Tuesday May 21, 2024

Tughril gives quantum leap to Pakistan’s naval air defence

Tughril Class or Type 054A/P frigate is a state-of-the-art, multi role, most modern frigates ever developed by China

By Amjad Bashir Siddiqi
December 20, 2021
PNS Tughril file photo
PNS Tughril file photo

KARACHI: India’s inclusion in the US-led Quad in the Indo-Pacific region 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, and raising the spectre of US-Indian “Pakistan containment” strategy.

The US has long been encouraging and assisting India to play a decisive role in the Indo-Pacific region, though dented largely, by assigning Australia a stronger role to counter China in the aftermath of battering both by Pakistan and China in the last two years.

But, the Quad and the US support for New Delhi’s India’s “Act East”, “Extended Neighborhood” policies and its own desire of becoming the ‘regional net security provider’ pose security dilemma for regional countries, including Pakistan and China by severely offsetting regional stability, creating space for serious military confrontations.

Furthermore, the 2016 Logistics Exchange Memorandum Of Agreement, allows the US to use all of India’s military infrastructure on a case-by-case “logistical” basis poses serious risks to Islamabad’s territorial waters.

Against this backdrop, Pakistan’s containment by Indo-US looks all the more plausible with the Indian naval expansion and modernization of an over 160 ship navy, submarines and aircraft backed by satellite surveillance and networking, making it a formidable force in the Indian Ocean region. This would also directly infringe on Islamabad’s emphasis on geo-economics that is shaping the regional developments.

The economically emerging Africa, particularly East Africa, is drawing interest and Islamabad would find itself in a unique position to reap benefits of its geo economic policies by having strong commercial and economic ties with Africa and the latter using CPEC to trade with China. This would require Pak Navy to proactively take steps to safeguard Sea Lines Of Communication (SLOC) between Gwadar and Africa, in addition to its existing SLOCs. These volatile, complex and ambiguous, challenges and the emerging opportunities. require Pakistan to assert itself as a large seafaring power capable of exerting influence throughout the Indian Ocean Region.

Mindful of the country’s rightful destiny, the PN is building and acquiring the Type 054A/P frigates, four MILGEM/ Jinnah class Corvettes, two Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV 1900s) “Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance CH-4 attack drones, a modern helicopter fleet, eight Type 039B AIP attack submarines under construction with China, acquisition of new “shallow-water attack submarines” and upgrading the F-22P frigates, which will transform the PN.

The Monday (today) would witness the arrival of the Tughril Class or Type 054A/P frigate, which is a state-of-the-art, multi role, most modern frigates ever developed by China. With more to come next year, the guided missile frigate 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. The frigate particularly provides the navy with a quantum leap in air defence by bridging a previous notable weakness against primary threats from the air. To operate in South Asia’s dense missile threat environment, the warship has 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. Also, the two Type 1130 Close-in weapon system will provide point-defense weapon system for detecting and destroying short-range incoming missiles and enemy aircraft, allowing improved reaction time.

It also has the Anti Submarine Rocket, Yu-8 ASROCs, 2×4anti-ship cruise missiles launchers armed with the CM-302/ YJ-12 supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles. YJ-12 is considered to be “the most dangerous anti-ship missile China has produced so far”. With an estimated range of 400-500 km while carrying a 200 kg payload, it is considered by some naval defence observers as a ‘carrier killer’ that could pose a ‘significant threat’ to even the most sophisticated air defence system outranging the US principal ASCM, the RGM-84 Harpoon.

Indian observers have expressed concerns that the YJ-12, could threaten hypersonic BrahMos cruise missiles which will be fitted onboard India’s own fleet of seven frigates being developed under Project 17A. Though numerically inferior, YJ-12 would help deter India’s aircraft carriers INS Vikramaditya and the INS Vikrant (Indigenous Aircraft Carrier-1), which recently underwent sea trials.

Tughril is also equipped with the anti-submarine torpedo launchers, anti-submarine rocket launchers and decoy rocket launchers. The Type 054A also has world-class stealth capability including sloped hull design, radar absorbent materials, and reduced superstructure for minimizing the radar cross-section. It has a stern flight deck and a hangar able to accommodate a helicopter that would substantially add to the Pakistan Navy’s offensive capability against any hostile maritime interdiction for decades.