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KARACHI, June 16: The first indigenously manufactured multi-mission sword-class frigate, PNS Aslat, which is fourth and last in the series of F-22P frigates being acquired from China under a transfer-of-technology accord, was launched at the Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works on Thursday.

Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Noman Bashir was the chief guest on the occasion.

Speaking at the ceremony, Admiral Noman said that the launch of F-22P ship at KS&EW was a commendable accomplishment and a loud manifestation of the indigenisation policy of the government, especially attaining self-reliance in maritime defence capabilities.

Three other frigates — PNS Zulfiquar, Shamsheer and Saif — built in China under the 2005 agreement have already been commissioned in the Pakistan Navy.

Designed for a speed of 29 knots, the vessel`s main capability is anti-submarine warfare and air defence of a force operating at sea or convoy at a particular area. It is also capable of interdiction of hostile surface combatants and patrolling, monitoring and protection of the exclusive economic zone. Besides contributing to international security through UN peace-keeping and flag showing missions, the ship is competent to be used in search and rescue operations.

The 123-metre-long vessel has the capability of carrying surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles, depth charge system, torpedo, Z9EC helicopter, anti-air guns and Chaff IR launcher. The frigate is equipped with surveillance radar, fire control radar, integrated anti-submarine system, radar warning receiver system and laser warning system.

Acknowledging the efforts of Pakistani and Chinese engineers and technicians for the construction of the F-22P frigate at the Karachi shipyard, the navy chief congratulated the China State Shipbuilding Company, China Shipbuilding and Trading Company, Hudong Zhongua and Karachi shipyards for launching the ship as per schedule.

He said the occasion was yet another example of unparalleled Pakistan-China relations. Being an important milestone, the warship`s launch had not only strengthened the relations but also added colour and eminence to celebrations for 60 years of friendship between Pakistan and China, he said.

The naval chief appreciated the development work at Karachi shipyard that enabled it to meet challenges of constructing warships and attributed the success to sound planning of the KS&EW management and untiring efforts of its workforce.

Admiral Noman urged the ministry of defence production to continue supporting the KS&EW on their road to progress.

He emphasised building a strong navy capable of defending the country`s maritime interests. He said Pakistan did not possess aggressive designs but the sea trade routes, the vast exclusive economic zone and the international energy lines, which passed very close to the country`s coast, needed to be protected. This would be in the interest of not only Pakistan but of the entire international community, he added.

The construction of these ships started in 2005 after the signing of the contract between the ministry of defence production, Pakistan, and the China Shipbuilding Trading Company. Under the contract, three ships were constructed at the Hudong Zhongua shipyard of China, and the fourth was built at the Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works (KS&EW) under the transfer-of-technology arrangement.

Infrastructure at the KS&EW had been upgraded and HR trained in China and Pakistan to undertake the construction work. The first three ships had already been delivered to Pakistan Navy while the last ship launched on Thursday would be delivered as per schedule.

High officials of federal and provincial governments, armed forces, law-enforcement agencies, senior management of the Chinese companies and some guests from the corporate sector attended the ceremony.

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