Pakistani defence officials claimed today that four additional F-22P frigates will be built in Karachi with the help of Chinese naval technicians. The officials claimed that the deal will go a long way in strengthening its navy, which is facing new challenges in the face of changing political climate.
So far Pakistan has received three frigates from China, all of them belonging to the F-22P Zulfiquar class. All three of the frigates were built by the Hudong Zhonghua shipyard, Shanghai. One of the frigates is being built by the Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works, with the Chinese technical support.
The Pakistani Naval officers are impressed with the performance of the F-22P so far, and in their opinion, the Chinese vessels are technically much more advanced and more flexible as compared to the United States made Littoral combat ships (LCS). The Pakistani Urdu language newspaper Daliy Jang reported that the cost is another factor, with the Chinese ships costing just $200 million as compared to the US ships which costs as much as $600 million.
China agreed to supply the frigates to Pakistan after negotiating hard with it for almost one and a half decades. The deal was finalized only by mid-2006. The first frigate, PNS Zulfiqar was delivered to the Pakistani Navy in 2009, followed by two others during 2010. The fourth one, which is under construction in Karachi, is expected to be inducted in 2013. The $750 million contract, which was signed by the two nations, also includes the delivery of Harbin Z-9EC anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters and other armaments for the frigates.
Currently, the Pakistani Navy is operating three F-22P frigates: PNS Zulfiquar, PNS PNS Shamsheer and PNS Saif. The total crew strength for each of the ships is 170, while the maximum speed is 29 knots. The vessels are having an operational range of 4,000 nautical miles.