Only 1 of its 5 submarines operational, Pakistan sends SOS to China
Pakistan’s current submarine force levels are low with four of its navy’s five operational units undergoing major refit and repairs, three top intelligence officials in India have independently confirmed.
“We have inputs that indicate that only one Pakistan Navy submarine is partially operational. And this is the reason why they were frantically seeking help of the Chinese Navy to secure their maritime interests post-Pulwama,” said one of the three personnel cited above, a senior intelligence official. None of the three wished to be identified.
On February 14, a suicide bomber of the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed attacked an Indian paramilitary force convoy in Jammu and Kashmir, killing 40. India responded by bombing a Jaish terror facility in Pakistan on February 26.
After that air strike, a Pakistan Navy submarine was detected in the international waters off India’s west coast on February 27, the day when an intrusion by a Pakistan Air Force (PAF) fighter was effectively repelled in the Nowshera sector.
Indian Navy officials say the maritime force was very clear about deployment of Pakistani naval assets after the Balakot strikes.
“Maritime domain awareness was very high. We are still deployed and in full control of the situation,” a senior navy official said on condition of anonymity.
According to the intelligence officials, the lone submarine on patrol in high seas off the coast of India was part of the deception mission adopted by the Pakistan Navy. The submarine, which was identified by its radar signature, moved back to its base shortly, with the Pakistan Navy de-escalating its forward posture.
Indian Navy officials declined to comment on the state of Pakistan’s submarines. According to Vice Admiral (Retd) Madanjit Singh, former Commander-in-Chief, Western Navy, a partially operational submarine means that there are restrictions over diving to a certain level.
Pakistan has five French-made submarines, of which three belong to Augusta 90B class or Khalid class and two, with a nearly 40-year vintage, belong to the Augusta 70 or Hashmat class. While PNS Khalid is nearly 20 years old, PNS Saad is 18 years old and PNS Hamza was commissioned 11 years ago. HT learns that all three are under major repairs being done by a Turkish company and are expected to join active service only in 2020. The Khalid-class subs can fire cruise missiles.
While the Indian Navy remain tight-lipped, intelligence reports indicate that only PNS Hurmat, commissioned in 1980, is partially operational, with lead class boat PNS Hashmat, commissioned in 1979, undergoing a major overhaul. Submarines are a huge deterrent in times of hostility as they are used to prevent forward deployment of surface naval assets of the adversary and also to wreak economic damage by hampering harbour operations of the enemy.