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.

A New Naval Base In The Black Sea

The location of the future naval base of the Turkish Navy in the eastern Black Sea.

Turkish Navy has started the necessary bureaucratical procedures to establish a new naval base in the Black Sea.

Turkish Navy was thinking about establishing a naval base in the eastern Black Sea for almost one decade. The main Turkish naval base in the Black Sea is in Karadeniz Ereğli in the western part of the region. This base is approximately 100 nautical miles away from the northern entrance of Istanbul Strait and close to the strategic mining town Zonguldak. The base shares the port with the civilian shipping and is located figuratively next to the important Erdemir steel factory. This location made sense during the Cold War period. Turkish warships stationed there would stage hit and run attacks to Warsaw Pact warships trying to near the Bosphorus and protect the important infrastructure in the region from seaborne assault.

However, since Turkish Navy started to patrol the Black Sea more vigorously and initiated the Operation Black Sea Harmony in 2004, as a continuation of NATO Operation Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean, the need for a second naval base in the eastern Black Sea become more obvious. A Turkish warship needs to sail approximately 500 nautical miles from Trabzon to Karadeniz Ereğli. This new base will eliminate the long trips from the eastern Black Sea.

According to news reports a suitable land was found in Sürmene town in Trabzon. The Commander of Turkish Naval Forces, Admiral Adnan Özbal has also visited the proposed site in July 2018.

The projected naval base will cover 60 acres. Again, according to news reports, there will be approximately 200 civilian and 400 military personnel. The base will provide logistical support to all type of warships and submarines in the Turkish Navy.

It is too early to say whether any ships will be permanently based in this base and if any what type. The projected site for the base does not seem to be suitable for the basing of a large number of ships, as it is. And it is not clear if any earth moving changes are to be made in the area.

This base will not affect the stay of warships of the nonriparian Black Sea States -especially non-Black Sea NATO members. Their stay will still be subject to Montreux Convention and limited to 21 days.

ÇAFRAD Successfully Completes First Live Fire Test

The test bed for the ÇAFRAD prototype, TCG Göksu sailing through Bosphorus.

The large structure on the flight deck houses the illumination radar, multifunctional radar, and the IFF interrogator. The arrays of the radars are looking to the starboard side of the ship. Power generators and HVAC systems are also mounted on the flight deck.

 

On 13th December 2018, it was announced that a RIM-162 ESSM missile fired from the frigate TCG Göksu hit a target drone. The live shooting exercise was important as the target was tracked and illuminated by Turkish made radar system.

In November 2018 Turkish Navy started to field testing an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar prototype manufactured by Aselsan. The prototype was installed on the flight deck of the Gabya –O.H. Perry-class frigate TCG Göksu.

The technology demonstrator prototype installed on board of TCG Göksu has only one set of multifunctional phased array radar and illumination radar. The arrays of the radars are looking to the starboard side of the ship. Power generators and HVAC systems are also mounted on the flight deck.

The ASEA radar project named ÇAFRAD (Turkish abbreviation of Multi-Functional Phased Array Radar) was first made public in 2012. The contract for the Phase I, was signed in August 2013 between Aselsan and –the then- Undersecretriat of Defence Industries. The contract value is 200 Million Turkish Liras.

Phase I covers the design, development, manufacture, and testing of the ÇAFRAD prototype, to be composed of an X-band multifunctional phased array radar, an X-Band illumination radar and an IFF system with nonrotating AESA antenna.

Phase II covers the design and development of a long-range active phased array radar and the development of multi-face antenna versions of multifunctional radar and illumination radar.

The multifunction active phased array radar will have a range of around 150km and it will be used for, horizon searches, air, and surface target detection, tracking and classification, small, low altitude and high-velocity air target detection and tracking.

The long-range active phased array radar will be used for, long range volume searches, air and surface target detection and tracking. When finished it will have a range of 450km.

The active phased array illuminator will be used for semi-active missile guidance.

The factory acceptance tests for the prototype were scheduled for 2017 and the testing on board of a warship was planned for the first half of 2018. Now with the FATs finished field testing has stated. When the tests on board TCG Göksu are completed SSB will start the Phase II. The deliveries of complete systems are planned for 2023.

When finished, the ÇAFRAD system is intended to be installed as the main sensor and fire control system on board of the TF-2000 air defense warships.

The Kerch Incident

Russia seized three Ukrainian naval vessels on 25th November 2018 Sunday and escalated the feud between two countries to the next level.

