I think the plan is to fit sub systems from multiple sources:
1. Retiring PN ships (like CIWS, main gun, ASW rockets, etc)
2. PN indigeneous development (Harbah, new supersonic missiles, PDMS)
3. Chinese subystems
4. Turkish subsystems
5. minor systems from other sources
6. Helicopters very likely Italian.
In 2017, Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence Production (MoDP) signed a deal with the Dutch contractor Damen Shipyards Group for two offshore patrol vessels (OPV). Originally a 1,900-ton design, both Damen and the PN converted the program into two 2,300-ton ships, which they re-designated as ‘corvettes.’
Damen Shipyards Group delivered the first ship, PNS Yarmook, in February 2020, and will hand the second one – i.e., PNS Tabuk — over to the PN in May 2020. The PN will use the corvettes as general-purpose ships for both peacetime policing as well as conventional wartime operations.
Timeline of Acquisition
Damen Shipyards Group won a tender to supply multi-mission corvettes to the PN. In 2017, a Louisiana-based contractor, Swiftships, announced that it won a PN contract two corvettes, plus an option to supply two additional ships. The stated role of these ships – i.e., 75 m ‘Swift Corvette’ – was identical to the role intended for the Damen OPVs, indicating that two contractors were competing for the same program.
However, besides an official statement by Swiftships, there was no follow-up regarding the Swift Corvette, which indicates that Swiftships ultimately lost to Damen Shipyards Group.
In June 2017, the MoDP inked a contract with Damen Shipyards Group for two OPVs. Karachi Shipyards & Engineering Works (KSEW) was supposed to build one of the ships. However, the PN altered the contract and, in turn, awarded Damen Shipyards to build both ships at its facilities in Galati, Romania. Based on the Swift Corvette news, it would seem that the PN could have an option to buy two additional ships.
Damen Shipyards Group launched the lead ship for tests in May 2019, and the second ship in September 2019. The PN commissioned the first ship, PNS Yarmook (F-271), in February 2020. It will take delivery of the second ship, PNS Tabuk, in May 2020. However, the PN opted to fit the ships with their weapons and subsystems in Pakistan, so the corvettes may not be fully mission-ready before 2021, at the earliest. ‘Built to Commercial Standards’
The PN refers to the ships as ‘corvettes’ and, in turn, intends to use them in wartime. However, according to Damen Shipyards Group, the Yarmook-class is, technically speaking, an OPV. Its representatives stated that these ships were built to “commercial standards,” which results in a lower acquisition cost. But the PN did specify several military requirements, which Damen Shipyards Group added to the design.
Overall, it seems that PN got a custom design based on Damen’s OPVs, but with added elements from the Damen’s SIGMA-line of military-standard corvettes and frigates.
A unique characteristic of the PN’s ‘corvette’ is that the superstructure bears aesthetic similarities to the SIGMA-line, especially at the bow/fore. However, Damen’s representatives stated that the PN’s ships are, technically, OPVs. So, the acquisition cost of these ships is likely closer to the $55-60 million-per-ship range Malaysia paid for its OPV 1800s, as opposed to the $250-300 million one can expect from the SIGMA.
The PN is separately adding the subsystems and weapons, so the unit cost of the Yarmook-class will likely reach closer to $75-90 million per ship. In any case, it offers a comparatively low-cost means to the PN for getting a ship that can patrol Pakistan’s full exclusive economic zone (EEZ), while also retaining the ability to deploy anti-ship missiles (AShM) and electronic intelligence (ELINT) systems.
It will be interesting to see if the PN opts for additional ships. The PN could have an option for two follow-on ships, though that might be a contingency in case another program (e.g., MILGEM/Jinnah-class or Type 054A/P) faces delays. Alternatively, the PN could also look at building a larger fleet of these ‘corvettes’ as a lower cost means of scaling-up its maritime policing and coalition efforts without diverting its frigates.
Damen Shipyards Group does not have a profile for the Yarmook-class. However, Damen’s collateral designated the Yarmook-class as the ‘OPV 1900′, but there is no profile for the ‘OPV 1900’ either. It seems that the closest design to the Yarmook-class is the ‘OPV 2400,’ which displaces at 2,400 tons, which is close to the Yarmook-class’ 2,300 tons. The following specifications are inferred based on the OPV 2400.
Displacement: 2,300 tons
Length: 90 m
Beam: 14.4 m
Top Speed: 23 knots
Range: 6,000 nautical miles
Endurance: 40 days
The Yarmook-class also offers a landing pad and hangar for a helicopter. In addition, it can carry two RHIB (rigid-hulled inflatable boats), specifically one 11.5 m and one 6.5 m RHIB.
Damen Shipyard Group’s press release also confirms that the Yarmook-class contains space for two special mission modules, i.e., identical to the OPV 2400. Damen says that the end-user can use these modules for anti-submarine warfare (ASW), mine countermeasures (MCM), logistics and other roles.
Based on a scale model, the Yarmook-class will be equipped with a remote weapon station for a cannon, but the caliber is not clear. It is not a 76 mm main gun, rather, it seems to be the size the Aselsan STAMP.
The scale model shows two quad-cell launchers for anti-ship missiles (AShM). If the PN is continuing with this arrangement, then the AShM is likely the C-802A. If it instead switches to the Harbah, then it will add two three-cell launchers instead. The latter would offer a land-attack capability to the Yarmook-class.
The scale model includes a close-in-weapons-system (CIWS) towards the aft of the ship. The model seems to show the Chinese Type 730, but the Aselsan GOKDENIZ may be an option as well. The CIWS will offer a measure of point-defence protection against low-flying threats, but the Yarmook-class will ultimately rely on the area-wide air defence coverage of the Type 054A/P and/or MILGEM.
According to Damen Shipyards Group, the Yarmook-class can carry two special mission containers. If it is similar to the OPV 2400, then ASW is an option. Specifically, Damen says that the OPV 2400 can carry a side-scan sonar through the container. It is unclear if this also includes torpedo launchers, but it is possible the response measure may come through an accompanying helicopter.
The PN is unlikely to dedicate the containers for ASW in peacetime; for the latter, it may keep the space open for humanitarian and disaster relief (HADR), search-and-rescue (SAR), and other missions.
The PN did not disclose exactly how it will configure the Yarmook-class’ subsystems. It will carry Aselsan’s ALPER LPI (low-probability-of-intercept) radar, however besides that, the system-set is not known.
However, the corvettes were intended to undertake the following roles:
This capability would come through the AShMs and, potentially, either a main search radar (e.g., Aselsan SMART-S Mk2) or by relying on the Naval Information Exchange System (NIXS). The corvettes will leverage area-wide situational awareness and, likely, offboard sensors from other ships and aircraft for targeting.
The corvette will rely on its CIWS to carry out this role. However, it could rely on a radar to direct the CIWS towards its potential target, or use an electro-optical (EO) tracker.
Surveillance and Intelligence Gathering Operations
This role would imply the inclusion of an electronic support measures (ESM) suite, specifically one with an ELINT system to passively monitor and record enemy radar and communications signals. Alternatively, the corvette could use its unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to monitor an area visually using an EO turret.