ISLAMABAD -- Beijing last week commissioned the second of four multi-role frigates built for the Pakistan Navy, but researchers were quick to point out major flaws in other, older Chinese-made warships.
The PNS Taimur, a Type 054A/P frigate, was commissioned on June 23 at the Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai.
The first Type 054A/P frigate, the PNS Tughril, joined the Pakistan Navy fleet in January, according to the Global Times, a Chinese government media outlet.
The remaining two are under construction in China.
The frigates are designed to fire surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles at long range and to operate in multi-threat environments.
The Type 054A/P frigates will reinforce the security architecture of Pakistan's maritime zones, said President Arif-ur-Rehman Alvi during the delivery of the PNS Tughril.
The ships will also help safeguard the sea routes of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a Pakistani component of China's controversial Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), also known as One Belt One Road (OBOR), he said.
The Pakistan Navy's responsibilities have grown manyfold since the inception of the CPEC and the development of its associated maritime infrastructure and Gwadar Port, Chief of Naval Staff Muhammad Amjad Khan Niazi said at the time.
Defective Chinese military equipment
However, Pakistan is already facing serious mechanical problems with at least four frigates developed by Chinese shipbuilding firms in 2009, according to defence think tanks.
Pakistan's four Chinese-made F-22P frigates "are giving nightmares to Pakistani Navy officers and men tasked to keep them afloat in the turbulent waters of Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean", according to a June 14 report by Geopolitica.info, an Italian think-tank.
Three of the frigates were bought from the Beijing-based China Shipbuilding Trading Co., while one was built in Karachi as part of a technology transfer agreement, Geopolitica.info said in the same report.
The frigates were delivered to Pakistan between 2009 and 2013 under a $750 million deal with China inked in 2005.
"After the commissioning of the frigates, the Pakistani Navy found out that the on-board imaging device of the FM90(N) missile-system was defective because of a faulty indication on display," Geopolitica.info reported.
The system was unable to lock on a target.
In addition, the ships' search-and-track radars were not working as intended, and the single-barrel 76mm gun on the frigate performed poorly, the think-tank observed.
The ships' diesel-powered engines could not exceed low speeds because of high turbocharger exhaust temperatures.
"Defective critical components and poor service from Chinese manufacturers have forced the Pakistani Navy to operate these four frigates with degraded operational capabilities, compromising some of the key mission objectives with which these ships were bought at a high price," Geopolitica.info concluded.
Pakistan has long had problems with Chinese-made military equipment.
In February, the Pakistan Army found quality and reliability issues with the VT-4, a main battle tank built by the China North Industries Corp. (Norinco) for overseas export, the Economic Times of India reported at the time, citing undisclosed sources.
Pakistan has had problems too with 203mm towed heavy artillery guns imported from China.
Defence analysts have expressed concerns over the malfunctioning Chinese-made warships in particular.
"Pakistan purchased the warships from China to strengthen its Navy's capabilities in the defence of sea frontiers," said an Islamabad-based senior defence analyst, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of relations between Islamabad and Beijing.
"It is an issue of the country's security, and I suggest that Pakistan should reset its relations with the United States, instead of China, to improve the country's defence," the analyst said.
"China-made weapons are not just technologically inferior, they also remain untested on the battlefield, unlike weapons from the US and many of its allies," Alexander Vuving, a professor at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Centre for Security Studies in Honolulu, Hawaii, told The EurAsian Times in June.
For many buyers of Chinese military equipment, the main factors are "price and politics, with corruption playing a prominent role", he said.
"For example, China can offer weapons at a low cost, with hefty discounts or bribes for officials in charge of the procurement and go-between individuals."
Pakistan is not the first country burdened with faulty military equipment and warships from China.
For example, Algeria lost three Chinese-made CH-4B combat drones to crashes in a matter of months, the Global Defense Corp website reported in March 2021.
The Royal Jordanian Air Force sold off its CH-4B's in 2019, only three years after buying them, the Oryx military news site of the Netherlands reported in January. Saudi Arabia was the likely buyer, though their destination was not reported.
The CH-4B's are manufactured by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.
The Bangladeshi air force found that the 23 Nanchang PT-6 basic trainer aircraft it acquired from China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corp. were defective, the Timesnownews.com news site of India reported last November.
Meanwhile, in 2016, Kenya purchased armoured personnel carriers (APCs) from China to protect soldiers in the line of duty.
The Kenyan government's assurances that the vehicles could withstand explosions and save lives have proven hollow, Tuko, a news website in Nairobi, reported in August 2018.
Roadside bombs planted by the al-Shahaab terrorist group have repeatedly killed Kenyan troops riding in the Chinese APCs, Tuko reported.