The United States has offered to sell two Perry class naval frigates to Pakistan, besides providing eight long-range maritime patrol aircraft fitted with Harpoon missiles.
The offer for sale 'has been made by the US Navy' and the price of the frigates will be negotiated once the US Congress gives its approval, Chief of Pakistan Navy Admiral Shahid Karimullah told reporters on Wednesday.
Named after an American naval hero, Oliver Hazard Perry, the frigates were designed by the US in the 1970s as general-purpose escort vessels. Although some Perry-class vessels are slated to remain in the US service for years, many others are being de-commissioned and transferred to other countries after necessary modifications.
Besides the two US frigates, Pakistan is also acquiring four P-22 F frigates from China, Admiral Karimullah said. The frigates, three of which will be built in China and and one in Pakistan, will form part of the navy's fleet by 2013, he added.
Since the delivery of the first Chinese frigate will take about three years, the US frigates could be a good stop-gap arrangement, he said. The Pakistan navy is also holding talks with the UK to acquire British frigates, he said, adding the talks have not yet borne fruit as the prices are not acceptable to Pakistan.
The admiral said no government in the past had thought about strengthening the navy and credited President Pervez Musharraf for his support.
He, however, said the recovery will take some time as it could not be done overnight.
Asked about India acquiring a nuclear submarine, he said Pakistan will have to develop its own nuclear submarine as no country was ready to provide the same to Islamabad.
He said the US is also providing eight P-3C Orion long-range maritime patrol aircraft free of cost to Pakistan, which will boost its ability to carry out long distance surveillance as well as fire Harpoon missiles at enemy targets.
P-3C Orion is a long-range maritime patrol aircraft with an endurance of about 18 hours and can carry Harpoon missile. With the induction of eight P-3Cs, the existing fleet of PN-P-3Cs will grow up to 10.
Two P-3Cs already with the navy are presently undergoing overhaul in Pakistan with US assistance and are expected to be operational by the end of this year.
"Transfer documents have been signed by the representatives of US and Pakistani navies, making the aircraft property of the government of Pakistan," the admiral said in a statement.
He termed the US assistance a significant achievement and expressed confidence that the induction of these aircraft would augment the navy's capability to actively monitor its areas of interest at sea and add a new dimension to the offensive punch of its fleet.