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Bangladesh Navy - Modernization

The most formidable ships in the navy were three vintage frigates purchased from Britain in the late 1970s. These included two Leopard-class Type 41 frigates, renamed Abu Bakr and Ali Haider, and one Salisbury-class Type 61 frigate, renamed Umar Farooq. The most modern craft in the inventory were twenty-four patrol boats purchased from the Chinese between 1982 and 1984. These included four Hegu-class fast attack craft, armed with missiles; four P4-class fast-attack craft, armed with torpedoes; and eight Hainan-class and eight Shanghai II-class fast attack patrol craft. These vessels patrolled coastal waters and rivers to interdict foreign fishing vessels and assert Bangladeshi sovereignty over its territorial waters.

Other vessels in the Bangladeshi inventory included vintage patrol craft purchased from China, Yugoslavia, India, Japan, and Singapore; a recommissioned Pakistani patrol boat; a similar craft converted from a Thai fishing boat; and five indigenously built Pabna-class riverine patrol craft. Bangladesh also maintained a merchant fleet comprising 274 vessels. Since all were government owned, merchant vessels could be pressed into service during hostilities.

During the 1996-2001, the then Awami League government implemented many steps to build the Navy as a modern force. Commissioning of Naval ships Titas, Kushiara and Barkat, incorporation of modern LPC Madhumati, diversion of BNS Shoibal into modern survey ship, establishment of Bangladesh Navy's Hydrographic and Oceanographic Center and inclusion of School of Maritime Warfare and Tactics are among the development works done by the Awami League government.

In 2002 the Prime Minister announced that Bangaldesh would buy a pair of Lupo-class frigates from the Italian Navy, but the ships were sold to Peru instead. Victory day is celebrated on December 16 in Bangladesh. On this day in 1971, the Pakistani Army surrendered to the Indo-Bangladeshi High Command in Dhaka, ending the 1971 Bangladesh atrocities. Bangladesh gained independence after 9 months of a long and bloody struggle. One interesting feature of the 2003 Victory Day celebration was the military armament exhibition, organised by the three armed forces between 16 and 20 December 2003. The Bangladesh Navy displayed some future projects like submarine and helicopter carriers.

With limited resources, materialisation remained a difficult proposition.'The Draft Forces Goal 2020 for BN' in 2005/06 envisaged the Bangladesh Navy (BN) with submarines, helicopters, maritime patrol aircrafts and so forth. As of 2005 Bangladesh was thinking about purchasing Lupo class frigates from Italy. Bangladesh was interested in Type-23 Duke class friagtes but could not confront the cost. as of 2007 Bangladesh was said to be interested in a "Sapsan 2100" Ukranian frigate, but nothing came of this, and the "Sapsan 2100" is un-attested outside of Combat Fleets of the World.

In early 2009 the navy sent the Armed Forces Division (AFD) an ambitious ten-year plan to upgrade it into a three-dimensional force, in line with the proposed Forces Goal-2020. The report placed before the parliamentary standing committee on the defence ministry on 08 June 2009. Bangladesh Navy sought new frigates, a submarine, maritime patrol aircraft, helicopters and other equipment with an estimated cost of Tk 6,000 crore. The plan was prepared after considering the recent maritime situation, budgetary allocation, market prices of required equipment and other matters.

“Bangladesh Navy will obtain capability of a three-dimensional force if its aviation wing and a submarine are added to its fleet,” believes the navy, tasked with protecting the nation’s territorial waters, safeguard Bangladesh’s economic interest and exercise maritime control within the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf. Citing the need for a three dimensional modern force, the navy said aircraft and submarines along with surface fleets are considered essential parts to increase a navy’s combat capability. “It was not possible in the past to introduce aircraft and submarines in the fleet due to various adversities despite having the plan and desire,” the navy observes.

Apart from purchasing equipment, it also proposed formation of Special Warfare and Diving Salvage (SWADS) Command for carrying out a special warfare to control militancy and smuggling in sea and rivers. “If the special force is formed, it will be able to play active role along with the two other forces in sea and rivers,” the navy said.

