An Agosta Submarine for Pakistan

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PATRON Lt Gen (Retd) SARDAR F.S. LODI makes a detailed study of the Navy's new induction in underwater warfare

An Agosta B-90 submarine manufactured in France sailed into Karachi harbour on Thursday December 16, 1999. It was commissioned into the Pakistan Navy on December 21, as PNS-M KHALID at a simple and dignified ceremony at the Pakistan Naval Dockyard, where the Chief Executive of Pakistan General Pervez Musharraf was the Chief Guest.

PNS-M KHALID is the first of the three Agosta B-90 submarines ordered from a French company, DCN International in 1994. During its construction, engineers and technicians of the Pakistan Navy were given special training in France including transfer of technology.

The second Agosta B-90 submarine is under construction at the Pakistan Naval Dockyard at Karachi and would be inducted into the Pakistan Naval Fleet in the year 2001. Work on the construction of the third submarine is also under way.

During the induction ceremony of the first Agosta B-90 submarine into the Pakistan Fleet the Chief Executive, General Pervez Musharraf said 'we have neither hegemonic designs nor any plans for expansion. We sincerely desire to seek peace in the region but not through the medium of war. The only viable option is to remove the temptation from the minds of potential aggressors by maintaining a credible deterrence'.

The Chief Executive went on to say 'I, therefore, fully endorse the requirements of a strong navy, capable of safeguarding our sea frontiers and Lines of Communication, monitoring and protecting our exclusive economic zone. Continuous efforts are at hand to provide the best available equipment to the Navy despite all economic constraints'.

Paying tributes to the Pakistan Naval Fleet the Chief Executive said. 'It is reassuring to learn that the Pakistan Fleet with its available resources, is in a battle-worthy state, committed to professionalism and capable of preserving the sovereignty of our sea frontiers and maritime interests. We have no alternative but to maintain a strong defence'.

Welcoming the Chief Executive to the induction ceremony of the first Agosta B-90 submarine, Commander of the Pakistan Fleet, Rear Admiral Gulzaman Malik said 'Today's ceremony marks the beginning of an integration process of this state-of-the-art platform into the submarine squadron. We are convinced that PNS-M KHALID will inshallah enhance the wartime effectiveness of the potent arm of Pakistan Navy'.

Giving a brief history of the new submarine KHALID the Fleet Commander said that Pakistan and the French firm of DCNI had signed a contract for three Agosta B-90 submarines on September 21, 1994. The first one KHALID has been entirely built in France, while the second and third are being built in Pakistan at the Pakistan Naval dockyard with the collaboration of DCNI of France and the Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works. 'The programme envisages a very high degree of transfer-of-technology, which is bound to benefit the local industry in improving our indigenous capability'.

The Fleet Commander went on to say 'PNS-M KHALID is the first submarine in this programme and it has been decided that these submarines will henceforth be called as 'Khalid Class Submarines'. These are equipped with an independent air-propulsion system, which is a viable substitute of nuclear propulsion, it will increase the underwater endurance of the submarine. The accomplishment of this task would be a major breakthrough for our technicians while the enhanced autonomy would give the operators a significant edge over their adversary'.

Pakistan has a long history of submarine service going back to June 1, 1964 when the first submarine PNS-M GHAZI, built in the United States was inducted into the Pakistan Fleet. Four Daphne class submarines were purchased from France in 1969-70 and in 1979 two Agosta class submarines were also purchased from France. This small and highly effective submarine arm of the Pakistan Navy, armed with wire-guided torpedoes and later with Harpoon missiles, is a powerful force to be reckoned with and capable of dealing with any aggressor or a regional bully.

The induction of the new Agosta B-90 submarine will add a greater punch to the Pakistan Fleet. It has an overall length of 67 meters and a submerged speed of about 40 knots. It can dive deeper than 300 meters and with the help of new technology its submerged endurance capability is over 60 days. It is capable of being equipped with multi-purpose torpedoes and Exocet SM-39 anti-ship missile. Both capable of being launched while the submarine is submerged.

Pakistan Navy's submarine arm has a great fighting tradition and has created a name for itself in combat. During the 1965 Indo-Pak War, when Pakistan had only one submarine, acquired a year earlier, it was able to bottle-up the Indian Navy while operating outside Bombay (Mumbai) harbour. It was a vertual blockade conducted not against merchant ships but against Naval ships who were reluctant to leave the safety of ports for fear of a lone submarine PNS-M GHAZI, operating in Indian territorial waters outside Bombay.

PNS-M GHAZI under the Command of Commander (Later Admiral) K.R. Niazi operated in Indian territorial waters from 6 to 23 September 1965 and sank two two Indian Warships during the period. The officers and sailors of GHAZI including her Captain were given ten operational awards for gallantry in operations during combat. These included two Sitara-i-Jurat and two Tamgha-i-Jurat.

