China is reported to be boosting its arms links with South Asian nations, with further supply of an advanced anti-stealth radar to Pakistan as well as frigates to Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Jane’s Defence Weekly, a magazine reporting on military and corporate affairs, said it had identified Chinese-made JY-27A counter-very-low-observable radar from satellite images of Pakistan’s Mianwali Air Base, captured on August 29.
This 3D long-range radar is capable of detecting stealth aircraft such as the F-22 from 500km (310 miles) away with its active phased array antenna using very high frequency waves. Either installed on land or mobile on vehicles, it is jamming-resistant and could also guide surface-to-air missiles to strike incoming aircraft.
The radar is believed to have arrived at the airbase in northeast Pakistan between June 5 and August 29, and was not fully operational as of September 2, according to Jane’s.
Neither Pakistan nor China made the sale of the JY-27A public, but earlier this month representatives of both sides attended a ceremony at a Shanghai shipyard to mark the steel-cutting of a second batch of Type 054A guided-missile frigates.
They were the third and fourth vessels the Chinese shipbuilder CSSC had built for the Pakistan Navy. Construction on the first two of the Type 054A/P began in December 2018 and they are expected to be delivered in 2021.
Type 054A frigate has been the main strength frigate in service with China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy since 2007. The Pakistan Navy already has four F22P frigates in service – a Chinese design based on the previous Type 053 and Type 054 – and three of them were built in China.
“Compared with their potential adversary the Indian Navy, the Pakistani navy will be better equipped,” Shi Lao, a Shanghai-based military commentator, said.
Last week’s amateur photos also showed that two newly retired PLA Navy frigates, Type 053H3 Putian and Lianyungang, had been refurbished in Shanghai and painted in the colours and numbers of the Bangladesh Navy. They had been bought by the latter and are expected to be handed over by the end of the year.
China also gifted a retired Type 053H2G ship, Tongling, to the Sri Lanka Navy. It was renamed Parakramabahu and commissioned in Colombo in late August, adding to the Chinese-built warships operating in the Indian Ocean.
Chinese efforts to strengthen military ties in the region have long caused concern in India, whose “string of pearls” theory contends that China is encircling India by developing relationships with its neighbours around the Indian Ocean.
“China’s military cooperation with South Asian nations is nothing new. It has been going on for decades,” said Wang Dehua, a South Asia expert at the Shanghai Municipal Centre for International Studies.
Wang said that what China offered to those countries, including Pakistan, would not pose much threat to India because it could not match the level of armament that India possessed or had access to, such as aircraft carriers and Su-30 fighters.
India’s military ties with countries including Sri Lanka and Bangladesh were also much stronger and more long-standing, he said.
“India sees South Asia as its backyard and is paranoid about China’s presence in the region,” Wang said. “Such a mindset should end.”