Pakistan Navy has commissioned an indigenously built Fast Attack Craft Missile, FAC(M) PNS HIMMAT. This is the second in the series of AZMAT Class FAC(M) project, which Pakistan Navy has initiated in pursuance of its vision of sustained self-sufficiency through collaboration. The first of these boats was PNS DEHSHAT, commissioned in 2013. A Fast Attack Craft is usually a small sized vessel, weighing less than 700 tonnes, but it has incredibly high speeds, generally 25-35 nautical miles per hour. Extremely manoeuvrable platforms, FAC(M)s, are primarily intended for hit-and-run strike operations within 100-150 nautical miles of own coast. FAC(M)s are, principally, armed for anti-surface warfare capability, but can also carry an assortment of guns, electronic warfare equipment etc. With such a combination of lethal weaponry, the FAC(M) represents a credible threat to surface ships. However, because of its relatively smaller size and tonnage, a FAC(M) does not have a reckonable seakeeping qualities and self-defence capability that might allow it operate at extended ranges for longer durations away from home bases.

The operational philosophy behind a FAC(M) is agility, swift deploy-ability and rapid response capacity. Our maritime military environment dictates our Navy to be ready, responsive and relevant to deal with myriad conventional and sub-conventional threats. Larger ships are often not the apposite platforms to negotiate with every type and level of threat. In such cases, FAC(M)s provide numerous operational options for the Commander to have great flexibility in the use of appropriate combat potential as per the prevailing situation. Pakistan Navy follows a methodical threat-capability evaluation process to steer towards determining force structure. As an agreeable result of this process, the induction of AZMAT Class FAC(M) has been decided, which would chiefly support diverse Fleet operations across the spectrum of peace and war. AZMAT Class FAC(M) is equipped with land-attack missiles capable of hitting enemy targets well within its territory. Such potency actually helps realise Pakistan Navy Fleet’s operational strategy of ‘augmented destructiveness’, where FAC(M)s will provide a firepower/support, which will add to major platforms’ efforts to achieve military objectives. Here ‘destructiveness’ doesn’t imply physical destruction only, but it suggests to create such an impact that the enemy finds it hard to achieve its mission, pursue its objectives or sustain its operations.

Historically, Fast Attack Crafts have been an influential part of fleets around the world. Its theoretical and doctrinal underpinnings started from France around the end of the 19th century, where it was felt to have small, agile vessels, which could attack larger enemy ships. French and the Royal navies actually built an enormous number of small boats. Fast Attack Crafts have had their ups and downs. Prior the World War I, the importance of Fast Attack Crafts faded but Italy and Great Britain constructed many Fast Attack Crafts, which were effectively used in the war. An Italian Fast Attack Craft sank a very large battleship in 1918, during WW I. American and Italian Fast Attack Crafts, during the World War II, created some effects, but were of limited in nature. FAC(M)’s effectiveness was apparent during the Arab-Israel War of 1967, where an Israeli Destroyer was sunk by Egyptian Komar Class Missile boats. These developments led France to develop La Combattante Class FAC(M) in 1970s, which are still being used with advanced versions and modifications. Israel constructed Sa’ar Class FAC(M), which have grown in size and tonnage, and some of these are now classed as corvettes. Evolution in Fast Attack Crafts continued to occur, which forced the United States to re-calibrate its naval capabilities with changing threat dynamics. The US navy has developed a new class of advanced FAC(M) called LCS (littoral combat ship).

FAC(M)s’ light weight allows them to operate in shallow or restricted waters, especially in creeks, estuaries and bays. This operational ability means FAC(M)s can launch nearly surprise surface-to-surface missile attacks on ships, and launch land attack missile on enemy’s terrestrial objectives from various directions. With a 63 meter length, the AZMAT Class FAC(M) weighs 560 tons. The FAC(M) will have land attack missile and surface to surface missiles besides guns and a CIWS (Close In Weapon System).

AZMAT Class FAC(M) is also a manifestation of ‘Pak-China Friendship’ in the true sense, as M/s China Shipbuilding and Offshore Company and Xingang Shipyard have not just built one boat in China but helped KS&EW (Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works) to install a complete structure for building up of further FAC(M)s in Pakistan, on the basis of self reliance. This act will surely solidify Pak-China relations for years to come. Another important dimension of AZMAT Class FAC(M)s is Pakistan’s persistent focus on indigenisation in military industry. With the indigenisation come a great deal of job opportunities and avenues for local industry to flourish. Beginning with 2009, KS&EW has witnessed many projects done on indigenous basis, and AZMAT Class FAC(M) is one of those. It is strongly believed that continuation of AZMAT Class FAC(M) project will make sea-based defence of our country more robust, resilient, credible, and will ensure a sustained economic activity through progression of military industry.