carrying up to three nuclear warhead-carrying CJ-10K LACMs each.
The double-hulled Qing-class SSK, with a submerged displacement close to 3,600 tonnes, bears a close resemblance to the Russian Type 636M SSK, and features hull-retractable foreplanes and hydrodynamically streamlined sail, the Force report said.
The AIP system for the Qing-class SSK was developed by the 711th Research Institute of CSIC. Their R&D work began in June 1996, with a 100-strong team of scientists and engineers led by Dr Jin Donghan who was involved in developing the Stirling-cycle engine, while another team led Professor Ma Weiming of China’s Naval Engineering University developed the all-electric AIP system. The two projects entered the production engineering stage in 2007, with the Shanghai Qiyao Propulsion Technology Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of the 711th Institute, becoming the principal industrial entity charged with producing the AIP system.
This first type of SSK was launched in Wuhan on September 9, 2010, and a total of three such SSKs were also ordered by China’s PLA Navy. Incidentally, the Qing-class SSK’s all-electric propulsion system is a derivative of a similar system that was developed about over a decade ago for the PLA Navy’s six Type 093 Shang-class SSGNs and three Type 094 Jin-class SSBNs.
The submarine-launched CJ-10K LACM has been developed by the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp’s (CASIC) Hubei-based Ninth Academy (also known as the Sanjiang Aerospace Group, or 066 Base) on cooperation with the Third Academy’s Beijing-based Xinghang Electromechanical Equipment Factory (159 Factory). Final assembly of the CJ-10K is undertaken by the Beijing-based Hangxing Machine Building Factory (239 Factory). The CJ-10K features an imaging infra-red optronic system for terminal homing, and it makes use of a ring laser gyro-based inertial navigation system combined with a GPS receiver to receive navigational updates from China’s ‘Beidou’ constellation of GPS navigation satellites, described by the Indian defense magazine, Force.
It is also important to note that during Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s four-day official visit to China in May 17, 2010, the Pakistan Navy acquired a 10-year lease period of the two Jiangkai I-class Type 054 guided-missile frigates (FFG) Ma’anshan (FFG-525) and Wenzhou (FFG-526) , which also have been in service with the PLA Navy’s East Sea Fleet since 2005 (see FORCE December 2010, pages 44-46).