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China Launches Pakistani Patrol Craft

The first of a pair of new Azmat-class fast attack craft built by China Shipbuilding Industry Corp. (CSOC) for the Pakistan Navy was launch...

The first of a pair of new Azmat-class fast attack craft built by China Shipbuilding Industry Corp. (CSOC) for the Pakistan Navy was launched by Pakistani naval chief Adm. Noman Bashir, at the Xhinggang shipyard in Tianjin, China, on Sept. 20.

The 500-600 ton, 60-meter craft carries eight C-802A/CSS-N-8 Saccade anti-ship missiles.

A tender for two fast-attack craft was released in February 2010. In December 2010, a contract for an undisclosed amount was awarded to CSOC. Construction commenced in March 2011, and according to the Associated Press of Pakistan, PNS Azmat is expected to enter service by April 2012.

Images purported to be of the vessel show it to have a stealthy, angled, slab-sided superstructure. No other confirmed details are available, however.

A second vessel in the class is due to be constructed in Karachi.

Usman Shabbir of the Pakistan Military Consortium think tank said the new fast-attack craft comes at a time when the Pakistan Navy is trying to modernize its capabilities while facing financial hardship.

Specifically, the Navy will use Azmat to "secure areas closer to shore, freeing up larger warships for other normal peacetime patrol duties or international commitments such as CTF-150 and CTF-151," which are the combined task forces patrolling waters near the Horn of Africa.

Shabbir did note the vessel's light air defense armament, though, saying it did not offer much protection.

Nevertheless, he welcomed its launch and said the new vessel is a further sign of Pakistan's increasing reliance on China for its defense needs.

"The Sino-Pak naval construction relationship is allowing this to happen", he said.

"This part of the overall Sino-Pak relationship will expand and deepen over time with more warships of various types, and the submarines that are currently undergoing construction in China for Pakistan," he said.

Indeed, during the launch ceremony, Bashir stated the present geo-political situation demanded further strengthening of Pakistan-China relations in order to safeguard regional peace, stability and prosperity. The launch of Azmat is a sign of the deepening Sino-Pak relationship, he said, stating, "This relationship over the years has matured in all fields, particularly in defense."
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