The Pakistan Navy will next year take delivery of its fourth and final F-22P frigate. The locally built vessel will help it ensure maritime security, not just for Pakistan but also for the international community as the Pakistan Navy combats piracy and other threats in the Indian Ocean region.
Commodore Hisham of the Pakistan Navy, speaking at the International Defence Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS) in Karachi today, said that Pakistan’s Navy has been part of Combined Task Force 151 (CTF-151) since January 2009 in an effort to combat piracy in the Gulf of Aden.
CTF 151 is an international naval task force that operates in the Gulf of Aden and off the eastern coast of Somalia covering an area of approximately 1.1 million square miles. It was established in January 2009 to conduct counterpiracy operations under a mission-based mandate throughout the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) area of responsibility.
Pakistan has from the beginning participated in CTF-151 and so far has rotated 13 ships in the Task Force and commanded it twice. In December the Pakistan Navy will take command for a third time.
With the advent of pirates using hijacked mother ships from which to launch attack skiffs, piracy has expanded far beyond the Somali coast. Pirates have struck as far as the western coast of India, the Somali Basin and close to Pakistan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Indeed, Hisham noted that there have been three incidences of piracy on the edge of Pakistan’s EEZ in recent times.
Hisham said that Somali piracy has strategic fallout which includes disruption of trade, a rise in insurance premiums and freight charges and altered routes as shipping companies avoid high risk areas.
Hisham pointed out that terrorists and pirates operate hand-in-glove, as money made through piracy is used to further terrorist activities ashore, which distracts from activity at sea.
Apart from counter-piracy duties, the Pakistan Navy is also part of Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150), a multinational coalition naval task force working under the 25 nation coalition of Combined Maritime Forces. It was established to promote maritime security in order to counter terrorist acts and related illegal activities, which terrorists use to fund or conceal their movements. CTF-150‘s Area of Operation covers the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman.
The activities of CTF-150 directly influence events ashore, as terrorist organisations are denied a risk free method of conducting operations or moving personnel, weapons or income-generating narcotics.
Pakistan has five times commanded the Combined Task Force 150 since 2004. Hisham noted that the Pakistan Navy’s contribution to regional maritime security has involved 44 ships in rotation since 2004, which have accumulated more than 50 000 hours at sea. Pakistan Navy ships have had the second highest on-task time in the coalition second only to the United States.
Pakistan’s ability to provide maritime security is being increased with the arrival of its four new F-22P or Zulfiquar class multi-purpose frigates, the first of which was commissioned in September 2009. The Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding Group, China State Shipbuilding Company, the China Shipbuilding and Trading Company and Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works (KSEW) are all involved in the production of the vessels.
The first three frigates were built in China at the Hudong Zhonghau Shipyard, while the last vessel is being built by Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works. The class carry Harbin Z-9 helicopters and are armed with a 76 mm gun, 30 mm Type 730B close-in weapons systems, FM-90N surface-to-air missiles, C-802 surface-to-surface missiles, ET-52C torpedoes and RDC-32 anti-submarine rockets.
The fourth frigate was launched in June last year at the Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works. During the launch ceremony the Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Noman Bashir said that a strong navy was needed to defend the maritime interests of Pakistan. He said that the country does not have any aggressive plans but needed to protect sea routes, the exclusive economic zone and international energy lines that pass close to the coast. He said this was not only in the interest of Pakistan but the entire international community.