Pakistan navy’s indigenization efforts
By Muhammad Ali Khan
Today’s era is trademarked as the period of express novelties and customs like technology obsolescence. Pakistan is an agriculture based economy with limited technical base whereby accomplishing national defence needs; becomes a challenging affair. The scenario of complex global geopolitical dynamics and national defence, warrants the enhanced obligation of self-reliance through indigenization.
Pakistan’s superior strategic orientation w.r.t East & West trade routes and neighborhood of world emerging economies; affords a variety of challenges and opportunities. These challenges and opportunities have already been manifested with the evolvement of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) signifying secured land and sea trade routes. Therefore, during and after the realization of CPEC, Pakistan is definitely going to have an opportunity to act as one of the trading hub; as well as the originator of modern communications and technology innovations. This necessarily entails indigenization to fully embrace ourselves in the hi-tech domain to meet our national and defence needs across the full spectrum of requirements as far as possible.
Pakistan’s defence industries (particularly, the public sector) have shown continued growth in major weapon systems such as fighter &trainer aircrafts, tanks, submarines, frigates, patrol boats, cruise & intermediate range missiles and electronic equipment. Pakistani products enjoy the confidence of military users and have hit few international markets abroad. However, for variety of military hardware, dependable design and production capability with quality HR and financial capital are still areas of concern to achieve competitive edge in our aspiring, vibrant and volatile region.
Pakistan Navy is operating surface, aviation and sub-surface platforms of diverse origins which are equipped with variety of modern and legacy systems. To ensure secured and sustained operations at optimal performance of existing and future hi-tech PN platforms, the most viable option is local collaborative and foreign engagement of Pakistan Navy with private, public and academia to accomplish credible indigenization. It is an open secret that International Political Impulses have forced us for introvert solutions. In our case, ‘sanctions were blessings in a disguise’; as it strengthened our resolve and galvanized the defence sector for indigenization. While sanctions could be an old tactic, ‘Discrete Control’ on defence systems in this digital age, emerges as a new paradigm.
Transfer of Technology (ToT) has taken place in various Pakistan Navy projects which provided dividends at national and institutional levels. International, collaborative development projects of patrol crafts, mine counter vessels, Agosta submarines, F-22 P Ships, realized the need to establish local design capability.
With this, we have started our journey to have our own Kit of Material to achieve meaningful indigenization involving Pakistan’s local defence industry. Karachi Shipyard has progressed noticeably through PN foreign collaboration in construction of Frigates (FF), Pakistan Navy Fleet Tanker (PNFT) and Fast Attack Crafts.
Pakistan Navy initiated direct interaction with local industry and for the first time, members from Chambers of Commerce & Industries of Islamabad and Karachi visited PN Dockyard and Naval Precision Electronic Complex (NPEC) in recent past to appreciate PN requirements. PN delegations also visited various industrial facilities and engineering houses at Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad to explore and expand local industrial potential. First time in the history of Pakistan, PN has engaged People’s Steel Mills for fabrication of steel plates for PN Ships’ hull.
Many projects from very basic to high end electronics have been completed and many others are in offing through the local industry. Here, it is a matter of pride to share that sophisticated simulators related to PN submarines, ships and vehicles have been developed through public and private in country organizations. Similarly, more hi-tech projects have attracted the public / private industry and academia.
That includes but not limited to Remotely Operated Underwater vehicles, long range Line-Of-Sight Video Telemetry Systems (LOS-VTS), Radio Frequency monitoring and Location Systems etc. Establishment of Field Research and Evaluation Center (FREC) with a pool of PhD officers at Pakistan Navy Engineering College PNS JAUHAR are also the steps towards right direction. Collaborative engagements have been initiated between Academia and public industry.
In order to meet technological requirements of our defence services in general and Pakistan Navy in particular, close coordination and functioning of public private partnership is paramount. At present, academia is not fully geared up for enhancing indigenization, promoting innovations and entrepreneurship. Key issues still exist for Pakistan’s defence industry in critical areas of qualification, technical base and lack of design strength.
Therefore Public-Private-academia must have collaborative design developing or sharing mechanism to meet defence sector requirements. Further, measures to produce quality product need to be adopted by local industry through mutual sharing of information related to requisite quality standards to meet military / marine grade requirements.
PN is determined to promote national indigenization effort through concrete engagement with local industry. Projects of critical technologies involving hi-tech electronics and precision engineering are being undertaken with the help of local partners. This is not only aimed at capability enhancement of indigenous resource holders but a greater capacity building is also in focus. PN plans to involve our local industry at a greater scale in the future projects especially through offsets in foreign and local contracts. This is likely to benefit both sides in terms of technology, knowledge and enhanced user confidence for future endeavours.