An Epilogue To An Incident

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As I wrote this post on 31st December 2016 at 16.00 local time, the Turkish flagged vessel M/V Alcatras was still grounded in Lambi beach, Kos island.

But as you can see from the videos below some of her cargo was transferred to another Turkish flagged vessel and is gone back to Turkey.

A Prototype Of A Turkish Air Defence Gun System Is Aground On A Greek Island

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The above photo shows Aselsan’s naval version of Korkut air defence gun system. The below photo shows the grounded vessel Alcatras and her cargo. A is the 3D search radar. The shape of the radar and the neck of the mast is very distinct. B is the fire control radar on the turret. Though the turret is covered on the boat, the shape and the height is consistent with the uncovered turret. The arrow shows the direction of the barrels. The photo above is from Twitter user @TyrannosurusRex. The photo below is from The Toc.

I don’t know what to say. Should I call it a Greek tragedy or a Turkish comedy? A brand-new prototype of locally developed naval air defence system ended up, grounded on a Greek Island.

The whole episode started like many others. The Turkish flagged M/V Alcatras experienced a rudder failure as she was sailing from Tuzla, Istanbul to Antalya, according to the captain’s statement. Being unable to steer she run aground on Kos island at approximately 100 m from the beach of Lambi. Such incidents do happen in the Aegean Sea quite often.

M/V Alcatras is a 28 meters long vessels. She bears all the characteristics of a large Turkish fishing vessel designed to work on the seas around Turkey. But she is has no fishing gear installed. She is registered as a diving tender. The old photos of the vessel in Marine Traffic shows a typical working boat, with the superstructure in front and a large working area at aft.

When M/V Alcatras was grounded in Kos however she was loaded with what appears as two white containers for accommodation or for working and one green container. Furthermore she has one medium hight mast with a covered top and another structure also totally covered. This is the valuable cargo. The mast and the covered cargo have the distinct shape of the naval air defence gun system developed by Aselsan.

Aselsan has developed for Turkish Army a self propelled air defense gun system called Korkut. One Korkut unit consists one command and control vehicle with a 3D search radar (marked A on the photo above) and 3 gun vehicles, each fitted with a twin 35mm air defence gun and a fire control radar. The twin guns are Oerlikon GDF-002 units produced under licence by MKEKThe development of Korkut has recently reached the field testing phase and some vehicles were delivered to Turkish Army for this purpose.

The naval Korkut was loaded on M/V Alcatras in Istanbul and she was heading to Antalya. There are no naval construction facilities in Antalya. M/V Alcatras was not merely transporting the system from Tuzla to Antalya. It is safe to assume once in Antalya, the vessel was to conduct tests on the open sea. Hence there are containers on board too. The location of the turret proivdes a wide arc of fire from the side.

There were rumors that a navalised air defence gun system based on Korkut was also on development but there was no concrete evidence. First the photo of the prototype was published on Twitter. Later the news about the grounding of a Turkish vessel with a mysterious cargo was published. Now, we and our neighbours know that we have developed a prototype of such a system.

The Greek website OnAlert reported that the cargo of M/V Alcatras was transferred to another vessel to lighten up the around ship.

Since there is no official statements about the incident, there is a (though small) possibility that my story may turn out to be wrong. And I would like to thank Alper Böler for his carefull observation.

The Death Of A Tanker

37 years ago to this day, in the very early hours, İstanbul was shaken by a large explosion. There was a huge firewall on the water and windows of many nearby houses were broken.

The Romanian tanker MT Independenta was waiting for the pilot, when the Greek cargo ship MV Evriali collided, at the southern entrance  of Bosphorus.

MT Independenta suffered 3 large explosions. Only 3 of her 43 strong crew survived the accident. The ship burned for days and created a huge environmental disaster.

My grandfather was lucky, to go on board and take some interesting yet grotesque and grim photos.   Some of them are below, to testify the intensity of the heat and days of burning.

