The Participants In Mavi Vatan Exercise (Part 2)

An update to the major units taking part in the exercise Mavi Vatan:

Legend: Green means confirmed participant. Red means confirmed nonparticipant.

Small landing craft and auxiliaries taking part in the exercise are not included in the list. For further information regarding the exercise click here.

Additional information:

Frigates: TCG Gökçeada is deployed with the SNMG-2 and TCG Geliblou is in Gulf Of Aden with CTF-151. One frigate is escorting the Barbaros Hayrettin seismic ship in the Mediterranean. This means all frigates of the Turkish Navy are deployed.

Corvettes: Two corvettes are also escorting the Barbaros Hayrettin seismic ship in the Mediterranean.  This leaves 8 corvettes available for this exercise. Only one will miss it out.

Minehunters: TCG Akçakoca is deployed with SNMCMG-2. From the available ten strong force, 7 will take part.

Submarines: As their nature, they are the most difficult units to identify. TCG Gür is in Italy to join the NATO exercise Dynamic Manta. Two more are deployed to the Eastern Mediterranean according to Turkish General Staff. 7 out of 9 available submarines are taking part.

Amphibious ships: According to pre-exercise briefing 22 amphibious ships are participating in this exercise. Most of them are smaller LCT and LCM sized landing craft.

Fast attack craft: Turkish Navy has 19 missile-armed fast attack craft. 16 of them are taking part in this exercise.

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The Participants In Mavi Vatan Exercise

Regular readers of this blog will know, that I like to name the units that are taking part in an exercise. It is not easy to identify the participating units to the Mavi Vatan naval exercise. First, there are 103 units taking part in this drill. I would be able to get to name them all. Second, most of the attention of the media is focused on larger units like frigates and corvettes. The smaller landing craft and the auxiliaries taking part will not be covered.

Never the less I am trying to find the larger units participating in this exercise. Here is the list:

Legend: Green means confirmed participant. Red means confirmed nonparticipant.

Frigates: TCG Gökçeada is deployed with the SNMG-2 and TCG Geliblou is in Gulf Of Aden with CTF-151. One frigate is escorting the Barbaros Hayrettin seismic ship in the Mediterranean. This means all frigates of the Turkish Navy are deployed.

Corvettes: Two corvettes are also escorting the Barbaros Hayrettin seismic ship in the Mediterranean.  This leaves 8 corvettes available for this exercise. Only one will miss it out.

Minehunters: TCG Akçakoca is deployed with SNMCMG-2. From the available ten strong force, 7 will take part.

Submarines: As their nature, they are the most difficult units to identify. TCG Gür is in Italy to join the NATO exercise Dynamic Manta. Two more are deployed to the Eastern Mediterranean according to Turkish General Staff. 7 out of 9 available submarines are taking part.

Amphibious ships: According to pre-exercise briefing 22 amphibious ships are participating in this exercise. Most of them are smaller LCT and LCM sized landing craft.

Fast attack craft: Turkish Navy has 19 missile-armed fast attack craft. 16 of them are taking part in this exercise.

What Does The Exercise Mavi Vatan Mean?

Today, 96 ships of various types and 7 submarines sailed away from their ports this morning as the naval exercise Mavi Vatan started. Mavi Vatan means Blue Motherland (or Fatherland or Homeland depending your own orientation) and refers to the seas around Turkey.

The break down of the participants in number and percentage.

The exercise is held in the Eastern Mediterranean, Aegean and in the Black Sea simultaneously and is the largest naval exercise ever held in Turkey. The exercise will continue till 8th March 2019.

In addition to the above-mentioned assets, helicopters, planes and special forces teams of Turkish Navy, attack and transport helicopters from Turkish Land Forces, fighter and early warning planes from Turkish Air Force, and boats and helicopters from Turkish Coast Guard are also participating in this exercise.

Turkish Navy usually conducts its spring exercise a few weeks later, usually in late March, early April or in May when the seas are less demanding and the winds are fairer. These wargames are more compact in size and in their scopes.

In many aspects, this is not a standard annual wargame played by the Turkish Naval Forces. And when nations stage grandiose military games it is usually a kind of a signal.

There was one such major exercise the Turkish Navy had held in June 1998, Turkish naval elements spread over the Mediterranean. One group was deployed east of Malta and the other west of Crete before launching a virtual battle with the participation of the Turkish air force. That was the largest exercise ever held by the Turkish navy in the Mediterranean and was meant as a response to the tension with Greece at that time.

