KARACHI, Sept 30 In an attempt to boost its aviation wing, Chinese-built anti-submarine warfare helicopters Z9EC were inducted into the Pakistan Navy at a ceremony on Wednesday.

A separate squadron (222) of the ASW helicopters has already been created.

This is the first batch of a series of six helicopters to be procured under a contract signed with M/s China National Aero Technology Import and Export Corporation (CATIC). The deal for these helicopters was signed with the contract for four F-22 P frigates, first one of which has already been inducted into the navy as PNS Zulfiquar.

Z9EC helicopters are capable of detecting and destroying submarines. The aircraft is configured to carry torpedoes and is fitted with pulse compression radar, low-frequency dipping sonar, radar warning receiver and doppler navigation system.

Z9EC helicopter is tailor-made to operate from F22P frigates at high seas and its on-board sensors/weapons enable it to support fleet operations under multi-threat environment.

The need for acquiring ship-borne helicopters was felt with the induction of Type-21 frigates in the PN. Subsequently, three Lynx helicopters were acquired from the United Kingdom, and the 222 squadron was raised in 1996. But after playing an active role the squadron had to be deactivated in 2003 due to inadequate spares.

However, the PN remained focused on this very important operational capability and the quest for new helicopter, dedicated for ship-borne operations. As such on April 4, 2005 a contract was signed for the acquisition of six Z9EC ASW ship-borne helicopters.

Squadron 222 was reactivated on April 5, 2009 and the aircraft was officially handed over to the PN, after trials, on Sept 18.

Talking to media men, Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Noman Bashir, who was the chief guest at the induction held at Naval Aviation Base, said the Indian Ocean was experiencing intense activity and about 100 ships from different countries were operating to safeguard their interests. These extraordinary developments were an indicator of the importance of the trade routes in these waters. The PN was also continuously deploying ships and aircraft to guard the country's maritime interests, he added.

Commenting on the regional stability, the naval chief denied being part of any arms race but expressed the resolve to maintain quality in naval platforms and enhancement of capabilities in consonance with the developments in the region.

He expressed his confidence in Chinese technology and termed it compatible with Western technology. “Pakistan-China relationship is time-tested and would further be strengthened with such defence collaborations as F-22 P frigates and Z9EC helicopters projects,” he said.

Earlier in his welcome address, Commander of the Pakistan Fleet Rear Admiral Asif Sandila highlighted the salient features of the Z9EC project. He said that apart from China, Pakistan was the first country that would operate these helicopters in an anti-submarine warfare role.

“The hub of all operational activities is the integrated processing system that is capable of planning and execution of various kinds of mission profiles,” he said. “A four-channel automatic flight control system (AFCS) provides a great degree of precision in ASW operating environment.

Earlier, the PN had also used Sea King helicopters to track down submarines and other missions. Later, the Chinese-made helicopter made fly past and staged a demonstration of its characteristics and maneuverability.

The ceremony was attended by Chinese ambassador Luo Zhao Hui, representatives of M/s CATIC and a large number of senior PN officers and aviators.