KARACHI, Aug 24: As Pakistan Navy launched the first indigenously built Agosta 90B submarine on Saturday, six months ahead of sea trials, it announced to negotiate a similar deal with China for the construction of four surface ships.
“We have achieved a very big (defence) capability,” said Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Abdul Aziz Mirza, at the launching ceremony at the Naval Dockyard here.
“Pakistan Navy today joins the elite club of a very few countries which have the ability to build submarines,” said the naval chief.
The launching of submarine “SAAD” is Pakistan Navy’s biggest achievement and contribution towards indegenization and self-reliance. With this launch, PN’s submarine strength has increased to nine, said the naval chief.
The submarine is equipped with four bow torpedo tubes and missiles, with its fighting capacity coordinated by the French-made Submarine Tactical Integrated Combat System (STICS).
According to Pakistan Navy, the Agosta 90-B has been designed to operate as an anti-submarine, anti-surface and intelligence gathering platform and is also capable of diving deeper than 300 meters (about 1,000 feet) with a maximum sprint speed of 20 knots (40 kilometres per hour).
Presence of the Chairman of Direction des Constructions Navales (DCN), France, at the launching ceremony, whose 11 engineers were killed and 12 were injured in a car bomb explosion here on May 8, symbolised the continuation of cooperation between the two countries.
He said the third Agosta 90B, being built indigenously, will be launched sometimes next year. Admiral Mirza later told newsmen that for the third Agosta, 70 per cent of construction work would be carried out here whereas some sections would be imported from France.
The contract for the construction of three such submarines was signed in 1995 but the work on the project was initiated in 1997. The first submarine, KHALID, built in France, was inducted in the PN fleet in 1999.
About the future plans of shipbuilding in Pakistan, Admiral Mirza said the government has okayed plan for the construction of four surface ships for which we want to negotiate a deal with China on transfer of technology basis.
One of the four F-22 P type 2,500-ton frigates will be built in China while the remaining three will be built in Pakistan in the existing facilities, said Admiral Mirza.
He said that acquisition and construction of surface ships was also a priority for the Navy. It is necessary that after the construction of these three submarines this programme should continue in the future, he emphasised.
Replying to a question, he said that despite the presence of a large number of submarines in the Indian fleet, Pakistan has an edge as far as the submarine capability — weapon systems, sensors and missile system — is concerned.
He dispelled the impression that India could mount a blockade of Karachi and said there is a lot of difference between the 1971 situation and the current circumstances.
He stated that our aviation assets also have missiles. So now the enemy cannot even think of anything like the blockade of Karachi. If their ships do come near Karachi then we will get the best target, he added.
Referring to the incident in which French engineers fell victim to terrorist attack in Karachi, Admiral Mirza said that though this could have inflicted irrevocable damage, the Agosta project remained on track, “thanks to the excellent cooperation between France and Pakistan.”
“This is a message to those who committed the cowardly act of terrorism that such incidents will not deter or dissuade the two countries from achieving the common desired objectives,” said Admiral Mirza.
In recognition of the sacrifices made by the French technicians the section building hall of the SMC was named “Cherbourg Hall”.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Commander Logistics, Rear Admiral Mushtaq Ahmed, gave a resume of the project which he termed a milestone.
Begum H.H. Ahmed, wife of a former Naval chief, pressed the button to lower the submarine into the water.
The ceremony was also attended by the Chairman of DCN (Log) France, Yves Couchet, Director DCN Laurent Barthelemy Cherbourg, Director Submarine Project Alain Yvetot, were also present on the occasion.