The Turkish media say the exercise is actually a message to the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF), a coalition formed recently by Egypt, Israel, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority. The alliance plans to explore energy sources in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, including disputed areas. This show of force on the maritime domain will surely be closely watched by these nations.

So what makes this exercise novel if we would skip the most obvious part:

  • Unmanned aircraft and autonomous unmanned vehicles will be used together with the manned systems. The short ranged Bayraktar and the longer range ANKA UAV’s are in service with the Turkish Navy. Bayraktar can carry smart micro munition. ANKA can be controlled via satellite thus enabling it to fly long-range missions. The Gavia autonomous unmanned vehicles can detect mines down to 1000m depth. Previous systems on board of the mine hunters were limited down to 270m. The integration of these modern systems into existing capabilities must be tested.
  • The usage of command, control, communication, and intelligence systems. Turkish Navy has been trying to increase its awareness over the maritime domain. A lot has been invested in land-based long-range radar systems, airborne early warning aircraft and in data linking ability. These have to be tried and assessed.
  • In the pre-exercise briefing, it has been announced that a locally developed computer-based naval warfare simulator (game) will be used during this exercise. With the help of this system, the commanders will be able to make decisions based on the played scenarios rendered from real-life situations.
  • The validation of the effectiveness of the Naval Warfare Center established last year. 165 strong staff will be running this large exercise.

Not much left sitting in the port.

It has been announced that live firings will be conducted during the Mavi Vatan 2019 exercise. Though at this stage it is not clear what type of ammunition will be tested against what kind of target(s). Only UMTAS, long-range anti-tank missile, and CİRİT, 2.75” laser-guided missile has been specially mentioned. Both munitions are specially made to be used from attack helicopters. We will have to wait to learn why these two missiles are mentioned. Are they integrated into a naval platform or will they be fired from army attack helicopters?

More than %80 of all corvettes, fast attack craft, and patrol boats, currently not deployed to a mission are taking part in this exercise. An impressive %93 of all frigates have sailed away.  To keep so many ships for 10 days at sea requires also a good and strong logistical support. The test the logistical support Turkey can provide to its deployed forces is one of the important issues of this exercise.

For me, the most important part of the exercise will be the port visits made by the Turkish warships. Between 6th and 8th March, 40 ports will be visited by 67 participating naval units, 7 of which are foreign ports.

Turkish warships will visit, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Russian Federation, Georgia and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. The simultaneous visits to the Black Sea riparian states have a high symbolic value. Turkey is the only nation that can perform such a diplomatic show of force. It is not a small event to do port visits in 5 different nations at the same time.

In conclusion, this exercise is a military drill to turn the concepts of Turkish Armed Forces into doctrines as indicated by Mr. Metin Gürcan, an independent security analyst. This exercise is a political act to show that Turkey will protect its interests on the high seas.

Turkish Navy EOD Team Destroys An Old Mine

The deadly catch. Photo: Balıkesir Haber Ajansı

This week a fishing boat operating off the coast of Ayvalık, Balıkesir found a mine in its net.

They have informed the Coast Guard and the harbor master. The old and probably inert mine was brought to the shore on board. A Turkish Navy EOD team was called by the Coast Gaurd. The EOD team brought the mine to an inhabited area and destroyed it by detonation.

The mine is believed to be from 1. World War era. Every year fishermen return with such deadly catch and provide the EOD teams always an opportunity for action.

Turkish Coast Guard Rescues 275 People, During Search And Rescue Exercise

Dost class OPV, TCSG Güven acted as the flagship for the Turkish Coast Guard units taking part in the exercise.

Turkish Coast Guard rescued 275 illegal immigrants from the sea on 6 different occasions during the Deniz Aslanı 2018 search and rescue exercise.

According to Turkish Coast Guard, on 14 May 2018 during the search and rescue exercise held in the Aegean Sea, in 6 different incidents total of 275 the illegal immigrants were rescued from hardly seaworthy rubber boats.

Deniz Aslanı is an annual exercise held, in international waters of the Aegean Sea covered by Turkish Search and Rescue Area. Search and Rescue units from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and elements of Transportation, Maritime Affairs, and Communications Ministry participated in the exercise.

The aim of the exercise is to improve the coordination and collaboration between the military and civilian search and rescue units and coordination centers.

Fire On Board TCG Beykoz

TCG Beykoz sailing southward through Çeşme Strait. This photo was taken in November 2017.

In the early morning hours on 13th January 2018, a fire erupted in the engine room of the corvette TCG Beykoz. The ship was in a berth at Foça Naval Base. Damage control party interfered and put out the fire. 11 sailors were hospitalized of which 8 were later released the same day. According to news reports, the fire started at electrical cables.

