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Pakistan to buy German subs

A file photo of German U214 attack submarine

KARACHI (BNS): Pakistan plans to acquire U214 (Type 214) attack submarines from Germany for its naval expansion under an over a billion dollar deal which the two countries are expected to sign in the coming months.

Walter Freitag, chief executive officer of the HDW (Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft), the largest conventional submarine maker in the world, in an interview at the defence products exhibition IDEAS 2008 here on Tuesday said his company had finalised technical specifications with the navy to build three Type 214 submarines in Pakistan, according to local English daily ‘The News’.

“The commercial contract has been finalised up to 95 per cent,” the official said, hoping that the final contract in this regard would be signed soon.

This is the first time that a clear picture of the billion dollar deal that the Pakistan navy is expected to sign in coming months has emerged. Earlier, during mid-90s, the country’s navy had selected three French Agosta 90-B submarines, which were in addition to the two acquired earlier. The deal had generated a lot of controversy at that time.

The French firm Armaris had offered to supply Pakistan three updated single-hulled, diesel-electric submarines — all-French version of the Franco-Spanish Scorpene boat equipped with air-independent propulsion, a deal totalling about $1.2 billion.

However, Freitag said he did not see that kind of controversy enveloping this project perceived during the 90s. “The Pakistan navy understands submarines and ours are the best,” he said, rejecting claims of competitors that the Greek navy had rejected Type 214.

“In the Hellenic Navy’s case, a neutral surveyor was appointed, who decided that the submarine was technically OK and ready for commissioning,” he said, adding, the Type 214 was technologically more advanced than those of competitors. “We use higher grade steel material, which allows greater diving depth. Also, we have fuel cell AIPs and can integrate Harpoons with the Type 214.”

The first submarine would be delivered to the Pakistan navy in 64 months after signing of the contract while the rest would be completed successively in 12 months.

Freitag said they would be using facilities at the Karachi Shipyard for building Type 214 and minimal upgrade would be required. He added that the Type 214 was 100 per cent German and there was no chance of embargo on it in any case.

The Type 214 submarines with an overall length of 65m are equipped with air independent propulsion (AIP) and flank array sonar (FAS). It is cell-powered and uses fuel cells rather than a diesel engine to recharge its batteries which thus produces much less sound while doing so, and consequently the effective detection range of many of the current passive acoustic sonobuoys is reduced.

It is the export version of the sophisticated U212 attack submarines. But Type 212 is only meant for Germany which is said to be the quietest submarine with added stealth features like non-magnetic hull that produce no magnetic signature for the maritime patrol aircraft to detect using their magnetic field sensors.

Type 214 has all the features of U212 except the non-magnetic hull which makes it an ordinary state of the art submarine. Moreover, Type 214 is even an improved version of Type 209 that India is presently operating. This move of Pakistan is inferred as to maintain a balance with India’s Scorpene submarines bought from France.

The authoritative sources in Pakistan said that the decision to acquire Type 214 over the French submarine was made because many countries had deployed the former ones, so there would be no issue of spares.

Turkey would be acquiring six Type 214s, South Korea had ordered six more in addition to three ordered earlier, Portugal had bought two, besides several bought by the German navy. “As such, supportability for the Type 214 for the next 30-35 years would not be a major concern,” they were quoted as saying by ‘The News’.

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