The Pakistan Navy kicked of its biannually-held multinational AMAN 2017 naval exercise on February 10, according to the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media arm of the Pakistan Armed Forces.
The exercise, held from February 10 to 14, involves 37 countries with nine nations–Australia, China, Indonesia, Turkey, Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom, the United States, Japan and Russia–participating with warships or aircraft.
AMAN 2017 is the fifth iteration of this multilateral naval drill. Previous exercises were held in 2007, 2009, 20011, and 2013, and 2016 respectively. This year’s focus will be on maritime security including counterpiracy and counterterrorism operations at sea.
According to the ISPR press release the exercise is intended “to devise procedures and techniques against conventional and non conventional threats” and will be divided up into two phases. A so-called harbor phase will include ship visits, sports events, and a maritime security conference in which participants will present research papers, among other things.
“On conclusion of harbor phase, sea phase commences in which basic and high level exercises will be conducted wherein, ships, aircraft, helicopters and special operations forces will participate in diversified sea based activities including Gunnery Firings, Rocket Depth Charge Firing, Anti-Piracy Demonstrations, Replenishment at Sea and Fly Past,” ISPR states. The exercise will conclude with a fleet review.
Overall, 15 ships will take part in the naval drill. The United States has sent four ships; China and Russia have each dispatched three ships, while Australia, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, Turkey and Sri Lanka each dispatched one. Japan will participate with two P-3C Orion aircraft, whereas the Maldives, Malaysia, Nigeria, and Russia have each dispatched Special Operations Forces detachments.
Of special interest is the first time participation of Turkey and Russia and another indicator that both countries are seeking closer defense ties with Pakistan.
As I reported in 2016, Turkish state-owned defense contractor STM was awarded 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 currently in service with the Pakistan Navy.
Pakistan is also slated to export 100 MFI-395 Super Mushshak military training aircraft, a licence-built variant of the Saab MFI-17 Supporter aircraft, to Turkey. In addition, Pakistan has expressed interest inTurkey’s first indigenously-designed, third generation+ main battle tank Altay.
Islamabad is reportedly also considering purchasing Su-35 multirole combat aircraft from Russia. (Russia only lifted a longstanding arms embargo against Pakistan in 2014.) Furthermore, the Pakistan Army is set to receive four Russian-made Mi-35M attack helicopters this year. As I reported in 2016, Pakistan wants to replace its aging fleet of U.S.-made AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters with up to 20 Mi-35M. In 2016, Russia and Pakistan have also held their first ever joint military exercise with 200 military personnel from both countries participating in the drill primarily focused on counterinsurgency operations.