Pakistan Navy's F-22P Zulfiquar naval frigate supplied by China

The Pakistani navy is facing problems with at least four of its Chinese-made multi-role frigates, according to a recent analysis by Geopolitica. Earlier, there were reports that Pakistan was facing problems with naval warships and even with JF-17 fighter jets which Islamabad acquired from China.

“At least four Chinese frigates, F-22P ordered in July 2009, are giving nightmares to Pakistani naval officers and men tasked with keeping them afloat in the turbulent waters of the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean,” Di Valerio Fabbri wrote for Geopolitica .

Three of the four frigates were acquired from China Shipbuilding Trading Company, and one was built at Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works under the technology transfer agreement with the Chinese company, Fabbri noted.

Pakistan had signed a $750 million deal with China in 2005 for the design and construction of the F-22P or Zulfiquar Class 2,500t multi-mission, conventionally powered frigates delivered between September 2009 and April 2013.

Pakistan’s Problems

These frigates were intended to increase the air defences of the vessels operating at sea, banning enemy surface combatants, commercial attacks, patrolling, protecting the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and carrying out heliborne operations.

According to Fabbri, such mission targets involve these frigates, which operate in multi-threat environments and are “with long-range, surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles.”

But to the great dismay of the Pakistani navy, the built-in imaging unit of the FM90 (N) missile system was allegedly found to be defective due to the faulty indication. The system was unable to lock on to the target, which in a way rendered the missiles ineffective, thereby defeating one of the critical mission targets.

These ships were equipped with a defective infrared sensor (IR17) system and SR 60 radars, two of the essential sensors on board used for air and surface search, according to the report.

These search and trace radars exhibited errors during high power transmissions, which significantly impaired their operational utility. The IR 17 sensors on the ships were defective and had to be discarded, according to the report.

Another common problem in the Chinese-built frigates was their main engine. According to Fabbri, four diesel engines drive the frigates. A critical fault with them has been low speed due to high exhaust temperatures, especially in engines three and four of all the frigates.

“A high degree of degradation was observed in the engine crankcase and casing, which undermined the coolant chemistry in the ships. Degradation of lubricating oil and deterioration of vibration isolators were some other faults in the engines,” Fabbri wrote.

Apart from these common problems, Fabri also reported some problems specific to individual ships in the Zulfiquar class frigates, such as poor performance of the radar in the PNS Aslat and faults in the single-barrelled 76 mm cannon of the PNS Zulfiqar.

Not The First Time?

This is not the first time Pakistan has faced problems with Chinese-made defence equipment.

In February, the Pakistani army reportedly faced quality and reliability issues with the VT 4 main tanks and 203 mm towed heavy artillery cannons imported from China. The tests after delivery and field shooting attempts ran into several problems.

Apart from Pakistan, other customers have faced similar problems with weapons acquired from China.

For example, the Royal Jordanian Air Force had purchased 6 CH-4B unmanned aerial vehicles (UCAV) manufactured by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), which it later decided to sell from reportedly due to dissatisfaction with the performance of these UCAVs.

Another example is the Bangladesh Air Force, which purchased 23 Nanchang PT-6 basic training aircraft from the China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation (CATIC), which were allegedly defective.

There were also other issues such as lack of after-sales service and poor maintenance from Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), Hongdu Aviation.

Are Chinese Weapons Inferior?

Experts say China is still catching up with other major arms suppliers, such as the United States and Russia, which are technologically superior. In addition, Chinese weapons have not been combat-tested like American and Russian weapons used in conflicts around the world.

“Chinese military hardware is generally lagging behind these countries (US and Russia) in terms of engines, electronics and composite materials,” said Alexander Vuving, a professor at the Daniel K Inouye Asia-Pacific Centre for Security Studies in Hawaii, a U.S. Department of Defence.

“China-made weapons are not only technologically inferior, they also remain untested on the battlefield, unlike weapons from the United States and many of its allies, as well as those from Russia,” Vuving said.

“For these two main reasons – technology and battlefield testing – China-made weapons are still significantly inferior to those from the West and Russia,” Vuving continued.

Asked why countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh tend to buy Chinese military equipment despite these problems, Vuving said: “The quality of a weapon is only a part, and often a small part, in the decision to buy it. of a third world. Land. “

“For many third world countries, their main considerations in arms procurement are price and policy, where corruption plays a prominent role. China can offer arms at a low price, with big discounts or bribes to officials responsible for procurement and between individuals.

“Buying weapons from China is also a political decision to maintain a good relationship with China, uncover their geopolitical efforts or both. That is the case with Pakistan and to a lesser extent with Bangladesh.

“Many countries that buy weapons also do not expect to use them on the battlefield, so quality considerations are often less important than political, economic and other considerations.”