The navy also proposed increasing its personnel, setting up naval bases and training institutes. The proposals now await the government’s consideration. On manpower, the navy proposed increasing 4,000 personnel of various ranks in the next 10 years. The existing approved manpower of the navy as of 2009 was 17,000.

The proposals include setting up bases for naval commandos, divers, rescuers and naval aviation, and development of a naval base in Mongla. Other proposals are installation of a junior staff training institute, navy hydrographic unit, oceanographic centre and operational sea training guide, and approval of the organogram of Khulna and Narayanganj shipyards.

The navy was also preparing more proposals to this end for sending to the government for consideration. Those include setting up of a naval base at St Martine’s Island, submarine base, setting up a separate naval base in Dhaka, and restructuring the organogram of the naval headquarters and area commanders’ headquarters.

2009 Plan for 2020
2-3F-22B guided missile frigatesChina
2-4large patrol craft/missile corvetteChina
1Hydrographic Survey shipIndigenous
1Fleet Replenishment Oil TankerIndigenous
1Salvage shipIndigenous
12Patrol boatsIndigenous
3Harbin Z-9C ASW heloChina
Under consideration in 2009
3guided missile frigates
4guided missile corvettesTurkey – Milgem
3SubmarinesTU / DE / ROK
Accounts vary as to the details of the navy plan, but one source reported it included purchase of three frigates, three large patrol aircraft, 12 patrol craft, two landing craft utility (LCU), one hydrographic unit, one salvage vessel, four missile boats and installation of new missiles in some ships to strengthen its surface fleet. It proposed introducing its own aviation fleet to consolidate combat capability of the surface fleet by purchasing three maritime patrol aircraft and four helicopters in the coming 10 years.

The navy also discloses a plan for purchasing a submarine by 2019 for the flotilla. It said the government has approved in principle this proposed purchase. “Before purchasing the submarine, steps have already been taken to build infrastructure and train up personnel. When the preparatory work is completed, it will be possible to initiate steps to purchase a submarine by 2019,” the navy report added.

The navy said based on the possible allocation of funds every year, the process of purchasing and building surface and aviation platforms to achieve three-dimensional ability will continue. Off-the-shelf purchase process will also continue simultaneously that would cost less and save time, it adds. “Additional allocation of Tk 1,200 crore will be required for purchasing submarine, the hydrographic unit and the salvage ship,” the navy said, adding, “An estimated allocation of Tk 5,000 will be required for principal purchase and development in the next 10 years.”

The principal purchase excludes the submarine, hydrographic unit and the salvage ship. As per the plan, three large patrol craft and 12 patrol craft will be built at the navy’s own shipyards. Purchase of two helicopters and two maritime patrol aircraft were under process as of 2009.

In defence for replacing three frigates — Abu Bakar, Omar Faruk and Ali Haider — the navy said the ships were built in 1953, 1953 and 1957 and Tk 300 crore will be required to upgrade those. Upgrading the old vessels was not viable, the navy claimed. The navy also proposes replacing four out of the eight missile boats — Durbar, Duranto, Uttal and Durdanto. Those were commissioned in 1983, 1983, 1992 and 1988. It said Tk 200 crore would be required to upgrade the missile boats.

The report says as many as 82 ships, small and large, were in the navy’s fleet. Most of the ships were older that 25 years. Only 15 ships/craft are aged under 25 years. Combat capability of the old ships has decreased and their maintenance and operation cost is high as well as risky, the navy adds. “With the old ships and present infrastructures, it is becoming difficult to discharge [the navy's] crucial duties.”

During the three years 2009-2011, a total of 2 OPV, 1 survey ship, 8 high-speedboats, helicopter handling system, early warning radar system and 2 marine helicopters were added to the Bangladesh Navy. Process for purchasing C-704 missile system, QW-2 SAM, OTOMAT MK-II missiles, 2 large patrol craft, 5 patrol craft and 1 oil tanker had been completed. The survey ship newly purchased for Bangladesh Navy has been commissioned.

