China on Sunday launched an advanced warship for Pakistan, the largest it has built for any country, and the first among the four most sophisticated naval platforms it is readying for the Pakistan navy amid deepening military and strategic ties with Islamabad.
Local media said the Type 054A/P, a guided missile frigate, is the largest combat ship China has sold to a foreign navy and is “an important milestone” for China’s military export sector.
The acquisition of the warship will double the combat power of the Pakistani Navy’s surface fleet, Chinese state media reported. By 2021, the Pakistan navy is expected to have three more similar warships in its fleet.
The Chinese state-owned Hudong Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai held the launch ceremony for the advanced warship with top officials and naval officers attending the function.
The shipyard is a wholly owned subsidiary of the China State Shipbuilding Corporation, the largest builders in the country.
The ship launch took place two days after Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi discussed the situation in the Indian union territory of Jammu and Kashmir with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi during the second round of the China-Pakistan foreign ministers’ dialogue in Hainan, off the south China coast.
President Xi Jinping called Pakistan a “good brother” and a “good partner” in a recorded message to his counterpart President Arif Alvi after the meeting.
New Delhi is currently locked in tension with both China and Pakistan over disputed boundaries and the abrogation of Article in Jammu & Kashmir.
India would be closely monitoring the military cooperation between its two hostile neighbours.
“It is worth noting that the 054A/P was purchased by Pakistan as the successor to the F-22P frigate, and the F-22P frigate is an export model developed by China on the basis of the 053H3 frigate. China has been working hard to promote the Type 054A frigate to the international market,” local news website ifeng.com reported.
Type 054A is the best frigate in service with the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), experts say. The warship has a fully loaded displacement of about 4,000 metric tons and is equipped with advanced radars and missiles.
“The Type 054A is a multi-role frigate and is recognized as the backbone of the PLAN fleet of surface combatants with 30 vessels in commission. They have a length of 134 meters, a beam of 16 meters for a displacement of 4,000 tons,” the navalnews.com, a website tracking naval technology, said in a report on the launch.
“They have a crew complement of 165 sailors and are fitted with a PJ26 76mm main gun, 8 C803 anti-ship missiles, 32x VLS cells for HQ-16 surface to air missiles, 2x Type 730 30mm CIWS, 2x Triple Torpedo launchers,’’ the website added.
Cao Weidong, a senior researcher at the PLA’s Naval Military Studies Research Institute, told the newspaper that it seems that all weapons and radars on the new ship will be made in China which “…reflects our progress in the industry and the Pakistani Navy’s confidence in our technology and capability”.
China and Pakistan’s military ties have rapidly deepened in recent years.
The new version of the fighter aircraft jointly developed by China and Pakistan with upgraded fighting capabilities, for example, made its maiden flight in December and the first batch is set to be inducted by Islamabad in 2020.
The JF-17 Block 3 aircraft was flown above Chengdu in southwest China’s Sichuan province in December, the Aerospace Knowledge magazine said in a report in January.
The single-engine, multi-role combat aircraft has been developed jointly by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation of China.