Pakistan is getting closer to buying six conventional diesel-electric Chinese submarines, Type 041 (NATO code name Yuan-class). Plans to buy them have been known for many years. Pakistani officials declare however, that the business negotiations have entered their final stage and the agreement could be signed by the end of this year.
Having in mind previous experiences of Pakistani-Chinese military cooperation and the number of vessels Islamabad intends to purchase, one could suggest, that at least few of them could be built in Pakistan, by local shipyards. Future commissioning of Chinese subs could visibly change the structure of the submarine fleet of Pɑk Bahri’a (Pakistan Navy). Eventually, it could also affect the actual balance of power, especially in reference to the Pakistani–Indian military rivalry on the Indian Ocean.
– negotiations on the eventual purchase of Chinese diesel-electric subs alone aren’t neither surprising nor controversial. Both states have already quite a rich history of political and military cooperation, which so far has resulted in, among others, commissioning of the Zulfiquar-class frigates or JF -17 Thunder fighters,
– the purchase and future commissioning of Type 041 subs into Pɑk Bahri’a would affect its combat potential, currently formed by: three relatively new Agosta 90B-class subs (PNS Khalid (S137), PNS Saad (S138), PNS Hamza (S139)) and two much older, 30-year-old Agosta 70-class (PNS Hashmat (S135), PNS Hurmat (S136)). They are assisted by three mini-subs, MG 110,
– obviously, Pakistani plans to order new Chinese subs draw attention of Islamabad’s main regional rival – New Delhi. BNS, which is currently dominating the Indian Ocean in the context of naval power (especially the subsurface), is deeply worried about the consequences of Pak’s military buildup for its own naval status. Lots of focus is being shown especially by the Western Naval Command of the BNS, which headquarter is located in Mumbai,
– Indian curiosity is understandable, especially if one takes into consideration that BNS, despite outnumbering its regional rivals (especially Pakistanis), is actually the giant with feet of clay. BNS currently operates 14 conventional submarines of two classes: Sindhughosh-class (877EKM) (10, of course if you consider INS Sindhurakshak (S 63) which was decommissioned) and the Shishumar-class (Type 209/1500) (4). The real potential of BNS’s sub fleet is however without any doubt far from the one desired by the Command, both in terms of ship’s technical condition as well as morale of crews and leadership skills of commanding officers. For this reason, Pakistanis military buildup in terms of six new Type 041 subs could undoubtedly change the balance of military power on the waters of western Indian Ocean,
– especially that new Pakistani subs would be equipped with Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system, significantly extending their range and time they could remain submerged, what could make them harder to detect by the BNS, which currently lacks subs with such potential. Furthermore, six new subs (Scorpène-class), which are being built for BNS under the ambitious Project 75 program, will also lack AIP. Only another batch of sub (also six of them under still being drawn up Project 75I) will be equipped with this system, therefore will be able to match Type’s 041 potential.