My captured picture

My captured picture

My captured picture

My captured picture

My captured picture

My captured picture

My captured picture

My captured picture

My captured picture

My captured picture

My captured picture

My captured picture

My captured picture

Turkish Coast Guard Tows Future Qatari Coast Guard Boat

Turkish Coast Guard vessel TCSG-70 prepares to tow QC-711. Photo: Turkish Coast Guard.

Turkish Coast Guard announced that, they have helped a boat drifting off the Coast of Antalya.

This boat was QC-711 one of the ARES 75 type boats constructed by ARES shipyard for Qatari Coast Guard. According to the Turkish Coast Guard press release, QC-711 had a malfunction during the builders trials and lost all power. Thus Turkish Coast Guard boat TCSG-70 was dispatched to tow the distressed boat back to the shipyard.

TCG Akçakoca Searched For Two Missing Georgian Soldiers

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TCG Akçakoca in Georgia. Photo: Georgian MoD.

On 20 August 2016, Aydın class mine hunter TCG Akçakoca entered Georgian waters for a sad mission.

According to Agenda.ge, Corporal Iago Sharadze and First Class Private Giorgi Nanetashvili were taking part in dive training on August 16 but failed to surface after the planned dive, which took place off the coast of Gonio in the Black Sea. The men’s bodies have not yet been found but they are presumed dead.

As a mine hunter TCG Akçakoca has the suitable equipment on board, to find small objects underwater. Thus sending her for search of the bodies of the Georgian soldiers was very appropriate. According to initial news, she was to stay in Georgia for 3 days. I could not find any news whether she has returned or not.

Georgian Defence Minister Levan Izoria visited the TCG Akçakoca.

“I met with the crew of the Turkish vessel. They are highly skilled and professional specialists. The vessel is equipped with high technology and modern rescue capabilities which makes possible to conduct the operation effectively. Readiness is huge. They intend to stay for three days. Thus, in case of necessity the rescue operation will continue”, said Minister of Defence Levan Izoria.

Coast Guard Boat Collided With A Merchant Ship And Capsized

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TCSG-25 in her better days

Yesterday morning, during the morning rush hour, the Turkish Coast Guard vessel TCSG-25 collided with the Cook Island flag and Turkish owned bulk carrier M/V Tolunay on Bosphorus. The accident happened near the southern entrance of Bosphorus. The coast guard boat capsized after the collision. Both civilian and military rescue ships and other vessels were rushed to the scene. Unfortunately 3 members of crew Rıza Yücel, Yavuz Gökhan Şahin and Sinan Göktaş died while the remaining 3 were rescued.

The boat was tasked to escort the Russian Natya class mine hunter Valentin Pikul which was returning from her Syrian deployment.

If you wonder -like me- how a slow and large bulk carrier could collide with a very fast and agile boat the video below gives us some clue. For a reason, not clear, to me the coast guard boats stays motionless in front of the bulker. At this point it was not possible for the merchant ship to see the boat or to stop.

After the collision the merchant ship sailed till the northern entrance of Bosphorus to Büyükdere Bay. That Bay is the first place along the Bosphorus where a safe anchorage without disturbing the transit traffic is possible. Conveniently the headquarters of Istanbul Coast Guard Command is also located there.

Lest We Forget: TCG Dumlupınar

On 4 April 1953, in the wee hours of the morning two Turkish submarines  TCG Dumlupınar and her sister boat TCG 1. İnönü,entered from the Aegean into the Dardanelles Strait, as the returning from the NATO naval exercise Blue Sea.

The Commodore of First Submarine Squadron was in command of the two submarines and he was on board of TCG Dumlupınar. When the submarine reached the Cape Nara, the narrowest point of the Strait the Swedish flagged cargo ship M/V Naboland collided with the submarine. The accident happened at 02:15 in the morning.

M/V Naboland rammed TCG Dumlupınar from starboard forecastle just aft of the forward diving planes. The submarine rolled to port with force of the impact and sunk immediately. 5 submariners who were in the sail at the time of the collision survived. Rest of the crew, 81 men, were trapped inside her hull. She sunk at the narrowest point of Dardanelles at 85 meters.