The Navy attained double capability through addition of 2 newly purchased marine helicopters. In February 2010 AgustaWestland announced the award of a contract by the Bangladesh Navy for two AW109 Power maritime helicopters. The helicopters will be used for a wide range of naval missions including search and rescue, economic zone protection, surface surveillance and maritime security. The two Agusta AW 109E helicopters on 14 June 2011 were delivered in 2011 and were capable of being operated from the frigate BNS Bangabandhu.

In 2010 BN signed a contract with China Shipbuilding and Offshore Company (CSOC) to built two Large Patrol Craft in Wuchang Shipyard in China. The ships will be of 600 tons and will be armed with 4 x C-704 SSM, 1 x 76.2 mm gun with FCS and RDC. In another contract with CSOC, BN will construct 5 units of 350-ton patrol craft at Khulna Shipyard under Chinese technical assistance.

On 12 April 2010 Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said soon two more frigates will be included to BangladeshNavy fleet. Sheikh Hasina said during her recent China visit, she had requested the Chinese government to provide Bangladesh Naval Force with two newly-constructed frigates including helicopters, and the Chinese government gave consent in this regard. Besides, naval ship Bangabandhu, decommissioned during the last BNP-Jamaat government on political ground, will be made fully operational again.

On 21 June 2010 it was reported that the Bangladesh Navy planned to expand cooperation with China's national defense industry in the framework of the activities of two frigates, making the Navy to a total number of frigates to seven. The relevant supply agreement was reached in March 2010. At that time it was reported that, in addition to procurement of two frigates from China, the Bangladesh Navy will receive three British warships. The UK Disposal Services Authority (DSA) successfully negotiated the sale and handover of HM Ships LEEDS CASTLE and DUMBARTON CASTLE (Castle Class Offshore Patrol Vessels) for £2.45m and HMS ROEBUCK offshore hydrographic launch for £4.4m, to the Bangladesh Navy. All 3 vessels have since sailed to Bangladesh and were delivered in June 2010. Maintenance and improvement work had been started in the UK on two patrol boats of the Bangladesh Navy.

On 29 December 2010 Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said the government had plans to include submarine with base facility in Bangladesh Navy by 2019 to build it as an effective 'deterrent force'. As of 2005 the plan was to acquire 4 subs within 2012, although by 2012 Bangladesh appeared no closer to acquiring submarines than it had seven years previously. It is said that Bangladesh is prepared to spend Tk.1,200 crore [ie, Tk.12,000,000,000, or about US$150,000,000] on 4 submarines. The amount of money Bangladesh might spend on submarines would probably not be enough to buy new ones. The Scorpene submarine comes in at US$300-$400,000,000, and the Agosta-90B Submarine (from DCN) is also US$300-$400,000,000 apiece. So possibly Bangaldesh would buy used U-209s for Italy or some other European country which is replacing them with the new U-212 from Germany. Even an "old" Upholder cost around $200 million a piece.

In June 2011 Army Chief General Mohammad Abdul Mubeen inaugurated the building of a LCVP Type C landing craft vessel personnel (LCVP) at Khulna Shipyard. The 19.75-meter long and 7-meter wide craft was built for Bangladesh Army. The army will use the LCVP for transportation of soldiers and equipment when needed. The vessel was expected to be handed over to the Army within a year. Khulna Shipyard already built modern firefighting boats for the Fire Service, ferries for the BIWTC and a speedy patrol boat for Bangladesh Coast Guard. LCVP-012 was delivered on 2010-04-17.

A contract was signed on 23 June 2011 with Ruag Germany for the supply of two Dornier 228 NG MPA within 24 months. Following customers in Japan, Norway and Germany, in July 2011 the Bangladesh Navy purchased two modern Do 228NG (New Generation) turboprop aircraft. The aircraft will be used for maritime air patrol and rescue mission along the countries’ coastline. Delivery of both aircraft was scheduled for early summer 2013.

