ISLAMABAD, April 4: China will start manufacturing the first F-22P frigate for Pakistan Navy next week, official sources told Dawn on Friday.

According to the original schedule, the frigate called PNS Zulfiqar was to be delivered by the middle of this year.

The project will be launched at the Hudong Shipyard in Shanghai on April 7.

Three of the four ships of this class for which an accord was signed in 2005 will be built in China and the fourth one at the Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works (KSEW) under a transfer of technology agreement.

A spokesman for the navy said it was a comprehensive project in the context of collaboration between the two countries.

“The Peoples’ Liberation Army is providing all assistance to meet Pakistan Navy’s requirements in the construction of these ships that will play a very pivotal role for our surface fleet as these ships will be utilised in defence of maritime interest of Pakistan,” he said.

The frigates are capable of operating in multi-threat environments and equipped with long-range surface-to-surface missiles, capable of attacking multiple targets simultaneously.

The frigate will also have under-sea censors capable of detecting both nuclear and conventional submarines at long ranges.

The F-22P is an improved version of the Chinese Type 053H3 frigate.

The $750 million deal also includes 4-6 Z-9EC helicopters as well as ammunition for the frigates. The F-22P has a stealthier platform as it uses some of the Type 054 frigate’s Radar Cross Sectional (RCS) reduction concepts.