ISLAMABAD ― Pakistan has signed a contract for the construction of four Milgem/Ada-class corvettes with the Turkish state-controlled shipyard M/s ASFAT A.S. The deal, inked July 5, is part of Pakistan’s efforts to replace aged warships featuring systems nearing the end of manufacturer support, boost its conventional deterrent vis-a-vis India, and better safeguard its maritime economy and trade links.
According to a Navy news release, the contract includes “complete transfer of technology and the transfer of intellectual proprietary rights for the design of these ships to Pakistan.”
Four ships will be built ― the first two in Turkey at Istanbul Naval Shipyard, and the third and fourth in Pakistan by state-owned shipyard KSEW ― as part of the technology transfer package.
Indigenous construction of the second pair is intended to help Pakistan’s shipbuilding industry grow and increase its contribution to the nation’s economy.
Though the Ada design features considerable Turkish-developed systems and weaponry, much is still sourced from third parties including the U.S., with whom Pakistan’s relations are presently firmly at their nadir.
Under the present climate, it’s almost certain the U.S. won’t provide clearance for the onward supply of equipment (or direct purchase via Washington); this includes the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile, the Ada corvette’s primary air defense system.
When asked by Defense News about this situation, the Navy did not explain how it has managed to circumvent this, whether it still hopes to acquire the system, whether the service has replaced it with an alternative (possibly Chinese such as the FL-3000N/HQ-10), or whether the service will simply recycle the Phalanx CIWS from its ex-British frigates (possibly along with Harpoon anti-ship missiles if they still have shelf life remaining) until a better solution becomes available.
Author, analyst and former Australian defense attache to Islamabad Brian Cloughley says the Pakistan Navy “will avoid all U.S. equipment, if possible, on the grounds that they can have no guarantee of supply of spares, ammunition, etc. The attitude of [U.S. President Donald] Trump and Congress is such that it would be most unwise to waste time even applying for U.S. systems.
“The Chinese route seems to be the most practicable, with indigenous systems if possible.”
The use of indigenous technology appears to be firmly on the cards, as the news release says the fourth corvette “will be designed jointly by Pakistan’s Maritime Technologies Complex (MTC) and will be the first indigenously designed and constructed frigate.”
Use of the term “frigate” may imply extensive redesign is planned, possibly enlargement that adds more capable systems and weaponry, similar to Turkey further developing the Ada design into the Istanbul-class frigate.
When asked, the Navy did not clarify if this was the case, but Cloughley says it could be possible, or merely a “misnomer.”
However, an “indigenously developed missile system” will be fitted to the corvettes, (probably a reference to Pakistan’s Harba anti-ship missile), and certainly to the fourth corvette if not the others, in which case Cloughley believes Pakistan will then have “time to look around for a new SAM [surface-to-air missile].”