22 sailors trapped in the aft torpedo compartment were able to release the submarine’s sunk buoy. The rescuers above the water tried to give hope and moral but time was an enemy. Submarine rescue and salvage ships were rushed from the main naval base in Gölcük after the incident. But all efforts to reach the submarine and rescue the survivors failed cause of very strong water currents and insufficient equipment.

The last words from the submarine, before the currents tore the cable of buoy were: For our country.

Since that fateful day, on every 4th of April we remember those that have a watery grave were no rose will grow.

Greek Navy Heliopter Crashed

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A similar helicopter in Greek colors has crashed in Aegean Sea.

Two pilots and one technician lost their lives when an AB-212 helicopter of Greek Navy has crashed on 11th February 2016. The accident happened in the north Aegean near the island Kinaros.

The Agusta Bell helicopter was taking part in the night military exercise ‘hunder’. It had taken off from a frigate sailing in the area and disappeared from radar around 0045 GMT. Wreckage has been found near Kinaros,” a ministry official said.

Armed forces chief Vangelis Apostolakis said weather conditions had been normal at the time when radar contact and communications were lost.

He said only parts of the wreckage had been found, and that there was little hope that any of the crew would be found alive.

Turkey issued a Notice to Airmen saying the Greek rescue operation was within its maritime search and rescue region and that all efforts should be coordinated with Turkish authorities.

Greek Coast Guard Boat Run Aground In Turkish Territorial Waters

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LS-604 of Hellenic Coast Guard, in one of her better days. Photo: Devrim Yaylalı

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A few meters more that the LS-604 would not be aground but on the ground. Photo: denizhaber.com

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LS-604 finally free again. Photo: denizhaber.com

The Motomarine Pathner 57 MkII class patrol boat LS-604 of Greek Coast Guard ran aground inside Turkish territorial waters on 14 January 2015. The boat was in hot pursuit of the fast motor boat Rüzgar009 which was suspected of smuggling. The incident happened at 00.21 according to Turkish Coast Guard.

The grounding happened near Tuz Burnu north of Didim. Turkish Coast Guard dispatched one plane and several smaller boats to side at night. In the next morning one Dost class OPV and 3 smaller boats from Turkish Coast Guard were deployed to the incident side. The shallowness of the water made the re floating of LS-604 a bit tricky. The boat was however refloated on 15 January 2016 at 11.45.

The hull of the boat did not suffered any damages but her main machinery was not working. LS-604 was towed by a Turkish Coast Guard vessel to the outside of Turkish territorial water where the Greek Coast Gaurd vessel LS-020 resumed the towing.

Below is an official video ofrom Turkish Coast Guard. The first 3 minutes were taken by the coast guard plane at night.

What Will Happen On Maritime Front After The Shooting Of The Russian Fighter?

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Russian warship Korolev passing through Bosphorus on 28th November 2015

On 24 November 2015, one Turkish F-16 fighter, shoot down a Russian Su-24M fighter-bomber violating Turkish airspace.

The events happening after this incident are beyond the scope of this blog. I am going to try to explain this recent Turco-Russian crisis from a maritime point of view.

So what is going to happen on maritime front after the shooting down of the Russian fighter? The short answer is: Nothing.

The first reaction on Russian side, in maritime domain was to withdraw the naval officer working as a liaison between Russia’s Black Sea Fleet and Turkish Navy and suspend participation in the Black Sea Force (BLACKSEAFOR).

In accordance with the decision by the Russian Defense Ministry on terminating military contacts with Turkey, the participation of our Black Sea Fleet in the BLACKSEAFOR drills has been suspended,” said Komoyedov who was previously commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.
“Also, a representative of the Russian Navy in charge of coordination between the Black Sea Fleet and the Turkish Navy has been recalled from Turkey,” Komoyedov said. “He has returned home,” he added.

