The Pakistan Navy recently parked one of its submarines in the middle of Chinese Navy warships visiting Karachi. The strong defense ties between Pakistan and China are well reported. Currently the Pakistani Navy is massively growing its submarine branch with eight Chinese-designed Type-039B Yuan Class boats. Parking the sub there shows that the two navies are sharing knowledge as well as hardware.
The presence of the submarine is evident in commercial satellite imagery. It is hard to spot by the untrained eye so it has taken time to confirm it. And we can now be sure that it was a Pakistani sub and not Chinese. I can positively identify the submarine as an Agosta-90B type submarine, which is only operated by the Pakistan Navy. They are known locally as the Hashmat-class.
The Chinese Navy warships were visiting Karachi for a joint exercise, ‘Sea Guardian-2020’ in January. When I wrote about the exercise in April, showing the Chinese Warships in Karachi, the submarine was just visible in the imagery. But it had not been identified.
Local media reported the exercise but did not mention the submarine. The Nation.pk reported at the time about the types of Pakistan Navy warships and equipment involved in the exercise. Frigates, missile boats, anti-submarine patrol aircraft, helicopters and special forces were mentioned. The submarine was not. Other media, such as the South China Morning Post did that mention submarines would be involve. But they did not provide any specific information.
This was not in the Pakistani Navy’s usual berths, but in a cordoned-off part of the commercial docks. The placement of the Pakistani Navy submarine cannot be viewed as coincidental.
Pakistan operates five of the French-designed Agosta Class submarines. Three of are the improved version with Air independent Power (AIP), which was parked among the Chinese vessels.
What is significant about this class of submarine is that it is the most potent and modern in the Pakistan Navy arsenal. It has French-designed AIP, relatively modern combat systems and AS-39 Exocet anti-ship missiles. It is also reported to be the launch platform for Pakistan’s indigenous Babur-3 nuclear-capable cruise missile.
Parking the submarine in the center of the visiting warships suggests that the Chinese were invited aboard. Typically the host nation would have given the visitors a tour and explained relevant features. In essence, Pakistan is sharing the inner workings of one of its most potent weapons platforms.
The Agostas will be complemented by eight Chinese-designed Type-039B Yuan Class submarines. The first batch of Yuan boats will be delivered to Pakistan in the next few years, and some may be built locally. They may incorporate some Pakistan specific equipment and capabilities, such as the Babur-3 missile.
In the past, the Chinese Navy, formally known as the PLAN, have deployed their submarines to the Indian Ocean. A Chinese Type-091 Han Class nuclear-powered submarine visited Karachi in 2016. It was parked along the same quay where the Pakistani boat is in these images.