TCG Heybeliada Commissioned. A New Era For Turkish Navy

F-511 TCG Heybeliada

Yesterday was the 473. Anniversary of the Battle of Preveza. This day is also celebrated as the Turkish Navy Day. This years highlight was not the launching of the second Milgem class corvette F-512 TCG Büyükada but the commissioning of the first ship F-511 TCG Heybeliada.

The MILGEM class corvettes have a 99m mono hull with many stealth features incorporated into the design of the ship. The planned displacement was around 2,000 tons but apparently in grow to 2,300 tons. The armament is one 76mm Oto/Melara gun, 8 RGM-84 Harpoon missiles and 2 Mk-32 twin torpedo launchers. For self defense the ship is armed with a 21 cell RIM-116 RAM, 2 STAMP remote controlled stabilized weapon stations and Ultra SeaSentor torpedo counter measure system.

But I just I don’t want to talk about the specifications of these ships but I would like to stress what the MILGEM project means for Turkish Navy and how it will shape the future.

The combat information center of TCG Heybeliada. Note the map on the big blue screen at right! Photo: from NTVMSNBC

For Turkey the MİLGEM is the most important naval procurement project, going on. MILGEM is an acronym of the Turkish word Milli Gemi (National Ship). This high priority project is pivotal as it will form the foundation for experience and know-how for the design, production and integration of a complex warship through local means. The programme is also critical in defining the future of the customer – producer relationship between the Turkish Navy (as end-user and the builder of the first two ships), the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (as procurement agency) and private shipyards (as suppliers). The successful conclusion of this project will mark a new era for naval ship building in Turkey and will shape the Turkish naval ship building industry and the big future projects like TF-2000 air defence frigate.

The history of MILGEM goes back to the late 1990s. In 1996 Turkish Navy declared that it wanted to procure eight corvettes under the project MILGEM. As the name shows a maximum of Turkish contribution was desired from the beginning. When the project first started, a German shipyard immediately offered their corvettes design which was then still largely on drawing board. This move was logical as they did not wanted to lose a lucrative market for them.  After delays due to severe economic crises, MILGEM was brought into life by Defense Industry Executive Committee (DIEC) in February 2000. Initial acquisition numbers were eight platforms plus four optional.

Despite the fact that twelve shipyards acquired the Request for Proposal, only two submitted proposals, both of which were found to be invalid due to the deficiency in the bid bonds.

Thus it seemed for a couple of years as if the MILGEM project was put on ice. In 2004 in an unprecedented move a dedicated design office was created for MILGEM by Turkish Navy. MILGEM Project Office (MPO) which is located at Istanbul Naval Shipyard was tasked with all design and construction activities regarding the ship.

After the MPO started to design the ship, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries, the main defense procurement agency in Turkey, started in cooperation with Turkish Navy, the bidding process for various sub systems of the ship. In parallel, a series of workshops were organized in order to arouse the interest of the commercial ship building, machinery and supporting industries. This was necessary in order to obtain a high degree of local contribution.

The bridge of TCG Heybeliada. Photo: from NTVMSNBC

Thus MILGEM grew above being just a simple ship building program, as some of the important sub systems, equipment and sensors are being produced for the first time for MILGEM. For example the hull mounted sonar to be used in MILGEM class warships was developed by TUBITAK. It is worth to note that the sonar installed in TCG Heybeliada is the first ever sonar designed and constructed in Turkey. Similarly, the fire control radar for the main gun developed by Aselsan, is the first fire control radar ever designed and produced in Turkey. Many sub systems and sensors developed from MILGEM will be used in the future ship building projects of the Turkish Navy for sure.

With this project many small or medium sized Turkish companies specialized in their own fields such as water treatment or marine subsystems production started to do business with Turkish Armed Forces. For these companies doing business with the armed forces was a steep learning process. Many companies found the military standards and the test to prove that the products are up the these standards very high. The preparation of the necessary usage and maintenance documents was also a challenge especially for the smaller companies as it required a dedicated staff. In my eyes the success of the MILGEM project is to create the synergy and the excitement for all participants and giving the support for overcoming the difficulties in a harmonious way.

The success or the failure of the MILGEM programme, will directly influence the procurement model for the all planned major combat ship projects such as TF-2000. Turkish Navy has a requirement for a dedicated anti air warfare frigate to create a wide reaching air defense umbrella for its task forces, if necessary. Turkish Navy is defining her requirements and Undersecretariat for Defense Industries is defining its acquisition model. TF-2000 programme will start probably when MILGEM production is handed over from Istanbul Naval Shipyard to private shipyards. The current plans forecast 4 frigates to be commissioned in 2018-2020 time frame.

3 Responses to TCG Heybeliada Commissioned. A New Era For Turkish Navy

  1. serhan says:

    Do you have any info about indigenious naval power pack ?

    Because we need indigenious power pack and ammo to maintain operation in the war time.

  2. Pingback: Turkey to unveil its own made warships - Page 2

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