The Ukrainian trio – Gurza-M class gunboats P-175 Berdyansk, P-176 Nikopol and the tug A-947 Yana Kapu – set sail from Odessa and was destined to Berdyansk by the Azov Sea.

The Azov Sea is a large and shallow part of the Black Sea shared by Ukraine and the Russian Federation. Access from the Black Sea is through the Kerch Strait.

In 2003 the –then friendly – Russian Federation and Ukraine signed a treaty cooperation in the use of the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait. According to this treaty merchant ships and warships, as well as other state ships flying the flag of the Russian Federation or Ukraine, operated for non-commercial purposes, enjoy the freedom of navigation in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait.

Before the occupation of Crimea, the Kerch Strait was separating Ukraine from Russia. Now both side of the strait is controlled by the Russian Federation. And this control enables Russia to decide who can pass through the Strait and who cannot. In the last couple of months, the Russian Federation has started to delay merchant ships in the Azov Sea, by detaining and inspecting them if their destination is a Ukrainian port. These legal but abusive inspections delay the ships at least 2 or 3 days.  European Parliament stated that Russia detained at least 120 vessels that flown the EU flag since April and not allowed them to proceed to Ukrainian ports. These arbitrary and unnecessary long inspections hurt the Ukrainian economy very much.

In the recent months, Russia has moved naval units from its Caspian and the Black Sea Fleets to the Azov Sea. As a counter move, Ukraine decided to reinforce its naval assets in the region. In early September Ukraine deployed two Gurza-M class gunboats. But instead sailing through the Kerch Strait they were moved on a truck by road. Thus Russia was not in a position to prevent this movement. Furthermore, Ukraine sends on 24th September the Amur class warships, A-500 Donbas and the tug A-830 Korets again through the Kerch Strait. During that deployment, the tug was towing the other ship.

However this time Ukraine decided to send the gunboats by sea instead of by land. This was not a decision out of nautical necessities.

The Russians tried to stop the Ukrainian ships. A video made from the bridge of Russian Sorum class Coast Guard vessel Don shows how the ship shouldered the Ukrainian tug Yana Kapu. The video does not show however how Don collided with the other Russian Coast Guard vessel Izumrud and created a hole on her superstructure.

Izumrud later opened fire with her AK-630 multi-barreled 30mm gun to the gunboat Berdyansk. The photos circulation on social media clearly shows the bullet hole on this boat. Later Russian special forces boarded the vessels and seized them.

In the aftermath of the incident, Russians flew the Ukrainians to Moscow. But before that, some of the Ukrainian sailors had to appear in front of the TV cameras to be forced to read some kind of made up confessions.

Ukraine pleaded help from the West and asked NATO to send warships to the Sea of Azov. People with enough geographical knowledge quickly realized that Azov Sea was too shallow to accommodate any NATO warship big enough to make a statement and armed enough to protect herself properly. Such a warship would not be able to pass under the Kerch Bridge that has only 33 meters clearance.

Ukraine also demanded Turkey to close Turkish Straits to Russian warships. Ihor Voronchenko, Commander of the Naval Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, at the II International Conference on Maritime Security in Kiev, said that Ukraine intends to appeal to the international community to strengthen sanctions against Russia in connection with its aggressive actions in the Sea of Azov and to close the Bosporus Strait for vessels of the Russian Federation according to the 19th paragraph of the Convention of Montreux.

According to Article 19 of Montreux Convention, in time of war, Turkey not being belligerent, warships shall enjoy complete freedom of transit and navigation through the Straits under the same conditions as those laid down in Article 10 to 18. Vessels of war belonging to belligerent Powers shall not, however, pass through the Straits except in cases arising out of the application of Article 25 of the present Convention, and in cases of assistance rendered to a State victim of aggression in virtue of a treaty of mutual assistance binding-Turkey, concluded within the framework of the Covenant of the League of Nations, and registered and published in accordance with the provisions of Article 18 of the Covenant…

The obvious problem here is, that there is no openly declared war between Ukraine and the Russian Federation.  And neither of these two nations is going to change the status quo, by declaring one. Turkey will not close the Straits and will keep them open for any nation. Turkey also will try to lessen the tensions in the Black Sea through indirect mediation.

By sending the gunboats and the tug, Ukraine challenged the Russian position, that the Kerch Strait was a Russian inner waterway, and showed that it hasn’t recognized, the unilateral Russian change to the 2003 agreement. Ukraine has also managed to bring the problems it faces in the Azov Sea to the worldwide public attention. But has lost a third of her Gurza-M class gunboats which are much needed to strengthen the Ukrainian Navy

On the other hand, Russia revealed that it prefers to confront Ukrainian armed forces without proxies rather than putting its assumed ownership on the Kerch Strait and demonstrated that it was ready physically block the Strait at all costs.

