In Pursuit of Type-214 (Brasstacks)

Posted from Brasstacks

With new developments regarding the purchase of new attack submarines for Pakistan Navy, Brasstacks analyses in depth the repercussions of recent news to buy Chinese submarines once again dumping the much needed German Type 214 submarines.
There are reports that the government is eyeing acquisition of Chinese smaller submarines, which once again tantamount to risking the national defense, especially keeping in view the Indian ambitions to create naval hegemony in the Indian Ocean by outclassing Pakistani and Chinese navies.
This paper is a continuation of our earlier analysis of the same matter discussed in last month’s issue of Brasstacks; wherein we have explored the pros and cons of choosing French Submarines ignoring the German bid. In this paper we give you a more meticulous rationale regarding why Pakistan Navy requires German submarine Type 214 instead of the Chinese or French.

Keeping in view Pakistan’s maritime threat perceptions vis-à-vis existing deficiency in the number of submarine platforms, funds were allocated in Armed Forces Development Programme (AFDP-2019) for early purchase of new submarines to counter the ever growing Indian Navy threat in Pakistan’s Area of Interest. Process of acquisition was thus accordingly initiated in 2004, when a Naval Service Requirement (NSR) based on Pakistan Navy’s threat perception and peculiar operating environment was prepared and subsequently approved at Naval Headquarters. German Type 214 (commonly known as U-214) submarine was finally selected after a painstaking and detailed technical evaluation process involving all tiers of the Navy and approval acquired at highest forums. Moreover, concurrence from top Government hierarchy was also obtained under the personal guidance of then Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Muhammad Tahir NI(M).
Type 214 submarine is the most modern, quieter, state of the art, air independent propulsion system (proven fuel cell technology) fitted platform; capable of undertaking full spectrum of offensive missions in shallow as well as in deeper waters. This class of submarine guarantees, accomplishment of all present and future missions assigned to Pakistan Navy Submarine Force with full effectiveness and lethality. Type 214 submarine with its present day capabilities can also be very effectively pitched against the Indian Akula II and Arihant (ATV) nuclear submarines. As of today, 22 Type 214 submarines (02 Portugal, 04 Greece, 10 South Korea, 06 Turkey) have been contracted. The above numbers also invalidate the baseless allegations levied against its technical aspects, especially by the Hellenic Navy, which is presently seeking delivery of her 2nd Type 214 submarine from the German Yard. Interestingly, this submarine incorporates similar equipment (weapon & sensors) which are also installed on other German origin submarines operating worldwide e.g. Type 212A, Type 209s etc. Therefore, such a large family with common range of equipment is likely to provide sustained post induction spares supportability as well, an operational flexibility that Pakistan Navy lacked in Agosta90B  deal.

The looming threats and operational compulsions necessitate Pakistan Navy to acquire this submarine as soon as possible. Reconsidering other options now, like smaller submarines or Chinese platforms, when already a substantial time has been spent on thorough evaluation of submarines earlier, would result only in distraction from the main cause. A grim situation, ending up yet again, in opting for “a Platform not of Navy’s choice“, and with many serious implications that would be faced in times to come. Lessons, if learnt from earlier project, might affect the decision makers this time. The Chinese considerably lack in conventional submarine technology as compared to their western counterparts. The country itself maintains a fleet of Russian origin Kilo class submarines. Hence, Chinese built platforms cannot guarantee the quality and capability that Pakistan Navy is looking for.

(Chinese Yuan Class Submarine)
India on the other hand is following an ambitious and a progressive submarine acquisition programme. India has planned to acquire 24 conventional submarines, 02 x AKULA II nuclear submarines from Russia by the year 2010, indigenous nuclear submarine platform ATV ARIHANT has already been launched (based on Akula I design). 1st batch of French made 06 x Scorpene submarines will be delivered to Indian Navy by 2016.

AKULA II Submarine
In addition, request for 2nd batch of six more conventional submarines has also been floated by India and HDW (German yard) is also one of the contenders. Presently, the HDW has not shown any active interest for the Indian request but if Pakistan Navy’s project is not materialized, possibility of offering Type 214 submarines to India by Germany may be likely. Moreover, HDW has also declined (for the time being) Indian Navy’s request for supply of plug-in Fuel Cell (AIP system) for Scorpene submarines, which may also get materialized in the aforesaid case. It is noteworthy to reveal that Indian Navy is also acquiring the same Heavy Weight Torpedo for their Scorpene submarines, which have successfully been inducted onboard Pakistan Navy submarines as well. This simply reflects the superior & proven quality of German weapons and systems.
Given the number advantage and nuclear submarine technology available with Indian Navy, the only available option for Pakistan Navy is to maintain the qualitative conventional submarine edge over its arch rival that it had enjoyed so far. However, Pakistan Navy would find it difficult to deter the growing Indian Navy’s threat from its modern surface, air and sub-surface platforms, if Type 214 submarine is not acquired expeditiously. Time is of critical essence and any inauspicious decision would slip the submarine acquisition programme far beyond in schedule and below the required standards that might be impossible to cope up with.
Presently, official policy of German government is fairly supportive with respect to Pakistan’s defense needs and has already reiterated its assurance for supply of these submarines to Pakistan despite consistent heinous Indian propaganda and their hue & cry even in the German parliament. With Angela Merkel nominated as the German chancellor for the second time; all is set for finalizing the deal at the earliest. A strategic partnership with a German construction yard (HDW) at this time juncture would contribute a lot towards any of our future programme in terms of construction expertise, complex processes, project handling, spares supportability and most importantly the transfer of design capability. Therefore, going for German submarines will have huge benefits for Pakistan Navy in capability building as well as top of the line modern conventional submarines in her inventory.
But there exists a mysterious silence despite the fact that time, tide and technology favour us. It appears that a deliberate move is underway from the corrupt and unpatriotic echelons to prevent Pakistan Navy from achieving its well deserved destiny. French kick backs and commissions would be difficult to resist but it has to be realized and understood that the Submarine Force serves as the backbone of Pakistan Navy; and is the most potent and offensive arm that is well recognized and respected in the region. This prestigious silent service has always proven its mettle in all wars & conflicts. The known ferocity of our submarines has always kept Indians away from any kind of sea aggression. It is up to the Pakistan Navy to take a stand this time, whether to uphold and preserve the National honor or to compromise the National Security needs, just by remaining aloof and letting go of such a valuable window of opportunity. Pakistan cannot afford this fatal mistake.
By Farzana Shah