ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Sept. 15 (UPI) -- In a move intended to boost its surface warfare capabilities, the Pakistani navy has taken delivery of its first F-22p class frigate.
The frigate is the first of three Sword/F-22P-class vessels that Pakistan has ordered from China under a $750 million deal.
Christened PNS Zulfiqar, the new frigate was received by Pakistani naval officials at Karachi port after first taking part in naval exercises in the Arabian Sea under the watchful gaze of Rear Adm. Asif Sandila, commander of the Pakistan fleet, local media reported.
Armed with ship-to-ship and ship-to-air missiles, the PNS Zulfiqar was constructed at Shanghai's Hudong Zhonghua Shipyard.
Two other ships of the class are nearing completion at the Shanghai shipyard, set to be delivered to Pakistan by the end of 2010. A fourth ship under construction at Karachi Shipyards is expected to join the fleet by 2013, the Press Trust of India news agency said, quoting Pakistan's Naval spokesman Commander Mubeen Bajwa.
The PNS Zulfiqar, a modification of the Type-53H3 design, was commissioned in late July. Under the lucrative deal, China will also supply four to six Harbin Z9EC anti-submarine warfare helicopters to Pakistan.
"The arrival of the PNS Zulfiqar marks the first time in Pakistan's history in which it has received a new-build major frontline warship," Defense News reported.
The Pakistani navy's fleet is composed of six aging ex-Royal Navy Type-21 frigates of 1970s vintage. Three of them are fitted with Chinese SAM arms; the rest with Boeing RGM-84A Harpoon anti-ship missiles due to space and top weight limitations.
"That makes the 3144-ton Sword class frigates considerably more versatile," Defense News reported.
In recent months, the United States has pledged to transfer the USS McInerney frigate to the Pakistani navy following decommissioning from the U.S. Navy next year. It is expected that the ship will join a multinational force aimed at fighting piracy in the troubled waters of the Gulf of Aden, Arabia Sea and Indian Ocean.
Pakistan's navy, however, faces allegations that it tampered with missiles the United States sold to it in the 1980s to enable them to be used against land targets.
Should the allegations prove true, Pakistan could be in violation of U.S. law -- an issue said to have been raised by Obama administration officials with Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani three months ago.