China's Yuan-class submarine
China's Yuan-class submarine. [ Image for representation]Wiki Commons/United States Naval Institute News Blog

To counter India's military supremacy, China is providing Pakistan with eight submarines, which will pose a strong challenge to the Indian Navy. What is even more alarming for India is that the submarines may be armed with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, capable of attacking land targets.

Four of the Type 39B (NATO designation Yuan class) submarines will be built in China and delivered by 2023 while the remaining four will be built by Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works (KSEW) and inducted into service by 2028.

It is speculated that the submarines will be called the Hangor class in Pakistan Navy. It has been named after the Pakistan Navy Ship (PNS) Hangor, a French-made Daphne class submarine, which torpedoed and sank Indian Naval Ship (INS) Khurkri during the 1971 India-Pakistan war.

With the induction of these vessels, the number of submarines in Pakistan Navy service will nearly double, which at present stands at 10. India has 16 submarines − including one nuclear-powered attack submarine and one ballistic missile submarine − and is building five Scorpène-class submarines, known as Kalvari class in India.

The induction of the eight submarines will dramatically enhance Pakistan Navy's underwater warfare capability and will form the basis of the country's sea-based nuclear strike capability and complete the nuclear triad. The submarines will be used to deny Indian Navy and merchant ships access to the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean as a whole in event of war. The prime target of these submarines will be the crown jewels of the Indian navy, the aircraft carriers.

The submarines will be fitted with air-independent propulsion (AIP) systems, which make it possible for a submarine to stay underwater for extended periods of times without needing to surface and risk detection.

Babur missile
An earlier version of Pakistan's Babur cruise missile in a test flight from an undisclosed locationREUTERS/Stringer (PAKISTAN)

The submarines will also be able to launch the naval variant of the nuclear-capable Babur land attack cruise missile, which is under development. The naval version known as Babur III has a range of 450km and can target major cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and Vishakhapatnam.