China delivers 4 054AP Ships to Pakistan. Can it fight against the Indian fleet? 

On May 10, the Pakistani Navy officially received two 054AP frigates, numbered 263 and 264, in a delivery ceremony held at Shanghai Hudong Zhonghua Shipyard. These frigates mark the successful conclusion of the China-Pakistan naval frigate deal, with a total of four 054AP ships provided to Pakistan. This significant development has drawn the attention of Indian media.

According to reports, the agreement for these four frigates was signed in 2018, along with the procurement of eight S-20 submarines from China. All eight submarines are expected to be delivered to the Pakistani Navy by 2028. This naval expansion poses a major challenge for the Indian Navy, as Pakistan’s fleet will be equipped with 12 advanced Chinese-built ships, including the formidable S-20 submarines.

China delivers 4 054AP Ships to Pakistan. Can it fight against the Indian fleet? 

Some Chinese military experts have described them as “one shield and one spear.” The shield refers to the 054AP frigates, armed with the LY-80 ship-to-air missile system with a range of 40 kilometers and CM-302 anti-ship missile launchers with a maximum range of 290 kilometers. This weapon configuration makes the 054AP frigates the most powerful surface ships in the Pakistan Navy.”

“Pakistan’s 054AP frigates, although the most powerful surface warships in their Navy, may not pose a comprehensive challenge to the Indian Navy. The 054AP’s weapon configuration, including the CM-302 anti-ship missile with a range of 290 kilometers and the LY-80 ship-to-air missile with a range of 40 kilometers, falls short of the top-level capabilities seen in the Chinese Navy.

China delivers 4 054AP Ships to Pakistan. Can it fight against the Indian fleet?

 The Indian Navy, on the other hand, boasts two aircraft carriers capable of carrying over 50 carrier-based fighter jets. These aircraft carriers and their Kolkata-class destroyers equipped with the “Brahmos” anti-ship missiles with a range of 350 kilometers give the Indian Navy a significant advantage. The CM-302 missiles lack the range to threaten the Indian Navy’s aircraft carriers directly and may face challenges in comparison.”

The four 054AP frigates introduced by the Pakistan Navy primarily serve as air defense and combat against the destroyers and frigates of the Indian Navy in short and medium-range scenarios. However, they may not effectively gain an advantage against the Indian Navy’s aircraft carrier battle group. These frigates act as “shields” for the Pakistani Navy. On the other hand, the S-20 submarines, which are export versions of China’s 039B “Yuan” class submarines, play a more offensive role. 

INS Vikrant
Indian Aircraft Carrier Vikrant

Equipped with an air-independent propulsion system, the S-20 submarines can stay submerged for extended periods and feature high concealment capabilities. With six torpedo tubes and the ability to carry six C-602 anti-ship missiles with a range of 290 kilometers, these submarines can potentially target the Indian Navy’s aircraft carrier battle group.

The introduction of the eight S-20 submarines poses a challenge for the Indian Navy as they currently lack effective countermeasures against these submarines. Despite India’s acquisition of 12 P-8A anti-submarine patrol aircraft, the S-20 submarines’ ability to remain submerged for extended periods makes them difficult to detect using anti-submarine aircraft. Once these submarines are combat-ready, they become hidden threats capable of targeting the Indian Navy’s aircraft carrier battle group. The mere presence of these submarines can restrict the operational capabilities of the Indian Navy’s aircraft carrier, neutralizing its advantage.

However, it’s important to note that the acquisition of four 054AP frigates and eight S-20 submarines represents a current stage of development for the Pakistan Navy. The Indian Navy is also actively enhancing its capabilities, with plans for a new aircraft carrier, the construction of “Scorpene” class AIP submarines, and regional air defense destroyers. 

As the Indian Navy continues to strengthen, relying solely on the four 054AP frigates and S-20 submarines may not provide a long-term confrontation capability for the Pakistan Navy. Consequently, the Pakistani Navy will likely need to introduce more advanced ships in the future, and China’s export-oriented Type 052D destroyer could be a viable option to consider.