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The Evaluation of TCG Istanbul’s Design

During the IDEF 2015 12th International Defense Industry Fair, Turkish Navy shared the first conceptual drawing of the second generation of Milgem class. There was a poster about TCG Istanbul on the Turkish Naval Forces booth during IDEF 2017 too.

I though it would be interesting to compare the photos and see how the design of TCG Istanbul has evolved.

Not surprisingly there are a few changes in design on the outside. Any changes made inside the ship remains elusive. The changes are focused between the bow and midships. It seems as the design of the ship from midships to aft has been found satisfactory.

The most important change is in the shape of the bridge and the mast.Lets look at them:
1. If the darker patches along the hull indicate openable hatches, there is a new hatch at location 1. On Ada class corvettes this area is used for replenishment. Since the design of TCG İstanbul is based on Ada class it is safe to assume that this area will be used for replenishment too. Thus there was a need to implement a hatch there to ease the operations there.

2. The location of the SATCOM antennas has changed. In 2015 there were located towards to the end of the mast. In 2017 there were moved a few meters to the front.

3. There are new antennas there. Their place and shape suggests antennas for an on board electronic warfare system. Probable a local development. The antennas of STACOM and ESM are pretty close. I hope they won’t create any interference.

4. The photos are not quite detailed but the electro-optical tracking and detection system has changed. In 2015 it was round and ball-shaped like ASELFLIR 300D. In 2017 it has a distinct rectangular shape of Denizgözü-Ahtapot. So the old system used on Ada class corvettes and Tuzla class patrol boats was replaced with a new generation sensor.

5. The shape of the bridge, and the forward part of the mast has changed. In 2015 the forward surfaces had a more slanted slope. In 2017 the slopes are more steep. The roof of the bridge is also less clustered and has more clean lines.

6. The all closed bow guards rails has been modified. The newer version has a bow bulwark and open guard rails. This must have changed the stealthiness of the ship. But the trade-off between becoming a little less stealth and having a flexible forward maneuvering area must be important for the handlers.

The sensors with the exception of the EO system and addition of ESM system and the weapons seem to be unchanged.

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On Board The TCG Bayraktar

Mr. Hakan Kılıç, military aviation and ballistics missiles and BMD researcher, visited the newest warship of  Turkish Navy: TCG Bayraktar. He took photos during his visit and kindly allowed me to used them.

The photos you are about to see are his, but comments are mine.

The stern of TCG Bayraktar. The stern door leads directly to the vehicle bay that covers the whole length of the ship in a true Ro-Ro style.

The vehicle bay. The photo was taken from aft looking to the bow door. The deck is uncluttered and many hatches give an easy access to the deck.

The galley. Since an army marches on its stomach this is one of the most important part of the ship.

The helm at the bridge.

Looking from bridge to the starboard crane and LCVP’s. The port side LCPV are part visible. There is ample place on the deck to park vehicles or store additional material.

A close up view of the top starboard LCVP. TCG Bayraktar carries 4 of them. The black surface on the deck must be the ramp to the lower decks.

The flight deck of TCG Bayraktar. It can support landing of a 15 ton helicopter

A close up to the counter measures on board. The Ultra Sea Sentor launcher is in foreground. The Sea Sentor suit has a passive array to detect submarines, a command and control module and this counter measure launcher. A locally made chaff and flare launcher -similar to Mk36 – can be seen on the background.

The black thing in the middle of the image is, one of laser warning receivers. On the right the main mast of the ship can be seen with the ARES 2N ECM antennas and a SMART-S MK2 3D radar on top. The shape of the mast and antenna arrangement is the same of Ada class corvettes.

A commercial of the shelf navigation and helicopter approach radar looking to the aft of the ship. The pipes and sprinklers of the wash down system are visible. They help to clean away the contamination in case of a NBC warfare and to cool the ship so she is less visible to heat seeking sensors.

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.

TCG Kınalıada Coming Along Nicely

TCG Burgazada (left) is in dry dock and being fitted out. TCG Kınalıada (right) is still on the slipway. Her shape indicates all major constructing is almost finished. She seems to be almost ready for launching in September.

There are some interesting steel blocks lying just to the left of the slipway. They can’t be made for TCG Kınalıada since her shape is full and there is no room to add these blocks. Thus they must the first blocks of TCG İstanbul. They will be placed on the slipway once TCG Kınalıada is launched.

The fitting out of the third Ada class (Milgem) corvette TCG Burgazada is proceeding on the dry dock. The fabrication of the hull of the fourth and final Ada class corvette TCG Kınalıada is almost finished.

The pre-fabrication of the first İ class frigate is continuing. First two blocks of the hull is ready to be placed on the slipway once the last Ada class corvette is launched.

