Turkey and Pakistan on Friday vowed strong bonds and determination to further broaden cooperation, pioneered by the defense industry, as they witnessed a launch of the latest Turkish-built corvette tailored for the Pakistan Navy.
The third MILGEM-class corvette, named PNS Badr, was launched in a ceremony at a shipyard in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi attended by Turkish National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Pakistani Defense Minister Muhammad Israr Tareen and other officials.
Addressing the launch via video message, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Turkey would provide all the support needed to strengthen Pakistan’s military infrastructure.
The MILGEM (National Ship) marine platforms project is a Turkish warship program that aims to develop multipurpose corvettes and frigates that can be deployed in a range of missions.
These include reconnaissance, surveillance, early warning, anti-submarine warfare, surface-to-surface and surface-to-air warfare, and amphibious operations.
In July 2018, the Pakistan Navy signed a contract for the acquisition of four Ada class ships with Turkish state-owned defense firm ASFAT.
According to the plan, two corvettes were envisaged to be built in Turkey and the other two in Pakistan, in a deal that included technology transfer.
“The production process of all these ships, which are equipped with the most modern weapons and sensor systems developed by our country, continues as planned,” Erdoğan said.
The deliveries of the ships, which will be able to perform all kinds of military duties from air defense to submarine defense, will be made at six-month intervals starting from August 2023, Erdoğan noted.
With an emphasis on the deep-rooted historical ties between Turkey and Pakistan, the president said the project is one of the most concrete and recent examples of it, voicing hope for the project to be “a harbinger of greater cooperation.”
‘Moment of pride’
For his part, Prime Minister Sharif said the launch of the ship was a “moment of pride for the entire Pakistani nation and the naval forces of the two countries.”
He said Turkey and Pakistan are tied in a strong bond and the joint production of the warship PNS Badr epitomized that bond.
The multi-dimensional cooperation between Pakistan and Turkey in the areas of defense, foreign policy and public welfare was touching new heights of friendship for the benefit of the two peoples, Sharif was cited as saying by the Pakistani Daily Times newspaper.
The cooperation between the Pakistan Navy and the Turkish defense companies will lead to further strengthening of relations between the two brotherly countries, he noted.
The prime minister termed Turkey and Pakistan as “one nation residing in two countries,” lauding Turkey for being a great partner and always being a great supporter of the sovereignty of Pakistan.
He said the government of Pakistan was committed to expanding multifarious infrastructure to ensure economic connectivity in the country and emphasized that cooperation with Turkey would yield positive results.
Erdoğan termed Pakistan as the country with the most strategic location in South Asia.
“Throughout history, this region has been the apple of the world’s eye with its ancient culture and wealth. Pakistan and its people have a special place for us,” the president said.
Erdogan also emphasized the necessity of providing all means of support to strengthen the military infrastructure of Pakistan, “whose security, stability and prosperity we consider equal to ours.”
The other vessel of the project, named Kaibar, is to be launched in September in Istanbul, he said.
The MILGEM corvettes feature state-of-art surface, sub-surface and anti-air weapons and sensors, integrated through an advanced network central combat management system.
The vessels are on average 99 meters (325 feet) long with a displacement capacity of around 24,00 tons and can move at a speed of 29 nautical miles.
The anti-submarine combat frigates, which can be hidden from the radar, will further enhance the defense capability of the Pakistan Navy.
Turkey is one of only 10 countries in the world that can design, build and maintain warships using its national capabilities.
The MILGEM project was initiated in 2000 to locally design and build a fleet of multipurpose corvettes and frigates that will replace older ships.
The project has so far completed the deliveries of four Ada-class corvettes, the first of which was the TCG Heybeliada in 2011, the second was the TCG Büyükada in 2013, the third the TCG Burgazada in 2018 and the fourth ship, the TCG Kınalıada in 2019.
The fifth vessel, the first MILGEM I-class frigate of its kind, the Istanbul Frigate (F-515), was launched in January last year.