Pakistan to get 4 Turkish warships, first to reach Karachi next year

Nation special report

ISLAMABAD: In order to strengthen its Naval force, Pakistan intends to buy four Milgem class corvette ships from Turkey and one of the ships will dock the Karachi Port by the end of next year. The constructions of two ships have already started at Istanbul Shipyard.

The MILGEM project is a Turkish warship program that aims to develop multipurpose corvettes and frigates that can be deployed in a range of missions, including reconnaissance, surveillance, early warning, anti-submarine warfare, surface-to-surface and surface-to-air warfare, and amphibious operations.

On June 4, the keel laying ceremony of the first MILGEM class corvette for the Pakistan navy was held at Istanbul Naval Shipyard. Laying the keel is the formal recognition of the start of a ship’s construction and is often marked with a ceremony.

Pakistan signed a contract for four corvettes for the Pakistan navy with the Turkish state-owned defense firm ASFAT in July 2018, the Arab News has reported.

“The contract entails construction of two corvettes at Turkey while two at Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works (KS&EW),” the Pakistan Navy said in a statement. “Construction of corvettes in Pakistan is aimed to provide impetus to local ship building industry and further enhance KS&EW capabilities.”

Speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media on the subject, a senior Pakistan navy official told Saima Shabbir of the newspaper that  Pakistan hoped to get its first MILGEM corvette by the end of 2021 “as usually it took two years to completely manufacture a corvette.”

In October 2019, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan along with Pakistan Navy Chief Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi had cut the metal plate of the first MILGEM class corvette during a ceremony in Istanbul, the official said. In June this year, the keel laying ceremony took place in Turkey “which is second stage of its manufacturing.”

“We hope to get a second boat from Turkey in 2022,” the official added.

“The manufacturing of two boats in Pakistan has also started this year but it is in the first stage as its steel cutting ceremony was held on June 9,” the official said. “We hope to complete the first boat in Pakistan within two years.”

He said under the contract, Turkish firm ASFAT would share with Pakistan all the technology required to build the boats locally. “The advantage of this transfer of technology contract is that it will enhance our shipbuilding industry capability and we can make more such boats in the future,” the official added.

MILGEM vessels are 99 meters long with a displacement capacity of 24,00 tons and can move at a speed of 29 nautical miles.

“Corvettes is a medium-sized boat which is bigger than normal patrolling boats and smaller than a warship but it can be used for any military purpose,” the navy official said. “It has capabilities to be used in any warfare missions. In the current era it is even better than big warships as it is the era of smart technology, which can be effective at forward basis and even easy to maintain.”

When questioned if Pakistan was acquiring the corvettes to use against arch-rival India, the official said: “We are not part of any arms race. They [the ships] are to strengthen Pakistan navy’s overall capability,” the official said.