China, sources said, had approached a German firm for the diesel engine for submarines, but the export license does not appear to be forthcoming. If the German firm does not supply the engines, there is trouble ahead as the Pakistan Navy does not appear keen on the Chinese engines available.
How the problem gets solved remains to be seen, but the Chinese have committed to eight Yuan class Air Independent Propulsion or AIP submarines for the Pakistan Navy. Four of the submarines are to be built in Wuchang Shipyard in Wuhan by CHOC and the other four in Karachi.
The dates for the trials have been set, as also the commissioning. The trials for the first submarine was initially slotted for March this year and the second, for July this year. Two more would be ready for trials in 2022, one each in 2024 and 2025 and finally the last two in 2027. The first two submarines are to be commissioned in April and October next year. Two more are planned for 2023, in January and December respectively, after which there are to be four, one each from 2025 to 2028.
But the engines are a problem. One option if the Germans hang tough is the engine from the Henan Diesel Shipyard, but the Pakistan Navy wants a superior version and in any case, it isn’t ready yet. The two sides are looking at a yard-to-yard meeting next month and China is also upgrading a submarine battery workshop in Pakistan, but the engine is the issue. And as long as it isn’t sorted out, India will continue to breath easy.
India currently has four French-designed Scorpene submarines under construction in Mumbai and there is talk of the clearance for a new line coming up. There have been delays, but things are finally looking up.