The withdraw from BLACKSEAFOR is purely for the Russian public consumption. The BLACKSEAFOR was created by Turkey as a call of naval task force very similar to NATO’s Standing Maritime Groups. The Purpose of the BLACKSEAFOR was to develop the interoperability between the Black Sea nations and the create a mutual trust and cooperation between the navies. But the BLACKSEAFOR was stabbed in the back by Russia with the Georgian – Russian war in 2008. That conflict destroyed much of the work done by then. The annexation of Crimea by Russia was the final nail in the coffin. Since that event BLACKSEAFOR was in coma and the yearly activations of the task force were cancelled.therefore Russian decision of leaving BLACKSEAFOR has no value.

Another reaction was the deployment of the Slava class cruiser Mosvka off the coast of Syrian town Latakia.

“Cruiser” Moskva “, armed with air defense system” Fort “, on Wednesday morning took the position area in the region of Latakia. His means of radar and missile system will be able to provide cover videoconferencing Russian air group in Syria, “- a spokesman said.

On the eve of the chief of the Main Operations Directorate of the General Staff, Lieutenant-General Sergey Rudskoy told reporters that the cruiser “Moskva”, equipped with air defense system “Fort”, takes the area near Latakia to strengthen defense. The exact date when not given.

Besides Mosvka, the following Russian ships are in the region:

  • Kashin class destroyer Smetliviy
  • Nanuchka III class corvette Mirazh
  • Vishnya class intelligence-gathering ship Vasiliy Tatischev
  • Tanker Ivan Bubnov
  • Tug MB-31
  • Amur class repair ship PM-56
  •  Oceanographic research ship Admiral Vladimirsky

And the following Russian ships are on the way to the region:

  • Ropucha class large landing ships Korolev and Tsezar Kunikov
  • Auxiliary cargo ship Vologda-50

Mosvka has passed through Turkish Straits on 25 September 2015 and she remained in the Eastern Mediterranean since that day.  Moskva has 8 vertical launcher for SA-N-6 ‘Grumble’ surface to air missiles with 8 rounds for each launcher. The SA-N-6 ‘Grumble’ also known as S-300F (Fort) is a navalised version of the S-300 surface to air missile system.  The ship based missile is the 5V55RM which has a minimum range of 5 kilometers and a maximum range on 75 kilometers.

The deployment of the cruiser, the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, off the coast of Latakia will increase the protection for air base used by Russia and is more or less for the Russian public consumption.   I am quite sure that the captain of Moskva is not happy to act as a picket fence. As a picket fence the cruiser will be the first line of defence and there are not enough Russian warships to escort this capital ship should the crisis escalate.

In the unlikely event of escalation of the crisis between Turkey and Russia the cruiser Mosvka is alone and very vulnerable to the most potent Turkish weapon to be used: submarines.

According to the website of Turkish General Staff two submarines are conducting patrols in Eastern Mediterranean. TCG Dolunay is in the region since 11th November 2015 and TCG Burakreis since 7th November 2015.

Both sides have many warships in the Eastern Mediterranean in close vicinity and the tensions are high at the moment. But never the less I think any military escalation is very unlikely as this could potentially led to a large confrontation and in such event Turkey may evoke its right to close the Turkish Straits according to the article 20 of Montreux Convention.

Article 20. In time of war, Turkey being belligerent, the provisions of Articles 10 to 18 shall not be applicable; the passage of warships shall be left entirely to the discretion of the Turkish Government.

The Montreux Convention dictates a 8 day notification period for the Black Sea Powers. This means if any Black Sea nation wants to move their ships through Turkish Straits, they have to notify Turkey 8 days prior this crossing. Therefore if Russian Navy has decided on 24th November  after the shooting down of Su-24M, to send more warships to Syria, 2nd December 2015 is the earliest day these ships can pass through Turkish Straits.

Russia must have an unlimited access to Turkish Straits. The so called Syrian Express deployments of Russian Ropucha and Alligator class landing ships and auxiliaries are vitally important to keep Russian troops inside Syria supplied. If Russia cannot send its ships through Turkish Straits for any reason, the Russian soldiers deployed in Syria may find themselves in a very similar position of General Paulus’ Army. This is an important reason, why the Russian counter aggression to the shooting of its plane is (and will remain) asymmetrical. This is why Russians are trying to hurt Turkey with diplomatic and economical responses rather than military actions.

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