Turkish Navy Conducted The Second SINKEX In 2018

The Turkish Navy conducted another sinking exercise SINKEX last week on 17th October. This is the second SINKEX Turkish Navy has conducted in 2018 and the third, in the last 12 months.

This exercise was not previously announced. But it was anticipated since the decommissioned navy tanker ex- TCG Taşkızak was observed being towed to the Black Sea on 16th October 2018. The previous sinking exercises were also conducted in the Black Sea. The tanker sunk in 5 minutes 36 seconds after the impact of the torpedo.

This yet unidentified Ay class submarine seen here sailing southbound through
Istanbul on 19th October 2018 was most probably the submarine that fired the torpedo that sunk the ex- TCG Taşkızak during the SINEX.

 

The short video of the exercise, shows an unguided torpedo being fired from an Ay class submarine. The torpedo seems shorter than contemporary modern torpedos and does not have a guidance wire. Therefore I believe it was an Mk-37 torpedo.

 

Turkish Navy Conducts Another SINKEX

Turkish Navy disposed of another decommissioned warship by sending it to the Davy Jones’ Locker with a big bang.

Ay class submarine TCG Yıldıray commissioned in service in 1981, sunk the decommissioned tanker TCG Sadettin Gürcan. She was decommissioned in November 2016, after 46 years of service.

The ship was named after Lieutenant Commander Sadettin Gürcan the commander of the submarine TCG Atılay. This submarine was lost with all hands in July 1942 as she hit submerged an old naval mine from First World War off Dardanelles Strait.

The decommissioned tanker was observed being towed towards to the Black Sea in February 2018. She had markings painted on her bow were consistent with previous targets towed to the Black Sea.

According to unconfirmed reports, the torpedo fires from TCG Yıldıray was an SST-4 Mod 0.

Just 8 months ago, in October 2017 Turkish Navy conducted another SINKEX in the Black Sea. In that exercise, the Oliver Hazard Perry-class hull, ex-USS Duncan was sunk by an Mk-24 Mod. 2 Tigerfish torpedo.

On 11th June 2018, two Ay class submarines were observed sailing towards the Black Sea. One of them is TCG Yıldıray. Unfortunately, I am not in a position to tell you which is which but here are the photos of the two submarines:

Notes On Deniz Yıldızı 2018 Naval Exercise

On 26 March 2018 Turkish Navy started its spring exercise Deniz Yıldızı 2018. Ships departed from their ports and the first phase of the exercise was held in the Marmara Sea. On 27 March 2018 Turkish warships passed northbound through Istanbul and continued the exercise in the Black Sea. The exercise will end on 5th April

Though it has not been officially announced, the decommissioned oiler ex Binbaşı Saadetin Gürcan, that was observed being towed to the Black Sea in February is believed to be sunk as a target.

This weekend these warships are dispersed all over the ports in the Black Sea for a well earned weekend break. Turkish warships are simultaneously visiting Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, and Ukraine. It is neither an easy nor a simple act of sending 8 warships to foreign cities for port visits and small scale exercises at the same time.

The list of the warships taking part in the exercise and their port of call for the weekend is below:

Number Name Type Port Country
S-360 1. İnönü Submarine Varna Bulgaria
P-1207 Tekirdağ Patrol Boat Varna Bulgaria
A-578 Darıca Tug Varna Bulgaria
F-242 Fatih Frigate Batumi Georgia
P-343 Volkan Fast Attack Craft Batumi Georgia
F-504 Bartın Frigate Constanta Romania
P-331 Kalkan Fast Attack Craft Constanta Romania
Novorossiysk Russia
Novorossiysk Russia
A-572 Yüzbaşı İhsan Tulunay Tanker Giresun Turkey
F-240 Yavuz Frigate Hopa Turkey
P-341 Martı Fast Attack Craft İğneada Turkey
S-350 Yıldıray Submarine Karadeniz Ereğli Turkey
A-580 Akar Tanker Karadeniz Ereğli Turkey
F-245 Oruçreis Frigate Rize Turkey
F-247 Kemalreis Frigate Samsun Turkey
S-349 Batıray Submarine Samsun Turkey
F-243 Yıldırım Frigate Sinop Turkey
F-500 Bozcaada Corvette Trabzon Turkey
P-335 İmbat Fast Attack Craft Trabzon Turkey
P-336 Zıpkın Fast Attack Craft Zonguldak Turkey
F-246 Salihreis Frigate Odessa Ukraine
F-512 Büyükada Corvette Odessa Ukraine

It is interesting to note that Novorossiysk, Russia was declared the fifth foreign port of call by Turkish Navy on 16th March 2018, in the pre-exercise press release. However, Novorossiysk was not mentioned by the daily dispatch of Turkish General Staff on 31st March 2018, as one of the ports where Turkish Navy ships are conducting a visit.

