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Satellite images reveal Pakistan’s new midget submarine, site for joint project with China

The size and location of the midget submarine indicates its covert capability, and increases Pakistan's ability to deploy special forces, potentially along the Indian coast.

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New Delhi: Latest satellite imagery has revealed Pakistan’s new midget submarine, used by its special forces for undertaking covert operations, as well as the probable site for a joint project with China to build new conventional submarines.

Popular Twitter handle @detresfa, that specialises in satellite imagery put out pictures of the Karachi port which had the unknown type mini sub, “finally seen without the tarpaulin cover”.

Speaking to ThePrint, the OSINT (Open-source Intelligence) expert who goes by his Twitter handle @detresfa, also pointed out that the images also possibly show the area earmarked for the construction of submarines, a project that Pakistan is pursuing with China.

Detresfa works closely with H.I. Sutton, defence and OSINT analyst, who was the first to come out with information about the new midget submarines last year.

At the time, Sutton had written for Forbes that the submarine is a small special forces type, measuring around 55 feet long by 7 to 8 feet across.

“That is a fraction of the size of a regular submarine. Its location and size both point to use by the Pakistani Navy’s Special Service Group, known as SSG (N),” he had written.

He had also explained that this category of submarine is called an X-Craft in Pakistani Navy parlance.

“The term was inherited from the Italian manufacturer Cos.Mo.S (commonly written Cosmos) who sold Pakistan two sets of midget submarines in the past…” he wrote.

Speaking to ThePrint, Sutton said the midget submarine seen in the latest satellite images is the new one and most likely indigenous.

He said that although there have been reports of Turkish assistance in similar programs, it was built in 2016, which is before the Turkish deal was announced.

Turkey has bagged a contract from Pakistan to upgrade its three Agosta 90B diesel-electric submarines.


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‘Armed with heavyweight torpedo tubes’

Sutton said that the new midget submarine increases Pakistan’s capability to deploy special forces on covert missions, potentially along the Indian coast in times of conflict.

Asked if the midget submarine is armed, he said: “Based on analysis of available images, it does appear that the midget submarine has two heavyweight torpedo tubes. This is consistent with Pakistan’s older Italian design midget submarines. The tubes can likely launch torpedoes for self-defense or against targets of opportunity.”

Pakistani Defence Production Division (MoDP) 2015-16 yearbook had listed the “Indigenous design and construction of 01 Midget Submarine” as a target for 2016-2017.

In an interview to ThePrint in April last year, the then Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff (DCNS) Vice Admiral M.S. Pawar was asked about Pakistan’s midget submarine.

He had said that the Indian Navy is aware of the capabilities of adversaries and constantly monitors various procurement and developments in the region.

“Our coastal security mechanisms have constantly improved over the last 12 years since the 26/11 terror strikes at Mumbai which emanated from Pakistan … We maintain thorough maritime domain awareness and are geared up to defeat all sea-borne threats,” he had said.

The officer added that an electronic net backed by coastal security assets “is capable of detecting and defeating any clandestine activity”.


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Area earmarked for Chinese submarines revealed

Sutton said that the facilities immediately northeast of where the midget submarine is, are new and are believed to relate to the Chinese submarine deal.

Pakistan entered into a contract with China for four modern frigates and eight conventional submarines.

The new submarines are a variant of the Chinese Navy’s Type-039A Yuan Class. While four submarines will be built in China, the remaining four will be built in Pakistan.

“The first Chinese submarine is expected to be delivered before 2023,” Sutton said, adding that overall, they are similar in capabilities to India’s Scorpene submarines.

He said that the Pakistani submarines will have the AIP (Air Independent Propulsion) system as standard, which the Scorpenes don’t have.

“The new submarines from China will be a major increase in both numbers and capability. It will surely concern the Indian Navy,” he said.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)


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