Russian Intelligence Gathering Ship Liman, Sunk Off The Coast Of Istanbul

The stricken Liman look very much just like this ship, her sister Kildin. Here Kildin moving northbound in November 2016.

On 27th April 2017 the Russian intelligence gathering ship Liman sunk off the coast of Istanbul.

The Project 861 / Moma class ship of Russian Black Sea Fleet was approximately 17 nautical miles northwest of the northern entrance of Istanbul Strait when Togo flagged livestock carrier Youzarsif H hit Liman. The accident happened at 08.41 UTC (11:41 local time). There was fog and the visibility was limited. This part of the Black Sea is usually used as a staging area for the ships as the wait for their turn to sail the Bosphorus. Thus there are usually many ships either adrift or sailing with very slow speed.

It was apparently Youzarsif H that hit Liman since Russian ships hull was  breached below the waterline. Both ship are similar in displacement around 1.500 tons and size. The damage to the Russian ship has overwhelmed the damage control party and the ship sunk at 11:48 UTC (14:48 local time).

The proximate location of the incident.

Turkish Directorate General of Coastal Safety dispatched life boats Kıyı Emniyeti 3, Kıyı Emniyeti 6, Kıyı Emniyeyi 8 and tug Kurtarma 3 to the accident site.

Of the 78 sailors on board of Liman, 26 were rescued by life boat Kıyı Emniyeti 3, 37 by Kıyı Eminyeti 8 and 15 by Youzarsif H. There are no casualties.

Liman was one of the 3 Project 861M / Moma class intelligence gathering ships. All are based in the Black Sea. The ship was deployed to the Mediterranean in Winter 2016 and was last seen passing northbound through Istanbul on 26 January 2017.

Liman was not expected to pass southbound through Istanbul Strait. This means she was sailing just outside of the Turkish territorial waters for collecting intelligence.

Intelligence gathering ships are equipped with highly sensitive sensors, special eavesdropping hardware and software to record and decipher the collected data. Some of the sailors on board must be “scientist” specialized gathering and interpreting data. A good question is whether the Russians had time to destroy the sensitive equipment before abandoning the ship. Another question is whether there will be any efforts to raise the ship or salvage any sensitive equipment that was not destroyer by the crew.

Though we don’t have details, how the accident ever happened and who was right according to COLREG, it is kind a ironic, that a ship with a mission to gather all the intelligence around it, fails to see an ungainly merchant ship sailing directly on it.

TCG Bayraktar Commissioned

A two months old photo of the ship taken during trials. The lack of the CIWS are noteworthy. The orange thing on board is a floating target used for the gun trials.

According to a tweet from Minister of National Defence the first ship of Bayraktar class landing ships L-402 TCG Bayraktar was commissioned in Turkish Navy on 14 April 2017.

Since the ship will be under the shipyard’s warranty for 12 months, this is regarded as a temporary commissioning. A permanent commissioning is when Turkish Navy fully becomes responsible form the ship.

The original weapon load of the ship was two 40 mm guns, two Mk-15 Phalanx CIWS and two 12,7 mm machine guns on stabilized platforms.

When I saw the ship two months ago, the Mk-15 Phalanx CIWS systems were not fitted. The Mk-15’s are also missing in the current photos of the ship. It is highly possible that Turkish Navy will install the close-in weapon system itself since there should be around 10 in inventory. These weapons have been taken from old Knox class  frigates as they were decommissioned.

I wish TCG Bayraktar fair winds and following seas.

Turkish Antiship Missile Makes Debut

The above image is to be believed a photo of Atmaca anti ship missile. The photo was taken by a test firing on a terrestrial range. Probably to test the flight characteristics and or the range.

The project must started at least 10 years ago. In his memorials Admiral Özden Örnek, Commander of Turkish Navy between 2003 and 2005, recalls that, he has been briefed by Roketsan that %85 of  the current anti-ship missile in inventory, could be made by indigenous components. He approves the proposal and gives the deadline as 2015.

There was very few publicly available information about the status of the project and the missile itself. Undersecreteriat For Defence industries (UDI) signed a contract for the R&D phase with Roketsan as main contractor, in 2009. The defense electronic company Aselsan is developing the RF seeker head and guidance section, Roketsan is responsible from the body and flight characteristics of the missile.

In 2016 a test firing on a terrestrial shooting range was conducted. The above photo, published from this test is the first ever photo of the Atmaca surface to surface anti-ship missile.

The photograph has strong barrel distortion as it was taken with a very wide-angle objective. The distortion makes it very difficult to judge the distances and the length of the objects correctly.

The launcher mount and the 4 canisters mounted on have very strong resemblance to an Mk-141 Harpoon missile launcher. I have put a standard Mk-141 launcher and the Atmaca launcher of the same photo and marked some features. The similarities are just too much, to be just a coincidence. Thus I believe that Atmaca was fired from a Mk-141 Harpoon canister. And for the rest of the text I will base my assumptions on this fact.