On the other hand, the same dispatch mentioned 23 warships are taking part in the Deniz Yıldızı exercise but only disclosed names and location of 21 warships. So there could be two warships conducting a port visit in Novorossiysk, Russia or not.

Another interesting thing to note is the absence of Gabya ex-Perry class frigates. Turkish Navy operates 8 Gabya class frigates. None was observed to pass to the Black Sea recently.

Here are the photos of some of the participants:

A-572 TCG Yüzbaşı İhsan Tulunay.

A-580 TCG Akar

F-243 TCG Yıldırım. Note the new ESM mast.

F-245 TCG Oruçreis

F-247 TCG Kemalreis

F-500 TCG Bozcaada

F-504 TCG Bartın. Both TCG Bozcaada and TCG Bartın have their original MM-38 Exocet missiles still installed.

F-512 TCG Büyükada

TCG İmbat

P-343 TCG Volkan

NATO Task Forces Arrive In Bulgarian Ports

Romanian frigate ROS Regele Ferdinand (left) and Turkish frigate TCG Gaziantep (right). The mast of the HMS Duncan is visible at the background. Photo: BTA

After meeting up in Constanta, Romania last week, the both UK led NATO maritime task forces  SNMG-2 and SNMCMG-2 have arrived in Bulgaria.

The mine countermeasure warfare task force made a port call in Burgas while the naval task force arrived in Varna.

Standing NATO Mine Counter Measures Group Two (SNMCMG2), under the command of Royal Navy Commander Justin Hains, will depart from Burgas on 11th February. The task group consists of the Romanian minesweeper ROS Lupu Dinescu, Turkish mine hunter M-270 TCG Akçay and  H-88 HMS Enterprise the flagship of the task force.

Standing NATO Group Two (SNMG2), under the command of Royal Navy Commodore Mike Utley OBE, will depart from Varna on 11th February. The task group consists of the Romanian frigate F-221 ROS Regele Ferdinand, Turkish frigate F-490 TCG Gaziantep and D-37 HMS Duncan the flagship of the task force.

TCG Akçay Discovers An Old Mine Off Romanian Coast

M-270 TCG Akçay, seen here passing northbound through Istanbul 16 days ago.

Aydın class minehunter TCG Akçay has discovered a mine probably a relic of Second World War, as she was conducting training operations with SNMCMG-2 off the coast of Romania.

The NATO task force made its northbound passage through Turkish Straits 16 days ago.

The mine was discovered at 8 A.M. local time while TCG AKÇAY, under the command of Turkish Navy Lieutenant Commander Abdulla Yildiz, was using her mine hunting sonar to scan the sea bed and the water below her. The crew detected an object, which was thought to be a potential mine.  TCG AKÇAY then used her Remote Controlled Mine Discovery Vehicle (RCMDV) to investigate the possible mine further.  The RCMDV is remotely controlled from the mine hunter and used to identify mine-like objects using an onboard camera. If necessary, the RCMDV can also lay a 100kg explosive charge to destroy the mine.

SNMCMG2 was conducting mine countermeasure training with the Romanian Navy just off the Romanian coast near Constanta when the historic ordinance was discovered.  The area in question is shown on maritime charts as a formally mined area and this means that this is likely to be an historic mine.  The mine sits on the seabed at approximately 40 metres depth.  Images show that the mine is still attached to the ‘sinker’ or weight, which means that it likely didn’t deploy correctly when it was laid. Normally these mines were suspended mid water, attached to the weight on the seabed.

“Finding this historic mine demonstrates NATO’s capability to find uncharted mines in the Black Sea,” said Royal Navy Commander Justin Hains, Commander of SNMCMG2. “We work hard to practice our skills to ensure safe sea lanes. Identification and disposal of historic ordnance is just part of the mission.”

NATO is liaising with the Romanian authorities with regards to the neutralization or disposal of the mine

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