The ship is assigned to Escort and Patrol Fleet and based in Foça, İzmir. The extent of the damage and whether the ship needs a lengthy overhaul and repair period is unclear.

M/V Orca 2 Collided With Russian Navy Landing Ship Yamal

The damaged Yamal in Sevastopol. All damage seems to be on the superstructure. There is no visible damage to the hull. That is good. Photo: Artem Balabin.

I might be mistaken but the damaged area supposed to be the living quarters of the crew and the transported troops. Thus I sincerely hope no one was injured. The blow seems to be strong. Photo: Artem Balabin.

Another photo showing the extent of the damage to Yamal. Photo: Artem Balabin.

It is a pity that we -the ship spotters in Istanbul- have missed the northbound passage of Yamal on 1st January 2017. Otherwise, the Russian Navy would not be able to cover it up for 10 days.

Container ship ORCA 2 collided with Russian Navy Landing ship YAMAL at around 1300 UTC Dec 30 in Aegean sea some 8 nm northwest of Rhodes port, Rhodes island. Container ship was en route from Alexandria to Gemlik Turkey Marmara sea, and according to Russian Navy official statement, was overtaking YAMAL, when suddenly veered starboard and collided with YAMAL. ORCA 2 is to be blamed for collision, said Russian Navy. Both ships sustained undisclosed damages. YAMAL was en route from Syria to Sevastopol, Crimea, understood she resumed sailing, while ORCA 2 was taken to Rhodos anchored and remained at anchor until Jan 4. On Jan 4 she resumed voyage, and on Jan 6 arrived at Gemlik. On Jan 10 she was still at Gemlik.
There were no news on this accident until Jan 10, when suddenly, Russian Navy made an official statement, published by Russian News Agency TASS.

The omission of Yamal from Syrian Express supply runs will make life of logistics planners very difficult. She was one of the most prolific ships, making 10 deployments in 2017 before the accident. She may be out of service for a couple years.

Turkish Navy Is Taking Part In Deniz Kurdu 2017

On 13 May 2017 Turkish warships set sail to participate in annual Deniz Kurdu exercise.

The exercise is held in Marmara, Aegean and Mediterranean Sea and will continue till 26 May 2017.

The purpose of the exercise is:

  • to test the efficiency level of the current command control structure under realistic conditions
  • to determine the functionality of the support provided to the other forces
  • to evaluate the to what extent the units of Turkish Naval Command can fulfill their duties and responsibilities  during the transition from a crisis environment to a conventional warfare environment.

14 frigates, 6 corvettes, 17 fast attack craft, 9 submarines, 6 mine hunters, 13 logistic support ships, 4 patrol boats, 4 MPA/ASW planes, 19 helicopters are taking part in this exercise. 9 boats and 1 SAR vessel from Turkish Coast Guard and numerous planes from Turkish Air Force is also taking part in this exercise.

The table below shows, the percentage of the participating Turkish Naval units, compared to the total ships in service.

In service Participating to DK 2017 %
Frigates 16 14 88%
Submarines 12 9 75%
Corvettes 8 6 75%
Fast Attack Craft 19 17 89%
Mine hunters 11 6 55%
Patrol boats 16 4 25%
Logistic support ships 5 13 260%
Planes 8 4 50%
Helicopters 35 19 54%

As one can see the majority of Turkish Naval units are taking part in Deniz Kurdu 2017.

The numbers for logistics supports ships does not make any sense. Turkish Navy has 5 replenishment ships that can be counted as logistics support ship. I have no idea how number for logistic ships was calculated as 13. As more news and photos start to be published we may learn more.

But other numbers are impressive and show that the majority of Turkish warships are, now at sea and honing their skills.

Turkey Deploys Two Warships To SNMG-2

f491

TCG Giresun passing through Istanbul in 2014. Photo: Yörük Işık.

Gabya class frigate F-491 TCG Giresun and Tuzla class patrol boat P-1201 TCG Karaburun has been deployed to Standing NATO Maritime Group Two.

According to NATO Maritime Command, TCG Giresun is attached to SNMG-2 Task Unit 2 consisting of Spanish frigate ESPS Almirante Juan De Borbon and Canadian frigate HMCS St. John’s. TCG Giresun will join the task force in Toronto, Italy.

The patrol boat TCG Karaburun is deployed closer to Turkey. She is will support NATO activities in the Aegean Sea as part of the international efforts to stop illegal trafficking and migration. Tuzla class patrol boats have been very active last year in the Aegean Sea and rescued hundreds may be thousands of refugees from the sea.

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

alcatras

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.

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