Pakistan Acquires Four MILGEM-Class Ships from Turkey

The MILGEM ADA class corvettes can provide Pakistan with an immediate solution at an affordable cost to replace the Navy’s old Tariq-class ships

Pakistan Navy has signed a contract for the acquisition of four MILGEM-class ships with STM (Savunma Teknolojileri Mühendislik ve Ticaret), which is a military factory and shipyard company under the Turkish Ministry of National Defense. The agreement was signed at the Ministry of Defense Production (MoDP) in Islamabad.

“A tender opened by the Pakistan Navy to supply four corvettes has just been concluded, and Turkey has won the tender,” said Turkey's Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli, describing the deal as “the largest defense export of Turkey in one agreement.” While Canikli did not provide any financial details about the agreement, STM CEO Davut Yilma said in May 2017 that the cost would be $250 million per ship.

The contract also includes the transfer of technology and intellectual proprietary rights for the design of these ships to Pakistan. The first and second ships will be built at Istanbul Naval Shipyard while the two others will be constructed at Karachi Shipyard & Engineering works (KS&EW).

On May 10, 2015, during the 2017 IDEF defense exhibition in Istanbul, Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works Limited (KSEW) from Pakistan signed a letter of intent (LOI) with the Turkish company for the corvette construction.

Under the LOI, Turkey will provide Pakistan with corvettes and Pakistan will deliver its Super Mushshak training planes built by Pakistan Aeronautical Complex – Kamra. The Mushshak aircraft will replace the T-41 and SF-260 planes currently used by Turkey.

Strong Defense Ties

Pakistan and Turkey are traditional allies and have strong defense and economic ties. Over the last decade, Turkey and Pakistan have built a steady foundation for extensive cooperation in a number of different areas related to defense and security.

In 2009, the High-Level Cooperation Council which was established between the countries and then upgraded to High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council. Several meetings of the council were held, and more than 60 agreements and documents have been signed so far within this mechanism.

In May 2016, the two countries agreed to enhance their defense industry ties. The agreement was reached in Turkey during a visit by Lt. Gen. (ret.) Syed Muhammad Owais, Pakistan’s Secretary of Defense Production.

President Erdogan has said in 2016 that “The relations between Turkey and Pakistan are of exclusive nature far beyond diplomatic contacts between two states. We are two brotherly countries, not in words but in real meaning.”

The MILGEM Project

On July 4, 2017, Turkey launched its fourth and final MILGEM (Ada) class corvette, during a ceremony held in the presence of President Erdogan. The event also officially marked the start of the construction of the first Istanbul-class Frigate.

The MILGEM project is a Turkish national warship program with the aim to design and build locally a fleet of hi-tech stealth multipurpose corvettes and frigates that will replace older ships which are currently in service. Through this ambitious program, Turkey seeks to improve national military shipbuilding capacity and skills and ultimately to achieve independence from foreign weapon producers, designers, and manufacturers.

The MILGEM Project Office of the Istanbul Naval Shipyard Command executes and coordinates the design, development and construction works of the MILGEM project since March 12, 2004.

MILGEM-class corvettes are being built for the Turkish Navy. Four corvettes were already built and four F-100 Class frigates will be constructed under the program.

The MILGEM-Class Corvette 

The new MILGEM-class multimission corvettes feature stealth technologies and can perform search, rescue, patrol, observation, and anti-submarine warfare operations.

The MILGEM corvette has an overall length of 99m, a waterline length of 90.5m, a beam of 14.4m and a design draft of 3.6m. The displacement of the vessel is 2,000t. It can be fully operated at the sea state 5 and accommodate 93 crew members, including the aircrew.

The corvette is equipped with eight Harpoon Block II anti-ship missiles and a single mk31 RAM self-defense missile system, which can launch RAM anti-aircraft missiles. The Harpoon missile can strike the targets in a 124km range while traveling at a speed of Mach 0.71.

The ship is fitted with two 324mm mk32 tubes to launch mk46 torpedoes. The torpedo has a range of 7,315m and can attack high-performance submarines.

A 76mm dual-purpose gun is fitted on the vessel. In addition, two remotely controlled 12.7mm machine guns are mounted on the stabilized machine gun platform, which has been developed by Aselsan. The corvette is equipped with an aft flight deck to allow the operation of a helicopter.

Summary

The immediate concern for Pakistan Navy is to replace its obsolete Tariq-class ships, acquired second hand from the Royal Navy (UK) where they served as Type 21 Frigates. These ships are more than 40 years old and very expensive to maintain. Moreover, they are way behind, technologically, compared to modern, advanced ships.

The four MILGEM ADA class corvettes can provide Pakistan with an immediate solution at an affordable cost to replace the old Tariq-class ships. The induction of these ships will substantially enhance Pakistan Navy's combat capabilities.

The construction of the third and fourth ships at KS&EW will not only enhance the industrial production confidence and the ships construction potential but also contribute to the national economy, creating new jobs and development of highly skilled human resource of the Karachi Shipyard.

Once finalized, the deal will be the biggest export deal in the history of the Turkish defense industry. This will also be STM’s third contract with Pakistan, following a 2016 deal to refit Pakistan’s Agosta-class submarines and an earlier contract for the construction of a Pakistan Navy fleet tanker.