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KARACHI, July 10: Pakistan Navy’s defensive capability will be further enhanced when the indigenously built Agosta-90B submarine of the French origin, PNS/M HAMZA, will be launched next month.

This was stated by Commodore Shahid Saeed, general manager of the submarine construction project of the Pakistan Navy, during an onsite media briefing organised at the Naval Dockyard on Monday.

The submarine is being built under a contract signed by the ministry of defence production on Sept 21, 1994, with the French company, DCN International, for three Agosta-90B submarines. Under the contract first submarine Khalid was built in France and was handed over to the PN in September 1999. The second submarine, SAAD, partially built in Pakistan, joined the PN fleet in December 2003.

Regarded as a hallmark of indigenous efforts, construction of the third submarine, Hamza, started in 1998 with planning and work preparation, followed by fabrication of 12 pressure hull sub-sections and culminating into three pressure hull sections. This was followed by mounting of light bulkheads, internal tanks and ballast panels in August 2003.

After completing all the necessary work and acceptance trials in harbour and at sea, the submarine will be handed over to the PN fleet as a fully operational unit after completion of all trials, in June next.

Hamza is regarded as the most advanced version of Agosta design. It is 76 metres long and weighs around 2,000 tons. It has a range of 10,000 nautical miles and can remain at sea for continuously 60 days.

According to Mr Saeed, the submarine is equipped with state-of-the-art combat system — Submarine Tactical Integrated Combat System — which is capable of firing SM-30 Exocet missiles and wire-guided torpedoes. On completion it will have 50 officers and men on board.

The unique feature of the submarine is its Air Independent Propulsion system, MESMA, making it capable of achieving greater underwater endurance and long range. This will also provide the enhanced reconnaissance with greater stealth, making it an ideal platform for offensive operations, said the commodore.

Media was informed that steps had been taken to involve local industry in submarine construction programme, which was continuation of the naval construction efforts that started in 1971.

Besides resulting in transfer of advanced technology, the submarine construction project, he claimed, had changed quality culture and work methodology. A team of 300 engineers and technicians were trained in France. The foreign-trained personnel trained 600 more personnel in Pakistan in various construction skills of the submarine to meet the challenges of modern warfare in which submarines play a vital role.

Commodore Saeed said the Hamza submarine project was a significant leap in self-reliance in defence production and had enabled the PN to undertake more conventional submarine projects for its future needs.