On 15th August 2021, the President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Dr. Arif Alvi and the President of the Republic of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as well as Chief of Naval Staff of the Pakistan Navy, Admiral Amjad Khan attended the launching ceremony of the first warship of the Babur Class of multirole Guided Missile Corvettes for the Pakistan Navy. PNS Babur was launched by Pakistan’s First Lady, Samina Alvi. The class of four corvettes are being built under the joint venture MILGEM project between Pakistan and Turkey, with 2 ships being built in Istanbul, Turkey and 2 in Karachi, Pakistan at a cost of around $1.5 Billion to the Pakistan Navy. The Babur Class Corvettes are 3,000 tons multi-mission platforms, equipped for anti-ship warfare (AShW), anti-submarine warfare (ASW) as well as anti-air warfare (AAW).
In the Anti-Surface category, the corvettes will be armed heavyweight anti-ship missiles, with two triple-cell launchers for either the Harbah long range ASCM/LACM with a range of 450 km to 750 km or a new supersonic anti-ship missile that the Pakistan Navy is currently developing, with a range of over 600 kilometers and a speed of Mach 3+. ASuW helicopters can also be deployed from the ship, carrying anti-ship missiles.
In anti-air warfare, the corvettes have a 12 cell GWS-26 vertical launch system (VLS) that carries the MBDA Albatros NG/Common Anti-Air Modular Missile-Extended Range (CAMM-ER) surface-to-air missile (SAM) with a range of between 50-65 kilometers. The Babur-class will also use an Aselsan Gökdeniz dual 35 mm close-in-weapon-system (CIWS) with Aselsan ATOM airburst ammunition for terminal and point air defense.
In Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), the corvettes have two 3-cell 324 mm lightweight torpedoes launchers as well as the Yakamos hull-mounted sonar and a HIZIR towed array sonar system as well as decoy. ASW helicopters can also be deployed from the ship with submarine hunter-killer capabilities.
Other weapons systems include a 76 mm OTO Melara Super Rapid main naval gun and two Aselsan STOP 25 mm machine guns. The ships will also have a 10-ton capacity helicopter hangar and deck. The helicopter likely to be procured for the Babur Class may be the AW-159 Wildcat. The warships have a range of 9,300 kilometers and are powered by General Electric LM2500 CODAD engines.
The electronics suit for the four ships will be supplied by Aselsan at a cost of 215 million dollars which includes a main 3D AESA S-band naval radar, ASELSAN ALPER LPI Surface Radar, AKREP (AKR-D Block B-1/2) Fire Control Radar, SATCOM, a new network-oriented battle-management system, ARES-2NC ESM modules, ELINT and SIGINT modules, Electronic Warfare (EW) modules, SeaEye-AHTAPOT EO Reconnaissance and Surveillance System, ASELSAN Piri (Infrared Search and Track) IRST system, as well as the Yakamos hull-mounted sonar system and HIZIR torpedo countermeasure system. The HIZIR is a complete suite consisting of a towed array, decoy array and expendable decoys.
At IDEF 20221 held by the Turkish Defense Industry, AFSAT, showed a model of the Pakistan Navy’s MILGEM that showed a Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) launcher for point air defense instead of the CIWS but it is unlikely that the Pakistan Navy will go for RAM launchers on their actual corvettes. The model also showed a different 16-cell VLS type than what the Pakistan Navy has chosen, which is the 12-cell GWS-26 VLS.
Immediately after the remaining three Babur-Class corvettes are launched, construction will begin for the 4,000-tonne indigenous Jinnah-Class Frigates in Karachi, currently in the R&D phase. It is currently unclear how many Jinnah-Class ships are planned but the number will be at least four, but the number may increase to 6. At IDEF 2021, a model with a tentative design and weapons package was shown and representatives of the company said the model represents the Jinnah Class. The ship had a 16-cell GWS-26 VLS. Those numbers of cells will likely be higher, and the missile might be a further improved and extended range version of the Albatoros NG, as the Pakistan Navy looks to build a layered air defense system. The same anti-air missiles on the Babur Class and the Jinnah Class, with the number of VLS cells increased by just 2 makes no sense. Nevertheless, the Jinnah Class is in design phase now and the exact weapons configuration is yet to be revealed.
Other than this, Pakistan Navy is all set to receive its first Type 054P Frigate soon, the first of four. 6 more warships in the 3000-5000 tonne class will also be procured between 2025 and 2032. This is in line with the Pakistan Navy’s vision to have a fleet of over 150 ships, including 50 warships, and at least 20 major surface combatants before 2030: Four Zulfiquar Class, Two Yarmook Class, Four Babur class, Four Type 054Ps and Six 3000–5000-ton warships to be contracted before 2030. 20 indigenous Fast Attack craft (Missile) boats are also being built and will be inducted by 2025. This also synchronizes with the recent reorganization by the Pakistan Navy of its Destroyer and Patrol Craft Squadrons into Surface Task Groups One, Two and Three and stationing them permanently at Gwadar, Ormara and Karachi respectively.
In the long term, the Navy is looking at procuring heavier warships, Guided Missile Destroyers in the 6,500-8,500-tonne class range. These acquisitions will happen in the 2030-2040 timeframe.