China has delivered its largest and most advanced warship to Pakistan as it seeks to beef up the navy of its all-weather ally in the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean, where it has increased its own naval presence in recent years.
Designed and built by China State Shipbuilding Corporation Limited, the frigate was delivered to the Pakistan Navy in a commissioning ceremony in Shanghai, the CSSC announced in a statement on Monday.
The Type 054A/P frigate was named the PNS Tughril, state-run Global Times reported on Tuesday.
Pakistani Ambassador to China Moin ul Haque said that the commissioning of the PNS Tughril ensures balance of power in the Indian Ocean.
In the context of the overall security paradigm of the region, Tughril-class frigates will strengthen Pakistan Navy's capabilities to respond to maritime challenges to ensure seaward defence, maintain peace, stability and balance of power in the Indian Ocean region, he said, according to the Global Times report.
The PNS Tughril is the first hull of four Type 054 frigates being constructed for the Pakistan Navy and the vessel is a technologically advanced and highly capable platform with enormous surface-to-surface, surface-to-air and underwater firepower, besides extensive surveillance potentials, the daily quoted a Pakistan Navy's statement.
Being equipped with state-of-the-art combat management and an electronic warfare system along with modern self-defence capabilities, the Type 054A/P frigate can simultaneously execute a number of naval warfare missions in a highly intense multi-threat environment, it said.
The frigate is the largest and most advanced warship China has ever exported, CSSC said.
China which shares all-weather strategic ties with Pakistan has emerged as the biggest weapons supplier for the Pakistani military. Besides the advanced naval ships, China also partners with the Pakistan Air Force to build JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft.
Observers say the military cooperation in recent years focussed more on the navy as China gradually stepped up its naval presence in India's backyard, the Indian Ocean.
Besides building its first military base in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa in the Indian Ocean, China has acquired Pakistan's Gwadar port in the Arabian Sea which connects with China's Xinjiang province by land in the USD 60 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor.
China is also developing Sri Lanka's Hambantota port after it acquired it on 99 years' lease.
The modernisation of the Pakistan Navy coupled with the acquisition of the naval bases was expected to shore up the Chinese Navy's presence in the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea.
Besides acquiring four modern naval frigates from China, Pakistan will also be getting eight Chinese submarines as part of the modernisation of Pakistan Navy, its Chief Admiral M Amjad Khan Niazi told the daily in February this year.
The Pakistan Navy has contracted the construction of four Type 054A/P frigates from China since 2017.
The head of the Pakistan Navy Mission overseeing construction of the 054A/P frigate, Commodore Rashid Mehmood Sheikh, said that the PNS Tughril, being a multi-mission capable frigate, will form the mainstay of the Pakistan Navy fleet while bolstering the Pakistan Navy's maritime defence capabilities.
Zhang Junshe, a senior research fellow at the PLA Naval Research Academy, told the Global Times earlier that Type 054A, on which the Type 054A/P is based, is China's most advanced frigate.
Compared to previous Chinese frigates, the new ship has better air defence capability, as it is equipped with an improved radar system and a larger number of missiles with a longer range, Zhang said, noting that the Type 054A frigate also has world-class stealth capability.