Articles Asia Defense & Security

MILGEM Corvette Project: Symbol of Pak-Turk Naval Cooperation

Image Credit: Daily Sabah
MILGEM Corvette Project: Symbol of Pak-Turk Naval Cooperation

In recent years, Pakistan and Turkey have developed robust military cooperation, particularly in the naval sector. This collaboration is characterised by the periodic conduct of joint naval exercises, acquisition of military systems, transfer of technology, and co-production of maritime platforms. Pakistan Navy’s MILGEM class corvettes are a practical manifestation of Pak-Turk cooperation.

On 5 July 2018, the Pakistan Ministry of Defence Production (MoDP) entered into an agreement with Turkey’s Military Factory and Shipyard Corporation (ASFAT) for the procurement of four modified MILGEM corvettes for the Pakistan Navy. The deal, valued at approximately USD 1.5 billion, also involves the transfer of technology (ToT) and intellectual property (IP) rights related to the ship’s design.

Under the PN-MILGEM project, the construction of four corvettes split into two pairs was undertaken simultaneously in Turkey and Pakistan. PNS Babur and PNS Khaibar have been constructed and launched by Istanbul Shipyard in Turkey. The second pair, PNS Badr and PNS Tariq has been constructed and launched by Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works (KS&EW) in Pakistan.

Recently, PNS Babur, the first PN-MILGEM, was formally commissioned by the Pakistan Navy on 23 September 2023. The remaining ships are currently undergoing sea trials. According to the construction schedule provided by ASFAT, the project timeline encompasses a span of six years from the commencement of construction on the first ship to the delivery of the fourth and final ship. This suggests that the Pakistan Navy is scheduled to take delivery of all four warships by 2025.

Corvettes are surface combatants which are smaller in size than frigates but are larger than patrol vessels. The design and capabilities of corvettes vary. But from a modern naval context, corvettes have gradually evolved from coastal defence vessels to multi-mission warships. Advancements in technology have allowed the integration of compact yet capable loadout of weapons and sensors, characterising these relatively more minor platforms with superior operational flexibility.

PNS Babur, the first PN-MILGEM, was formally commissioned by the Pakistan Navy on 23 September 2023. The remaining ships are currently undergoing sea trials.

PN-MILGEM corvettes have stealth layouts and feature reduced radar, acoustic, and infrared signatures. These corvettes have a displacement of 3,000 tons and are fitted with a CODAG propulsion system comprising two diesel engines and one LM2500 gas turbine from General Electric. This configuration provides speed over 26 knots and an operational range of roughly 4000 nautical miles with endurance of more than 15 days.

PN-MILGEMs will add niche technologies to the surface fleet of the Pakistan Navy. The corvettes are equipped with SMART-S Mk2 3-D multi-beam radar duly optimised for medium-to-long-range surveillance in the littoral environment. The radar offers a range of 250km. The warships are also integrated with a variety of modern sensors and countermeasures for superior situation awareness and survivability in a dynamic threat environment.

For the surface fleet of the Pakistan Navy, these multi-mission corvettes will provide next-generation of Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW), Anti-Air Warfare (AAW) and Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) capabilities. Ships’ onboard facility can simultaneously support ship-borne multi-mission helicopter and unmanned aerial systems for Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (ISR), ASW, and Search-and-Rescue (SAR) missions.

For Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW), these corvettes have been equipped with one 76mm deck-mounted rapid-fire gun. This gun is further supported by two 25mm remote control automatic guns. However, the main armament of these warships will be six surface-to-surface cruise missiles (SSMs) in canister-launcher configuration. The exact type of these SSMs is still unknown, but according to Turkish media, next-generation hypersonic P-282 missile integration is anticipated. The high-speed SSMs will allow PN-MILGEMs to penetrate the enemy flotilla’s multi-layer defences and engage time-sensitive targets with a high degree of success rate.

In AAW domain, PN-MILGEMs will be equipped with Albatros NG surface-to-air missile system. Two six-cell GWS-26 vertical launch system (VLS) modules armed with Common Anti-air Modular Missile – Extended Range (CAMM-ER) will provide an air defence km. This highly capable missile will provide local area defence against a vast spectrum of aerial threats with high single-shot probability and counter-saturation capability. Additionally, point air defence will be provided by a Close-In Weapon System (CIWS).

PN-MILGEMs carry a modern Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) suite for engaging underwater threats as well. Ships are equipped with YAKAMOS-2020 hull-mounted sonar based on configurable software architecture and can operate at high performance for extended periods of time in shallow and deep waters. The sonar is integrated with GENESIS Advent Combat Management System (CMS) and torpedo countermeasures, significantly enhancing survivability against underwater threats. Underwater engagement capability is provided by 324mm light-weight (LWT) torpedoes.

Besides the co-production of four corvettes, the most eminent attribute of the MILGEM project is transferring technology and experience to Pakistan for domestically designing and producing modern warships. While Pakistan has had previous experiences with technology transfers in the form of F-22P frigates, the MILGEM project sets itself apart by having ASFAT collaborate with its Pakistani counterparts, such as Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Group (KSEW), Navy Research and Development Institute (NRDI), and others, to develop Pakistan’s warship called Jinnah class Frigate (JCF).

The Jinnah Class Frigate project will mark another feat of Pak-Turk Naval collaboration. This project exemplifies the shared vision for a robust and technologically advanced naval fleet for Pakistan. During his farewell speech, former Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi mentioned the navy’s plans to produce Jinnah class frigates in future. The contract for the construction of the first JCF has already been signed by the Pakistan Ministry of Defense Production (MODP). This frigate is being developed with the collaboration of Turkish defence industries. For undertaking requisite fleet expansion and developing indigenisation capability for designing and producing modern warships, the JCF project will be of pivotal importance for Pakistan.

The MILGEM project and the follow-on Jinnah class project testify to the multifaceted relationship between Pakistan and Turkey. Strengthening naval cooperation not only demonstrates solidarity but also contributes to the diplomatic and geopolitical ties between the two brotherly nations. As regional power dynamics evolve with respect to the emerging global landscape, the augmented naval prowess of the Pakistan Navy will position Pakistan as a key player in ensuring maritime security and shaping regional stability in the Indian Ocean. In essence, these advancements mark a pivotal chapter in the longstanding and growing partnership between Pakistan and Turkey, fostering mutual trust and shared aspirations for a secure and prosperous future.

Ahmad Ibrahim

The author is an independent researcher and holds an M.Phil in Strategic Studies from National Defence University, Islamabad.

Leave a Comment


Welcome! Login in to your account

Remember me Lost your password?

Lost Password