On the second day of the 1965 Indo-Pak War, Pakistan Naval flotilla ships, BABUR, BADR, KHAIBAR, TIPPU SULTAN, SHAH JAHAN, JAHANGIR and ALAMGIR sailed out of Karachi and headed south towards the Indian Naval base at Bombay. The flotilla was under Commodore S. M. Anwar, Commander of the fleet who flew his flag on board the Cruiser PNS BABUR. The object of this deep sea-foray was to entice the Indian Navy out of their ports and give them battle at Sea. Where they could be dealt with by the submarine GHAZI in conjunction with the surface fleet. The Indian Navy's Western flotilla based in Bombay stayed in port, discretion being the better part of valour, and did not accept battle. On its return passage the Pakistan flotilla bombarded the port of Dwarka hoping that the Indian Naval frigate TALWAR would sail out from Okka next door. But TALWAR also decided to stay in port.

Pakistan Navy's performance in the 1965 Indo-Pak War is vividly described by India's Vice Admiral Mihir Roy, a former Commander of the aircraft carrier VIKRANT and Commander-in-Chief of India's Eastern Naval Command, in his book 'War in the Indian Ocean' published in 1995. He writes, 'But the Bombayites failed to understand the lack of success by the Indian fleet, especially with sirens wailing, Jamnagar attacked and Dwarka shelled. But nonetheless, the naval bombardment of Dwarka with the Indian fleet still preparing to sail was an affront to the sailors in white, who could not understand what was holding the fleet back'.

As Indian Vice Admiral N. Krishnan is reported to have said 'One of our frigates, TALWAR, was in Okka. It is unfortunate that she could not sail forth and seek battle. Even if there was a mandate against the Navy participating in the war, no Government would blame a warship going into action, if attacked. An affront to our national honour is no joke and we cannot laugh it away by saying 'All the Pakistanis did was to kill a cow'.

As the Indian Army was expanded and revamped after its defeat by the Chinese in 1962, similarly stung by its humiliation in the naval encounter with the Pakistan Navy in 1965 India tripled its naval power in the next six years between 1965-71. This was done in an effort to dominate the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal and project her power into the Indian Ocean, as there was no sea - threat whatsoever to her security.

During the 1971 Indo-Pak War owing to the dread of PNS-M GHAZI the Indian aircraft carrier VIKRANT was moved out of Bombay to Cochin and in October all the way to their eastern sea-board and finally not content even with the security of their massive naval base at Vishakapatnam they had it moved to the back-waters of Port Blair in the Andamans. GHAZI sailed out of Karachi on November 14, 1971, under the Command of Commander Zafar Mohammad Khan and a complement of 92 officers and sailors. GHAZI had to travel 3,000 miles of the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal looking for the VIKRANT. Having failed to locate the Indian aircraft carrier it proceeded to lay maines at the entrance to the Indian eastern Naval base of Vishakapatnam. Where on the night of December 3-4, 1971 it met a tragedy and blew up presumably on its own mine.

Operating in the Arabian Sea another Pakistan submarine PNS-M HANGOR hit an Indian anti-submarine frigate KHUKRI in Kathiawar blowing up its magazine with a torpedo and sinking it in a few minutes. The HANGOR also damaged another Indian Naval ship KIRPAN which managed to escape into shallow waters. The Indian Naval flotilla on their Western sea-board also kept close to their ports and in shallow waters for safety, rarely venturing into the open sea for fear of the submarines being operated by the Pakistan Navy.

During the two major wars with India the Pakistan Navy has successfully kept the nations sea-lanes open and prevented any interference from hostile Naval forces. The submarine arm has played a vital role in this regard. During the Kargil operations the Indian Navy had announced its intentions of blockading the Pakistani coast-line when required. This statement was for their public consumption only and to raise their sagging morale after the Indian Army and Air Force's incompetence in the fighting on the Kargil heights.

On the arrival of the latest Agosta B-90 submarine India concluded a large sea exercise in the Arabian Sea. Vice Admiral J.S. Bedi Chief of Staff of India's Western Naval Command told reporters that the 15-day exercise in the Arabian Sea saw the test-firing of two missiles and involved 35 ships, four submarines and 30 aircraft. The missiles tested were a surface-to-surface and a surface-to-air, he added without elaborating. 'This exercise was basically to validate concepts devised in the post-Kargil conflict scenario and in a high alert situation', Vice Admiral Bedi said.

The Pakistan Navy is aware of Indian intentions to dominate the Arabian Sea and has the determination and skill to protect the country's sea-frontiers and keep open its sea-lanes. The new Agosta B-90 is a useful and potent addition to its fighting ability.