China launches first of 8 advanced stealth submarines for Pakistan Navy

China has launched the first of eight advanced Hangor-class submarines being developed for Pakistan, in a sign of strengthening military cooperation between the two countries, the Pakistan Navy has said.

A launch ceremony for the vessel, attended by high-ranking officials from Pakistan and China, was held on Friday at Wuchang Shipbuilding Industry Group’s Shuangliu Base in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, according to a Pakistan Navy statement.

The contract for the submarines was signed between the Pakistan government and China Shipbuilding & Offshore International Company Ltd (CSOC) during a visit to Pakistan by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2015, the statement said.

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The submarines will play a pivotal role in maintaining peace and stability in the region, Admiral Naveed Ashraf, the Pakistani chief of naval staff, said during the ceremony.

The construction contract for the submarines would “add a new dimension to the ever-tested Pakistan-China friendship”, he added.

Under the contract, which includes an agreement to transfer technology, four of the submarines will be built in China and the other four will be built in Pakistan.

The stealth vessels would be fitted with state-of-the-art weapons and sensors, the statement said.

China is Pakistan’s top supplier of weapons, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which tracks global arms sales.

In a March report, SIPRI said 82 per cent of Pakistan’s arms imports were from China between 2019 and 2023, compared to 69 per cent from 2014 to 2018.

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China accounted for 5.8 per cent of total global arms exports in between 2019 and 2023, SIPRI said in its report. In the same period, China delivered major arms to 40 states, but well over half of these exports, 61 per cent, were shipped to just one nation – Pakistan, the report said.

A former senior Pakistan naval officer with knowledge of the negotiations told the Financial Times in 2015 that the contract could be worth between US$4 billion to US$5 billion.

Specifics about the eight submarines remain unknown, but online media outlet Naval News reported that the vessels were an export variant of the Chinese navy’s Type 039A/041 Yuan-class submarines.

The two countries have been “all-weather strategic cooperative partners” since Xi visited Pakistan in 2015, and their close ties have been underpinned by long-standing wariness of their common neighbour and rival, India.



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The two countries also have shared economic interests centred around the US$65 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a centrepiece of Beijing’s belt and road cooperation with Pakistan.

They conducted joint air exercises last year, the first joint drills between the two militaries since Pakistan commissioned Chinese-made J-10CE fighters in its air force in 2022.



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