ISLAMABAD: China has launched the Type-054A/P frigate, the second of four “most advanced” warships it is building for Pakistan, amid deepening defence and economic ties between the two allied nations, the Pakistan Navy said in a statement on Saturday.
The development comes as both the countries are locked in border tensions with their common neighbour India.
The Pakistan Navy said that Chinese state-owned Hudong Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai held the launching ceremony for the frigate, with Chief Naval Overseer (China) Commodore Azfar Humayun and senior Chinese officials in attendance.
The Navy said the warships are state-of-the-art frigates equipped with modern surface, subsurface and anti-air weapons. “They will also be fitted with a range of electronic warfare, air and surface surveillance and acoustic sensors integrated through state-of-the-art Combat Management System,” the statement read.
The statement did not mention the cost of the military vessels, but reported estimates are more than $350 million each.
Addressing the ceremony, Commodore Humayun said the addition of the new warships to the Pakistan Navy’s fleet would “significantly enhance Pakistan’s maritime defence and deterrence capabilities”.
The launching ceremony for the first frigate was held in August last year.
Once constructed, the ships will be one of the largest and technologically advanced surface platforms of the Pakistan Navy fleet, boosting its capability to respond to future challenges.
Hudong Zhonghua Shipyard is expected to deliver all four units to Pakistan by the end of 2021, which Chinese media said could “double the combat power” of the Pakistan Navy fleet.
In June 2019, Pakistan Navy had announced that it was purchasing two multirole Type-054A/P frigates from China for bolstering its war-fighting capability. It had also said that Pakistan’s fleet of Type-054A/P warships would grow to four by 2021.
China started building the first ship in January 2020 under a defence agreement between the two countries.
Pakistani officials said the Type-054A/P frigate is in service with China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy and recognized as its backbone.
The PLA Navy has about 30 of the Type-054A ships, each of which has a loaded displacement of 4,000 metric tonnes and is equipped with advanced radars and missiles.
China and Pakistan are jointly producing various military-related hardware, including the JF-17 multirole combat aircraft, demonstrating the strong mutual defence ties.