Satellite image of a Chinese nuclear-powered submarine docked at Karachi port in May last year

New Delhi: Pakistan’s entire naval fleet, including its submarines, has been out at sea since 28 February following heightened tensions with India, exclusive satellite images accessed by ThePrint show.

ThePrint has studied a series of satellite images of Pakistan’s naval facilities since 28 February – two days after India’s air strikes on a Jaish-e-Mohammed training camp in Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and a day after the Pakistan Air Force tried to carry out retaliatory strikes on India.

The dogfight between the two air forces saw IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman shooting down a Pakistani F-16 before his MiG-21 was downed and he was captured by Pakistan.

The satellite imagery accessed by ThePrint shows no Pakistani navy ships at the ports of Karachi, Ormara and Gwadar, indicating that the entire fleet had been operationally deployed for more than a week starting 28 February. The fleet consists of nine frigates, eight submarines and 17 patrol and coastal vessels, according to reports.

The present location of Pakistan’s naval ships has been identified on satellite images, but is not being disclosed by ThePrint due to the sensitive nature of the ongoing operations.

Karachi Port

Pakistan’s main naval fleet is generally located at Karachi, and includes submarines, frigates, missile boats, patrol crafts, mine countermeasures ships and other vessels.

Satellite image of Pakistan Navy’s combatants and replenishment oilers in April, 2017

Satellite image of Karachi port in January 2018

Some of the patrol vessels and other support craft are placed at Ormara and Gwadar ports as well.

The latest images of Karachi port indicate that most of the major combatant ships, replenishment oilers and submarines have moved out since 28 February. The ships were seen at the port on 26 February, the day India launched air strikes on Balakot.

They remained out at sea as on 8 March, and no ship can be observed at the port except the ones under construction and those undergoing sea trials.

Ormara Harbour

The Ormara harbour is empty as of 8 March, except a few tugs. The entire port looks deserted.

Naval station PNS Ahsan is observed, but seems abuzz with unusual activity.
Gwadar port

The Gwadar port constructed by the Chinese does not have any ship at the pier — it was empty as of 6 March, but for one ship, a Chinese dredger which is trying to deepen the port for access to larger and heavier vessels with a larger draught.