Asia Defense

China to Supply Pakistan With 8 New Stealth Attack Submarines by 2028

Four of the subs will be constructed in China and the remaining four in Pakistan.

China to Supply Pakistan With 8 New Stealth Attack Submarines by 2028
Credit: Wikimedia Commons/ CRS

China will provide the Pakistan Navy with eight modified diesel-electric attack submarines by 2028, the head of the country’s next-generation submarine program told the Pakistan National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Defense during the committee’s visit to the Naval Headquarters in Islamabad on August 26, according to local media reports.

The Pakistani senior naval official’s statement in front of the committee members provides official confirmation that the program is moving ahead, although it is still unclear whether a contract has been signed. In April, a senior Pakistan Navy official announced that Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works (KSEW) had secured a contract to produce four of the eight submarines, which will be fitted with air-independent propulsion (AIP) systems.

The defense deal is valued at $4 to $5 billion and China is expected to extend a long term loan at a low interest rate. It has not officially been confirmed what type of submarine will be supplied to the Pakistan Navy by the China Shipbuilding Trading Company (CSTC) and there has been considerable speculation on the subject in the past (See: “Confirmed: Pakistan Will Buy Eight Chinese Subs”):

[T]he Wuhan-based China State Shipbuilding Industrial Corp (CSIC) supposedly had already signed a contract in April 2011 to deliver six Type 032 Qing-class conventional attack submarines by 2016/2017. (…) [O]ther media sources report that Islamabad will build submarines under license based on the Qing-class vessels displacing 3,000 tons: “Pakistan will also build two types of submarines with Chinese assistance: the Project S-26 and Project S-30. The vessels are to be built at the Submarine Rebuild Complex (SRC) facility being developed at Ormara, west of Karachi.”

The majority of analysts speculate that the new submarine will be a lighter export version of the People Liberation Army Navy (PLAN)’s Type 039 and Type 041 Yuan-class conventional attack submarine, excluding the sub’s AIP system, which might be procured independently.

According to IHS Jane’s Fighting Ships, the Type 041 Yuan-class is “a diesel electric attack submarine (SSK), potentially with Stirling air-independent propulsion, that is armed with YJ-2 (YJ-82) anti-ship missiles and a combination of Yu-4 (SAET-50) passive homing and Yu-3 (SET-65E) active/passive homing torpedoes.”

It purportedly is one of the quietest subs in the PLAN’s inventory. The scaled-down 2,300-ton export version is designated S20. The first four submarines are expected to be delivered by the end of 2023; the remaining four will be assembled in Karachi by 2028. The new subs are expected to form the the sea-based arm of Pakistan’s burgeoning nuclear second-strike triad.

The Pakistan Navy is in middle of upgrading its undersea warfare capabilities. In June, Turkish state-owned defense contractor STM won a contract for the mid-life upgrade of three Agosta 90B-class (aka Khalid-class) diesel-electric attack submarines equipped with air-independent propulsion systems.