In October 2011 Bangladesh’s state-owned Khulna Shipyard signed a contract with China’s Shanghai-based Hudong Zhonghua Shipyard and the China Shipbuilding & Offshore International Ltd (CSOC) for licence-building five inshore patrol vessels (IPV) and seven guided-missile corvettes. While the IPVs are based on the 80-ton Huang Pu-class vessel, the guided-missile corvettes, to be built to a brand-new design, will each have a displacement of 260 tons, length of 46 meters, beamwidth of 7.4 meters, and have a top speed of 30 Knots. While the CSOC would supply the first two guided-missile corvettes off-the-shelf, the remaining five will be licence-built by Khulna Shipyard. Each such vessel will be armed with up to four CPMIEC-built C-802A anti-ship cruise missiles.

As of 2012 it was reported that the Navy was planning to purchase two corvettes and two frigates. According to unofficial information, Bangladesh Navy was seeking two "Jiang Wei II" class (Type 053H3) frigates from China. The Turkish Navy will be retiring four early MEKO 200 class frigates, which reportedly have been offered to Bangladesh. Those warship's combat systems would be upgraded to BN requirement before delivery.

The second-hand submarine that Bangladesh was seeking in order to further safeguard its offshore assets is likely to be sourced from China. Despite an interest in contributing more fully to international peace-keeping missions, the protection of offshore energy resources in the face of competition from India and Burma is Bangladesh’s prime motivation.

The first-ever warship, BNS PADMA built in Bangladesh by Khulna Shipyard Limited (KSY) was commissioned in Bangladesh Navy on 24 January 2013 by Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. It may be mentioned that the 2nd Patrol Craft has also been launched on 23 January 2013 which is expected to deliver 2 (two) months ahead of the schedule. The rest 3 (Three) will be delivered within December 2013.

On December 20, 2013 Bangladesh finalized a deal to purchase two Ming-class submarines from China. The deal for the two submarines, which was waiting for final approval from the Finance Ministry, was worth $203.3 million. The type 035G diesel-electric run submarines are scheduled to be delivered in 2019. Government officials hinted that there was a plan to purchase at least three submarines in the next few years. In late 2014 it was reported that these subs are arriving in 2015, not in 2019. And the 2 subs are likely to be first batch of a bigger submarine arm, to be determined by the economic growth of the country.

Besides submarines, Dhaka was also negotiating with Beijing to buy two frigates under a state-to-state purchase deal. Beijing offered two of its old 053H2 frigates at a very low rate on the condition that Dhaka would bear the refurbishment and defence equipment costs for the off-the-shelf ships. An estimated Tk 6.55 billion will be needed to add two frigates to the country's existing frigate fleet of six.

Bangladesh acquired two diesel-electric submarines from China for $203 million. After they enter service in 2017, they will become the first and only submarines in the Bangladesh Navy. However, Bangladesh’s geography is one of the reasons why questions and speculations have been raised regarding this purchase. Bangladesh is almost entirely surrounded by the territory of India and has only a small border with Myanmar. A number of Indian observers have interpreted the Chinese supply of submarines to Bangladesh as part of China's policy on “encirclement” of India.

The two submarines purchased by Bangladesh are modernized 035 project version subs. They were constructed in the 1970s and were considered not to be successful. After modernizing the 035G project subs were equipped with new torpedoes and sonar stations copied from the French sonars. According to the expert, the Chinese navy used 035G submarines in combat training in 1990-2000. Moreover, the 035G submarines were obsolete even at the start of their construction in the late 1980s. This was precisely the reason which forced China to purchase 12 submarines from Russia later on.

Against the background of eight modern submarines of project S20 which China intends to supply to Pakistan, two 035G to the Bangladesh Navy hardly represent a big problem for a potential enemy. The expert further said that lack of experience of the Bangladesh Navy and their possession of the obsolete 035G submarines make them an easy target for a more advanced Indian Navy in case such a situation arises.

Perhaps acquisition of the submarines was done out of prestige considerations. In recent years, many ASEAN countries have purchased submarines. At some point, Myanmar also considered buying them but abandoned the plan due to the lack of funds. However, a number of other ASEAN countries such as Vietnam, Singapore and Indonesia have already formed their submarine fleets, or like Thailand are planning to create one soon. Perhaps, Bangladesh does not want to stay behind them too much.

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Page last modified: 17-01-2017 19:43:44 ZULU