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October 31, 2017

Pakistan Orders Two Corvettes from US-Based Swiftships

In an interview with Mönch, Swiftships CEO Shehraze Shah stated that the Pakistan Navy placed an order for two 75m corvettes from the Louisiana-based shipbuilding company. Shah also stated that the Pakistan Navy (PN) is a customer of the Swiftships’ 11m Special Operation Craft Riverine (SOC-R), which the PN has deployed for counterinsurgency (COIN) and drug-interdiction missions.

In its August 2017 issue, Marine News was told that Pakistan ordered two 75 Swift Corvettes with an option for two more in 2020. “Swiftships has partnered with Lockheed Martin to offer these 1,500-to 2,000-ton ships to the client,” said Shah, adding that the corvettes will be equipped with Lockheed Martin’s Combat Management System. Pakistan is expected to use these ships in its Combined Task Force 150/151 deployments.

Notes & Comments:

The 75m Swift Corvette is a multi-purpose platform for addressing both conventional and asymmetrical security threats. According to Swiftships, the Swift Corvette can also deploy rigid-hulled inflatable boats (RHIB) for special operation forces (SOF) missions and VBSS (visit, board, search and seizure) operations. At a speed of 15 knots, the Swift Corvette has a range of 4,000 nm and endurance of 25 days. It has a top speed of 30 knots. The corvette can operate in sea conditions of up to Sea State 6. If built with steel, the Swift Corvette would reportedly have a displacement of 1,640 tons, while an aluminum superstructure would enable for a displacement of under 1,000 tons and speed of over 30 knots.

In June, the Pakistan Navy signed an order for two offshore patrol vessels (OPV) from Damen Shipyards. The previous Chief of Naval Staff Admiral (retired) Muhammad Zakaullah stated that one of the OPVs will be built at Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works (KSEW). The intended role for the Damen OPVs is “anti surface [and] anti air operations, maritime security operations, day [and] night helicopter operations, combat search and rescue, and surveillance and intelligence gathering operations.” Based on the technical specifications provided by the PN, it appears that the Damen OPV is a variant of the OPV 1800.

Based on Swiftships’ description of the Swift Corvette, it appears that the PN is acquiring the corvette to augment the Damen OPVs in the aforementioned roles. In fact, the Swift Corvette is configurable with a 76mm main gun, two 30mm guns, anti-ship missiles (AShM), Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) for very short-range air defense (VSHORAD) coverage, decoy launchers and two Mk93 50 caliber mounts with Mk16 tripods. It also has an aft deck and hangar sufficient for a utility helicopter. It can also deploy ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), which are also in service with the PN. It appears that the Pakistan Navy intends for a tiered surface fleet.

The Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA) is taking delivery of six new Chinese maritime patrol vessels (MPV) – i.e. two 1,500-ton and four 600-ton MPV designs. These could assume law-enforcement, exclusive economic zone (EEZ) monitoring and humanitarian assistance and disaster-relief (HADR) operations.

The Pakistan Navy-proper is building a separate fleet comprising of two Damen OPVs and two Swift Corvettes, which can address high-risk asymmetrical threats (e.g. piracy, anti-narcotics, etc) while also monitoring Pakistan’s EEZ. In wartime, these ships can potentially pivot into anti-access and area denial (A2/AD) assets (e.g. the Swift Corvette is configurable with AShM).

The final tier would be that of frigates, such as the four serving Zulfiqar-class (F-22P) and forthcoming new frigates from China. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also told the Daily Sabah that Ankara and Islamabad were still in talks for the sale of four MILGEM Ada corvettes. In May, Pakistan had signed a letter-of-intent for four MILGEM Ada corvettes, but it has not yet inked the order.

The common aspects tying these larger platforms are anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and anti-ship warfare (AShW). However, anti-air warfare (AAW) would be conditional on how the PN chooses to configure each design. For example, it has the option of retrofitting the F-22P with a vertical launch system (VLS) and/or choosing to incorporate VLS to the new-built Chinese frigates and/or Ada corvettes. Besides providing the ASW aspect of the PN’s A2/AD efforts, these larger ships may also carry land-attack cruise missile (LACM). By 2018, Pakistan is to complete the development of a ship-based launcher compatible for firing LACMs.

The SOC-R is designed for SOF missions. It can operate in conditions of up to Sea State 2, but it can survive in Sea State 4. With a full load, the SOC-R has a top speed of over 50 knots. If capped at 35 knots, it has a range of more than 200 nm. The SOC-R can insert and extract 6-14 troops. Armament options include one 30mm gun and/or two Mk90 50-caliber mounts with Mk16 tripods.

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