Very little is known about Pakistan’s newest submarine, aside from the fact that it is extremely compact. The mystery submarine was first reported on in April, though open-source intelligence that recently became available has shed more light on the project.
In a video posted to Twitter, Pakistani sailors march in a coronavirus-era parade formation complete with facemasks at a port in Karachi. These sailors, members of Pakistan’s Special Services Group Navy, serve in a similar role as the United States’ Navy SEALs. In the background of the video, a tarpaulin-covered submarine can just be made out. The information gleaned from the video was most likely unintentional—an accidental leak rather than an intentional disclosure.
The submarine is possibly a successor to Pakistan’s other aging midget submarines. The X-class, as the midget submarines are known, are in fact of Italian origin. The now-defunct manufacturer Cos.Mo.S sold the submarine design to Pakistan in the early 1990s, and they manufactured domestically in Pakistan in the early- to mid-1990s.
The Italo-Pakistani design is similar to the Navy’s Dry Combat Submersible, which was designed in the United Kingdom for the U.S. Special Operations Command. Both the Dry Combat Submersible and the X-class have the advantage of a fully-enclosed crew compartment, keeping sailors inside the small submarines high and dry. While staying out of the ocean is certainly a boon to crew comfort, it also allows for longer duration missions underwater, as those onboard suffer less fatigue or other adverse physical issues due to prolonged cold water exposure.
The small sub is estimated by naval experts to be around 55 feet, or nearly 17 meters long and roughly seven to eight feet across. This is just over half as long as the X-class. The new submarine also likely sports two torpedo tubes in a casing mated to the top of the hull. In contrast to the older X-class, this new submarine might be a truly original domestic design.
While the new midgets submarine’s primary mission could be reconnaissance and personnel insert and/or extraction, the ability to fire torpedoes could allow the submarine to strike at targets of opportunity or to carry out sabotage missions.
Things to Come?
Admittedly, information concerning this little submarine is in relatively short supply. Still, it is an interesting Pakistani naval development—one that the Navy would like to keep under wraps at least for now. The small design could be the product of cooperation with China, a country that Pakistan has drawn closer to in recent years. Keep an eye out for more information on this small mystery submarine in the future.
Caleb Larson is a defense writer with the National Interest. He holds a Master of Public Policy and covers U.S. and Russian security, European defense issues, and German politics and culture.