The longest version of surfaced launched Harpoon is Block 1D / RGM-84F. This missile is 5,23 or 5,28 meters long with the booster. It has a diameter of 0,343 meters and a wing span of 0,8 meters.

Since Atmaca was fired from a standard Harpoon canister it cannot be longer than RGM-84F. Thus the length of Atmaca missile with the booster is less than or equal to 5,23 meters.

The main wing of the Turkish missile is larger than its US counterpart. There are two hinges on the main wing of Atmaca compared to one on Harpoon wings. Therefore the wing span of Atmaca is greater than Harpoons. This change was obviously made to improve the flight performance of the missile. The control fins of the Turkish missile is considerably smaller than the US missile. The air intake of Atmaca is place between the wings and fins while the air intake of Harpoon is placed between the wings.

According to Savunma ve Havacılık magazine a further test firing from a naval unit may happen in 2017 and according to the results of the test a low rate initial production (LRIP) may start in 2018. The initial production is estimated to be between 64 and 100 units.

Atmaca missile is expected to be the main offensive weapon of the upcoming İstif class frigates. The ships with GENESIS combat management system are likely to be fitted with the new missile since the incorporation of the new hardware to existing the software will be less expensive and time consuming.

If Turkish Navy intents to exchange all the Harpoon missiles in its inventory on 1:1 basis with Atmaca missile the at least 350 missiles are needed.

Comments On Live Firings Made During Deniz Yıldızı Exercise

Deniz Yıldızı 2017 naval exercise has ended on 7th April 2017 and participating warships are returning to their home bases.

Live missile firings made this year’s event will one of the best remembered.

During the second phase of the exercise between 31 March and 3 April, in total 6 warships and one submarine launched 8 missiles.

Below is the official video from the live missile firings made during Deniz Yıldızı 2017. Watch the video and then read my comments further below.

What do we see?

  • The submarine TCG Çanakkale performed the first ever submerged UGM-84 Harpoon missile launch in Turkish Navy.
  • Furthermore the corvette TCG Heybeliada fired a RGM-84F Harpoon Blok II missile capable of striking targets on land also a first for Turkish Navy.
  • Frigates TCG Gökçeada, TCG Fatih, TCG Barbaros, corvette TCG Büyükada and fast attack craft TCG İmbat, conducted surface to air missile firings.
  • An unidentified missile -probably RGM-84F Harpoon Block II but nor certainly- hit a specially constructed target area.

What do we not see?

  • The sinking of ex USS Duncan. She was towed to the Black Sea on 26 March to be used as a target. Was she even used?
  • The rumored firing of a Mk-24 Tigerfish torpedo. Turkish Navy had a bad experience with Tigerfish in 2001. Did the history repeated itself?
  • The impact of the second Harpoon missile, if the impacting missile on the video is indeed a Harpoon. If not, we don’t see impacts of both Harpoons.
  • Firings made from land to the sea. The navtex broadcasts of Directorate General of Coastal Safety and the NOTAM broadcasts of Directorate General of Civil Aviation mentioned that missile firings from land toward sea.

Lest We Forget: TCG Dumlupınar

On 4 April 1953, two Turkish submarines, TCG Dumlupınar and TCG 1. İnönü, entered Dardanelles southbound. They were returning from the NATO naval exercise Blue Sea.

TCG Dumlupınar was leading the two ship formation. When the submarine reached Cape Nara, the narrowest point of the Strait, a 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. The boat sunk at the narrowest point of Dardanelles at 85 meters where the currents are also the strongest.

22 sailors trapped in the aft torpedo compartment, were able to release the submarine’s sunk buoy. There was a frantic effort to reach the submarine and is possible to rescue the trapped sailors for the next 72 hours.

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

TCG 1. İnönü In Durres

TCG 1. İnönü in Durres port. Photo: Durres Lajm

It is not usual for submarines to make port visit in foreign countries.  TCG 1. İnönü visited the Albanian port Durrës between 30 March and 1 April 2017.

According to Albanian press:

Her visit to our country made in the framework of strengthening relations between the navies of the two countries and NATO operations. The submarine is about 62 m long and has a total carrying capacity of our 1456. It is equipped with eight torpedo visible, and other military equipment, the number of which has been withheld for military reasons.

It is engaged in the protection of Turkish national security and in the framework of the activities of NATO forces in support of global peace and security. The submarine, the Turkish production in 2008, has a crew of 45 soldiers of various ranks. After entering the port, command of the submarine crew and officers are expected in separate meetings with the mayor of Durres Vangjush Dako and then by the Prefecture of Durres Roland Xhelili.

It is interesting to note that Turkish submarines regularly visit Durrës. As far as I know, the following  Turkish submarines were in Durrës:

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