China-Pakistan joint naval drill enters live-fire phase with participation of both countries’ Type 054A frigates for 1st time
Published: Jul 12, 2022 08:46 PM
The PNS Taimur, the second of four Type 054A/P frigates China built for Pakistan, is commissioned at the Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai on June 23, 2022. Photo: Courtesy of the Pakistan Navy

The PNS Taimur, the second of four Type 054A/P frigates China built for Pakistan, is commissioned at the Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai on June 23, 2022. Photo: Courtesy of the Pakistan Navy

The ongoing China-Pakistan joint naval drill off Shanghai entered a live-fire phase on Tuesday after wrapping up the exchange phase on shore, with analysts saying that the Pakistan Navy's China-built Type 054A/P frigate is expected to gain valuable experience from the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy's vessel of the same type.

Warships participating in the Sea Guardians-2 joint maritime drill, including the Type 054A guided missile frigate Xiangtan and Type 056A guided missile corvette Shuozhou from the PLA Navy and the Type 054A/P guided missile frigate Taimur from the Pakistan Navy, left port on Tuesday for the live-fire phase of the exercise, the PLA Navy said in a press release. 

During the two-day live-fire phase, the vessels will conduct training courses including communications, joint missile and main gun attacks against maritime targets, anti-aircraft shooting with close-in weapons system, joint replenishment, joint tactical maneuvering, joint anti-submarine warfare, air defense and anti-missile, as well as joint support on damaged vessels, the PLA Navy said.

The Type 903 comprehensive supply ship Qiandaohu, an early warning aircraft, two fighter jets and a helicopter from the PLA Navy will also join the drills in the process.

The live-fire phase came after the two navies wrapped up the two-day exchange phase on shore on Monday, which featured simulations of tactics and command as well as professional exchanges between sailors from the Xiangtan and the Taimur over techniques in the use of the main gun and the close-in weapon system, the support of vessel-based helicopters, anti-submarine warfare, damage control and maritime replenishment, the PLA Navy said.

Both the Xiangtan and the Taimur are of the Type 054A-classs frigate, observers said. Pakistan is the first user of the China-built Type 054A outside of China, with the Taimur, the second of four Type 054A/P frigates, being delivered to the Pakistan Navy in Shanghai on June 23, and the first ship of its class, the Tughril, having joined the Pakistan Navy Fleet in January.

Exchanges between Chinese and Pakistani sailors will enable the latter, who just received delivery of the Taimur, to quickly accumulate knowledge in making the best out of the vessel, and putting them into practice in the live-fire exercises, a Chinese military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Tuesday.

By teaming up with Chinese vessels and aircraft, the Pakistani warship will get the chance to integrate into the PLA's combat system and receive real-time battlefield information. This experience will help Pakistan build its own comprehensive combat system, the expert said, citing a report by the PLA Daily on Monday, which said the PLA Navy's early warning aircraft is scheduled to provide situational intelligence and targeting data to the Pakistani vessel in the missile attack drill.

While sharing the same general design, the Pakistan Navy's Type 054A/P is better equipped than its counterpart in the PLA Navy in some aspects, Shanghai-based news website reported on Monday. The Type 054A/P's radar system reportedly has longer detection range with additional anti-stealth capability, while its anti-ship missiles have faster speed and longer range.

This is because the Pakistan Navy uses the Type 054A/P as its main surface combatant that must be responsible for all anti-air, anti-ship and anti-submarine missions, while the PLA Navy uses the Type 054A as a support ship for only anti-submarine and additional anti-air missions, said, as the PLA Navy has larger vessels like the Type 055 and Type 052D destroyers as main surface combatants.

It reflects that China's arms industry can customize its weapons and equipment for foreign customers to suit their demands, analysts said.