The Pakistan Navy

Custodian of The Country’s Coastline

As the custodian of the country’s coastline, territorial waters, and Sea Lines Of Communications (SLOCs) the Pakistan Navy has a vital role to play in the defence set-up of the country.

The Pakistan Navy’s primary role is to guard the country’s territorial waters and oversee enforcement of jurisdiction over nearly 240,000 square miles of waters constituting Pakistan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The navy is also tasked with protection of Pakistan’s SLOCs, its 960km long coastline and its ports, especially the port of Karachi. Barely 150 km from the Indian border, Karachi has the only developed berthing facilities for handling the bulk of Pakistan’s trade, naval dockyards, repair and overhauling facilities as well as the strategic national petroleum reserves. Another port of significance is Port Qasim, a more modern commercial port designed primarily for grain exports, but without naval shore facilities. Of lesser importance are the subsidiary ports of Pasni. Jiwani and Gwadar. Critical SLOCs are the maritime routes running from Karachi to the Persian Gulf, the Suez Canal, East Africa and the Far East.

After the Passing of the UN Law of Sea Convention of 1982, Pakistan acquired an EEZ of about 240,000 square miles. In order to provide protection to this vast area, the Pakistan Government decided to raise the Maritime Security Agency (MSA), which was formally inaugurated on 1 January 1987. The MSA implements the local and international laws in the EEZ, and provides surveillance against poaching by illegal vessels and unauthorised survey by foreign craft. It also conducts SAR missions, and implements measures for control of pollution and fishery protection. Available SAR facilities include aircraft, surface vessels and a network for the reception of distress signals.

Secondary navy’s mission comprise coastal surveillance; SAR duties, hydro-graphic surveys, maintaining navigational aids, and law enforcement. As regards in particular the latter, in recent years the navy’s role has been expended to include narcotics interdiction, anti-terrorist operations, anti-smuggling, elimination of piracy and combating environmental pollution. The naval headquarters is situated at Islamabad but the fleet as logistic commands are in Karachi, together with most of the training facilities. During the late 1980s, in association with the expansion of the fleet, the Pakistan Government ordered the construction of a new major base at Ormara, 200km west of Karachi. The Ormara Project was named “Jinnah Naval Base” after the founder of the nation.

During the 1980s, the Pakistan Navy went through an unprecedented period of growth. It virtually doubled its surface fleet from nine main surface combatants in 1980 up to 16 by 1989, also acquiring sophisticated long-range anti-ship missiles and enhancing its maritime reconnaissance capabilities. This expansion process also proved the navy’s ability to manage the added administrative, maintenance and operational loads.

The submarine force currently consists of two HASTMAT class (AGOSTA type) built between 1976 and 1980, four HANGOR class (DAPHNE type) built between 1967 and 1970 and one KHALID class (AGOSTA 90B type), all of these boats being of French origin. The HASHMATs were modified in 1985 to fire Sub-HARPOON depth-to-surface anti-ship missiles. The HANGOR class boats, now close to obsolescence, will be replaced by three new AGOSTA 90B type submarines, first of which has already been inducted into Pakistan navy.

The main assets of the naval air wing currently consist of two P-3C ORION and four improved Breguet ATLANTIC anti-submarine and maritime patrol aircraft, four F-27 maritime surveillance and EW aircraft, plus thirteen ship-borne helicopters, comprising six Mk45 SEAKINGs, three LYNX ASW/attack types and four SA-319B ALOUETTE IIIs. The Marine Corps is the youngest force in the Pakistan Navy. With its establishment the navy has become capable of operations on four dimensions, i.e., on the sea with surface combatants, under the sea with submarines, in the air with naval aircraft and on the ground with the Marine Corps.

The Pakistan Navy is moving from the old to new technologies at a rapid pace. The navy will have to consolidate the new weaponry, which will take time as this will involve a basic restructuring of personnel and logistics to suit future needs.