In July 2018, Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence Production (MoDP) signed a contract with Turkey’s ASFAT A.S. (Military Factories and Shipyards Management Inc) for four MILGEM corvettes for the Pakistan Navy (PN).
Under the contract, Istanbul Shipyard and Karachi Shipyards & Engineering Works (KSEW) will each build two ships, the first of which is due in 2023. The fourth and final ship will join the PN in 2024.
This agreement is the single highest value contract signed by the Turkish Defence and Aviation Industry to date, and it marks a historic moment as it is the first domestically designed warship export.
On 29 September, the Istanbul Shipyard held the steel-cutting ceremony of the Pakistan Navy’s (PN) first MILGEM corvette. The Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan presided over the event alongside various government, naval and industry officials from Turkey and Pakistan.
Istanbul Shipyards has started work on #Pakistan's first MILGEM corvette / light frigate.
— all four ships will arrive by 2023
— the MILGEM design was modified for house 16 vertical launch system (VLS) cells so that it can carry the LY-80N SAMhttps://t.co/I7ZbsiHc4T
— Quwa (@QuwaGroup) September 30, 2019
The fourth MILGEM will be the lead ship of the joint-frigate design. Given that the PN is also buying the IP rights of this ship, it is likely that the fourth ship will form the basis of the PN’s next-generation frigates. For the PN, ownership over its own frigate design would allow it to construct additional ships at will. Thus, the in-house frigate it is designing with ASFAT A.Ş.’ could be its mainstay surface combatant in the future.
The MILGEM: High-Tech Asset As-Is
Based on disclosures thus far, it seems that the PN opted to configure its MILGEM ships as high-tech and integrated systems. From situational awareness to electronic warfare (EW) to munitions, the MILGEM, as well as Type 054A/P, will both set the standard for the PN’s surface warships.
Most of the PN MILGEM’s subsystems will come from Turkey. In fact, Aselsan secured a $191 million US contract in November 2019 to supply subsystems for the PN MILGEM program.
For the PN, the reason for this selection is likely a mix of factors, the foremost being Turkey’s willingness to extend a loan for the program. That loan likely covers Turkish origin products and services, so financing is easier for the PN. Turkey also already integrated those systems, so integration costs are lower as well.
However, these systems are also designed for a NATO end-user (Turkey), so there could be a measure of quality or performance involved as well. In a way, Turkey has become Pakistan’s intermediary for Western and NATO-grade technologies it is unable to acquire (at least affordably) from Europe.
Finally, Turkey showed a willingness to open or modify its subsystems so that the PN can integrate its own weapons, data links, and other systems to those solutions.
Aselsan SMART-S Mk2
The PN MILGEM’s main search and targeting radar will be the SMART-S Mk2. The design belongs to Thales Group (Thales Nederland), but Aselsan manufactures the radar under license. However, in the years since it took on the program, the company succeeded in sourcing many critical radar components domestically. In fact, Thales is sourcing the transmitter/receiver modules (TRM) of these radars from Aselsan.
The Aselsan SMART-S Mk2 is an active phased array radar offering an instrumented range of 250 km. The radar can detect and track up to 500 airborne and surface targets. Based on Thales Nederland’s catalogue, the radar can track missiles at 50 km, and maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) at 200 km.
The radar is marketed with dedicated electronic counter-countermeasures (ECCM) capability, suggesting a measure of defensibility against radar jamming/spoofing.
The Aselsan ARES-2NC is a variant of the electronic support measures (ESM) suite the PN selected for use from the Agosta 90B submarine (ARES-2N). The ESM suite will allow the MILGEMs to passively monitor as well as categorize and record enemy radar and communication signals. In turn, the MILGEMs will add the signals to a threat library in which electronic attack (EA) assets can use to spoof/jam enemy emitters
However, the ARES-2NC offers an additional capability: the ability to engage in EA through a directional radar-frequency (RF) jamming system. The ARES-2NC uses digital radio frequency memory (DRFM) for its EA role, covering a frequency range of 7.5-18 GHz. It is also equipped with a radar warning receiver (RWR), so it will alert the crew of enemy radar targeting against the ship…