The F-22P or Zulfiquar (English: Sword) class frigate is a 2,500t multi-mission, conventionally powered frigate built for the Pakistan Navy. Design and construction of the F-22P started after a $750m deal was signed in 2005 between Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence Production (MoDP) and China Shipbuilding Trading Co (CSTC).
The deal involved an order for construction of four F-22P frigates for the Pakistan Navy’s fleet. The deal included an order for four to six Harbin Z-9EC helicopters and ammunition for the frigates. The first of the frigates, PNS Zulifqar, was delivered in September 2009.
The second frigate, PNS Shamsheer, was launched in October 2008. It was commissioned into the Pakistan Navy in December 2009. The third frigate, PNS Saif, was launched in May 2008 and was delivered in September 2010. The fourth frigate in class, PNS Aslat was built at Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works under a technology transfer agreement signed with China. It was delivered to the Pakistan Navy in April 2013.
The addition of the F-22P frigates will bolster the Pakistan Navy’s fleet and improve its fighting capabilities. The fleet already includes six Amazon-class frigates and Karachi-built Jalalat-class guided missile patrol craft. However, the fleet does not include destroyers and the limited number of ships has stopped the navy providing a safe environment for maritime activity.
The main roles of the frigates include air defence of a force operating at sea or in convoy, interdiction of hostile surface combatants, commerce raiding, patrolling, protection of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and undertaking heliborn operations.
The F-22P frigates are also expected to improve the country’s indigenous shipbuilding potential, as the fourth ship is being built at Karachi Shipyard.
The F-22P frigate is an updated model of the type 053H3 or Jiangwei-class frigate built by China since the 1990s. The F-22P’s hull contains China’s type 054 frigate’s radar cross-section reduction, which helps prevent detection by radars mounted on other ships, aircraft and anti-ship missiles.
The frigates can operate in multi-threat environments and are equipped with long-range surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles, which are capable of attacking multiple targets simultaneously. They are also equipped with under-sea sensors that can detect nuclear and conventional submarines at long range. Powered by four main diesel engines, the F-22P frigate can accommodate about 200 personnel.
The frigates have long-range sensors, navigational radars and trackers, sonars, electronic warfare systems, counter measures (ESM/ECM) systems and advanced command and control systems.
F-22P frigates are equipped with a single 76.2mm main gun, eight C-802/CSS-N-8 sub-sonic Saccade anti-ship missiles, an eight-round FM-90 surface-to-air missile (SAM) and two hangar-top type 730B 30mm close-in weapon system (CIWS) units. They also feature RDC-32 anti-submarine rockets, two triple ET-52C torpedo tubes, state-of-the-art homing weapon systems and depth charges.
The main gun was developed in China and is based on the Russian AK-176M. The Chinese variant contains a redesigned stealth turret to reduce radar cross-section. The gun can engage other ships and aircraft and defend against anti-ship missiles.
The anti-ship C-802 subsonic surface-to-surface missiles are carried in two containers with four cells each, installed between the main deck and the hangar. The two containers can also carry CY series anti-submarine rockets and be loaded with anti-ship and anti-submarine weapons.
The FM-90N SAM system is installed between the main deck and main gun. The system has eight cells containing one missile each. The system is set up on a mount that can be lifted in the direction of the threat. The FM-90N can engage different targets by using different guidance modes. These targets can even include supersonic and sub-sonic sea-skimming missiles. The system is also designed to engage small targets such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).
The 730B CIWS is fitted on the aircraft hangar and contains two seven-barrel Gatling guns of 30mm calibre. The CIWS employs type 347G radar and an OFC-3 electro-optic director. It can also be equipped with the FL-3000N fire-and-forget missile system by fitting up to two single-round FL-3000N launchers on each CIWS gun mount.
Each of the F-22P frigates can carry Z9EC anti-submarine helicopters. Two Z9EC helicopters have already been delivered to Pakistan. The helicopters are fitted with surface-search radar, Doppler navigation systems and radar warning receivers. They also features low-frequency dipping sonar and torpedoes. Small aerials on their roofs provide over-the-horizon targeting for C-802 anti-ship missiles.