Pakistan’s Hangor-class Submarine Unveiled with Soviet-Era Propeller

Pakistan's new Hagor-class submarines from China still use Soviet-era propeller technology despite modern design.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

Hangor, the first non-nuclear large submarine built for the Pakistani Navy, was reportedly launched on April 26, 2024, at the Wuhan Shuangliu shipyard in Wuhan, China. Wuchang Shipbuilding Industry Group Co., Ltd (WSIG),  affiliated with the China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC), operates the shipyard in Wuhan. The S20 submarine built for Pakistan is part of the Chinese export initiative. 

CSSC subsidiary China Shipbuilding and Offshore International Company Ltd. (CSOC) is the designated contractor for building S20 submarines for Pakistan. CSOC was formerly a division of the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation and later became a division of the unified shipbuilding corporation CSSC. The Pakistani government and CSOC entered into a contract on July 23, 2015, to build eight sizable non-nuclear submarines as part of the Chinese export project S20 for the Pakistan Navy. The contract was valued at approximately $5 billion. S20 submarines are expected to have a length of 77.6 meters (previously reported as 66 meters by some sources), a surface displacement of 2300 tons, and a submerged displacement of 3000 tons. They are believed to be an export variant of the Chinese Type 039A/041 submarines currently under construction for the PLA Navy. 

These submarines are to be armed with anti-ship cruise missiles and heavyweight torpedoes and are designated for operations within Pakistan’s exclusive economic zone. They have a Stirling-powered air-independent propulsion system and four CSOC CHD620 diesel engines and can reach a maximum speed of 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph). 

The Hangor-class submarines have a powerful arsenal, including six 533 mm (21 inches) torpedo tubes for deploying torpedoes and missiles. The submarines can launch the Babur 3 submarine-launched cruise missile, YJ-82 anti-ship missiles, and Yu-6 torpedoes.

According to the contract terms, four Pakistani submarines will be built in China, while another four will be built at the Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works (KSEW) in Karachi, Pakistan. This agreement with Pakistan marked China’s entry into the market for modern submarines and appears to be the largest Chinese defense export contract to date.

The Pakistan Navy was planned to receive four submarines built in China by 2022-2023. The rest of the four submarines being built at KSEW with aid from China were scheduled to be finished by 2028. 

Construction of the S20 submarines for Pakistan is taking place at the Wuhan Shuangliu shipyard, a new shipbuilding facility of the Wuchang Shipbuilding Group under CSSC located in the Gulun industrial zone in Wuhan. Little information has been disclosed about the progress of the construction of these submarines in China, but it is known that the naming ceremony of the lead submarine, Hangor, took place in Wuhan on April 29, 2019.

The construction of these submarines in China faced significant delays, primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Wuhan, where the shipyards are located, became the pandemic’s epicenter at the end of 2019, leading to stringent quarantine measures imposed by the Chinese government. These measures disrupted normal operations at the city’s shipyards for approximately two years. As a result, the lead submarine for Pakistan, Hangor, was only launched recently and is expected to be delivered no earlier than the end of the year. According to Chinese sources, the second submarine of this type under construction in Wuhan is named Ghazi.

The 2015 contract with the Chinese side also included the corresponding reconstruction of the KSEW shipyard in Karachi and establishing a new training center for the Pakistani submarine personnel in Karachi. As part of this contract, since 2015, a new large construction shed has been built at KSEW for the construction of S20 submarines in Pakistan, as well as a slipway dry dock with a length of 126 meters and a width of 32 meters with a synchronizing lift. The ceremony for the first steel cutting and the start of construction of the lead submarine, Tasnim, took place at KSEW on December 9, 2021. Its official keel-laying ceremony took place on December 24, 2022. The official keel-laying ceremony for the second submarine under construction in Pakistan occurred on February 14, 2024.

The lead submarine, Hangor, is named after the previously commissioned Pakistani Navy submarine S 131 Hangor, a French-built Daphne-class submarine from the 1960s. On December 9, 1971, the S 131 Hangor submarine sank the Indian frigate F 149 Khukri (British Type 14), marking the largest success of the Pakistani Navy in its history and the first known successful submarine attack in the world after World War II. The original Daphne-class S 131 Hangor submarine was decommissioned from the Pakistani Navy in 2006 and is now on display at the Maritime Museum in Karachi. At the same time, the former submarine Ghazi, a Tench-class diesel-electric submarine leased from the US, was sunk by the Indian Navy in the 1971 war.

Soviet Era Propellor Design

An image of the submarine (as seen in the featured image, that is typically concealed while in docks or pantoons) on social media shows Hangor’s exposed propeller. This propellor first appeared in the Soviet Union during the early 1980s. The Kilo class utilizes a comparable propeller. This high-revolution propeller features more blades, presumably for noise reduction. Previous iterations of high-revolution propellers generated excessive noise until the Russians developed this variant. Western ones featured a reduced number of blades and a larger diameter, similar to the older German Hunter Killer Submarine or SSKs (diesel-electric submarines designed specifically for anti-submarine operations). 


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