The first of two new missile-armed fast attack craft (FACM) for Pakistan, PNS Azmat (with pennant 1013) was commissioned into the Pakistan Navy at Xingang Shipyard in Tianjin, China on April 23, 2012.
Construction of the FACM commenced in June 2010. Azmat’s keel laying ceremony took place at Xingang Shipyard on March 1, 2011, followed by launching on Sept. 20, 2011. After completion of outfitting, Azmat commenced sea trials in March 2012.
Notably, the second FACM is being constructed in Pakistan at Karachi Shipbuilding & Engineering Works (KS&EW) under a technology transfer agreement with China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) and China Shipbuilding & Offshore International Company (CSOC). Even though the initial project is for two ships, KS&EW officials have indicated that eventual numbers could total as many as 6-8 ships.
Speaking at Azmat’s commissioning ceremony, the Pakistani Chief of Naval Staff, Adm. M. A. Sandila, said that the commissioning of the FACM marks another milestone in the (growing) defense and strategic cooperation between Pakistan and China.
Ongoing joint Sino-Pak naval projects include the local construction of PNS Aslat, a 123-meter, 3500-ton F-22P frigate at KS&EW, four more frigates to an improved F-22P design, and significantly, procurement of Chinese-origin submarines, including one or more nuclear-powered submarines.
The FACM project is notable in that these are the largest such vessels in the Pakistani navy to date. Previous FACM acquisitions were limited to ships of about 34-38 meters in length, whereas these ships are 60 meters long, with a displacement of almost 600 tons.
During the ship’s commissioning ceremony, Sandila noted that the FACM will supplement the Pakistan Navy’s “combat potential,” adding that “its immense firepower coupled with stealthy features makes it a real versatile platform which would not only prove vital for ensuring effective presence in our area of operations but would bring a new dimension of operation of stealthy platforms of this tonnage” – a reference to the larger platforms’ greater endurance, better sea-keeping characteristics and operational flexibility – qualities not afforded by smaller FACM.
Principal particulars of the Azmat class are a length of 60 meters, a beam of 8 meters, a draft of 1.85 meters and a displacement of 560 tons. Their construction is modular, using 39 pre-outfitted blocks, according to KS&EW. Drawing upon the Chinese Navy’s Type 037 FACM design, these stealthy ships are constructed to a classic FAC design, with four screws and MTU engines for a speed of around 30 knots. To enhance seakeeping, the hull has a pair of fin stabilizers as well as a stern plate. Contrary to previous reports, ship’s complement is not the widely reported 18, but rather 38 crew members. The Azmat class also features a gated stern ramp for launching and recovering a large rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB).
The primary long-range strike weapons are two sets of quad launchers for C-802A surface to surface missiles (SSM). Other weapons are a forward twin gun mount – possibly 25 mm. Close-in defense is provided by a Chinese built derivative of the AK-630M Gatling gun mounted aft atop the superstructure. Presumably, man-portable surface to air missiles are also used in this role. Other weapons include two decoy launchers or anti-submarine rocket launchers fitted amidships. Sensors include a rear facing fire control radar located behind the mast as well as a mast-mounted search radar that presumably provides targeting data for the SSM. Passive electronic warfare equipment is also fitted.
KS&EW officials provided updates on the KS&EW built FACM Dehshat at DIMDEX. Steel cutting took place on July 14, 2011, followed by keel-laying in Oct. 2011. Launching is slated for the end of May 2012, with delivery planned for October 2012. Unit cost is reportedly around $50 million USD.