Pakistan Gets New Chinese Frigate
BY WENDELL MINNICK
TAIPEI - Pakistan's first F-22P Sword-class frigate was launched April 7 during a ceremony at the Hudong Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai, China.
The PNS Zulifqar was part of a $750 million deal for four frigates, signed in 2005. Three of the ships will be built in Shanghai, while the fourth will be constructed by Pakistan's Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works under a technology transfer agreement.
"This is a version of the Jiangwei-class frigates the Chinese have been building since the early 1990s," said Bernard "Bud" Cole, author of "The Great Wall at Sea: China's Navy Enters the 21st Century." "The version being built for Pakistan is probably the Jiangwei II-class."
Cole believes it will be very capable but relatively small at 2,250 tons. Though multimission-capable, "armed with sub-sonic anti-ship missiles (C802), a short-range (and historically not very reliable) anti-aircraft missile system, a single 76mm gun, anti-submarine torpedoes," and able to embark the Z-9 helicopter, the new ships will be "nothing that is going to frighten the Indians," he said.
The frigates will join six Amazon-class frigates built in Britain in the early 1970s, which Pakistan acquired in the early 1990s. Pakistan has no destroyers and a small number of Karachi-built Jalalat-class guided-missile patrol crafts, armed with Chinese-made C-801 (Sardine) anti-ship missiles; and three ex-Chinese Huangfeng class (Chinese Project 21) missile boats, armed with C-201 anti-ship missiles.
Though Pakistan hopes to advance its domestic shipbuilding capability, there are doubts the construction of only one frigate will help. Ayesha Siddiqa, author of "Military Inc.: Inside Pakistan's Military Economy," does not believe Pakistan will benefit from building only one frigate domestically.
"I have handled the F-22P frigate case and know the details. And this will not enhance Pakistan's shipbuilding capabilities," said Siddiqa, a defense analyst who once served as Pakistan's director of naval research. "This depends on Pakistan's ability to make more ships and market these, which I do not see happening."
Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf left April 10 for a six-day official visit to China, where he will meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao to discuss defense and economic ties. The Pakistan delegation includes Defense Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
Siddiqa said the "mainstay of Pakistan-China relations is defense relations. The economic relations are a new dimension. [And the] sale to Pakistan attracts new buyers for China."
Cole believes the recent frigate sale is "the latest iteration of Chinese arms sales to Pakistan - the most advanced surface combatant sold to Islamabad. It demonstrates China's continued support for Pakistan [and] indicates Beijing's willingness to sell the Jiangwei class, which is advanced over previous sales of warships to other nations that have been limited to the much older, much less-capable Jianghu-class frigate."
Pakistan and China are also working on a joint fighter build program, dubbed the JF-17 Thunder in Pakistan and the Chengdu FC-1 Fierce Dragon (Xiaolong) in China.
Despite Pakistan's continued and growing relationship with China, the United States continues to work closely with the Pakistan military. On the same day the F-22P was launched in Shanghai, the Pakistan Air Force took delivery of new Lockheed Martin TPS-77 3-D, transportable, long-range air surveillance radars. Pakistan ordered six radars in 2005 in an $89 million U.S. Foreign Military Sales contract.