Electronic Warfare Exercise With Unmanned Vessels

This week, Turkish Naval Forces conducted an electronic warfare exercise off the coast of Antalya.

The embedded short video shows ULAQ unmanned surface vessel with an EW suite and antenna. This version of ULAQ was made public when it was shown to the members of the Ankara Military Attache Corps.

The details of the new configuration have not been shared with the public. However, on the panel The Future of Unmanned Naval Systems and Turkey’s Potential held during the SAHA Expo last week, it was reviled that the Sefine Shipyard – Aselsan joint venture the Merlin USV was also in Antalya.

The Merlin took part in REPMUS 22 and Dynamic Messenger 22 exercises held at the Maritime Operational Experimentation Center (CEOM) in Troia, Portugal.

Besides the USV, there was one Yavuz class frigate, one Ada class corvette, and one Kılıç class fast attack craft participating in the exercise.

The presence of two especially for electronic warfare configured unmanned surface vessel indicates that the Turkish Navy is spending time learning the potential of these vessels closely and developing concepts to use these vessels in action.

One Ada class corvette in the background and one Yavuz class frigate off the coast of Antalya during the electronic warfare exercise. Photo: Mert Şekersoy. Used with permission.

Testing Of DÜFAS Sonar System Has Started

TCG Sokullu Mehmet Paşa. Note the Gökdeniz CIWS turret has been replaced with other equipment. Photo: Oğuz Eroğuz.

The detail equipment installed on board of TCG Sokullu Mehmet Paşa. Photo: Oğuz Eroğuz.

The detail equipment installed on board of TCG Sokullu Mehmet Paşa. Photo: Oğuz Eroğuz.

The Turkish Navy started to test a new towed sonar array on board of TCG Sokullu Mehmet Paşa.

Previously the Rhein class auxiliary ship was used as the test bed for the Aselsan made Gökdeniz CIWS system. Photos, recently taken show that the Gökdeniz CIWS turret was removed from the ship. The aft of the ship is now occupied with a metal shelter, one large cable spool a winch and some davits like metal construction.

It was previously reported that the testing of the DÜFAS towed array system would commence in 2022. While the initial reporting mentions the test would be conducted on board of a Gabya class frigate, it is possible that these tests are now conducted on board of TCG Sokullu Mehmet Paşa as the photographic evidence suggests.

DÜFAS is a towed low frequency active sonar project initial by the Research and Development department of SSB and being developed by Aselsan, Armelsan and Nanotech.

Mine Scare In The Black Sea

Mine damage on Musca class minesweeper Lieutenant Dimitrie Nicolescu. Photo: Dobrogea TV

On 8 September 2022, a Romanian ship reported a floating mine approximately 25 nautical miles northeast of Constanta harbour. The mine is believed to be one of the mines laid during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The Romanian Naval Forces deployed Musca class minesweeper Lieutenant Dimitrie Nicolescu to destroy the mine. However, when the minesweeper arrived at the site the weather and sea conditions worsened. With a wind speed of 10 – 12 m/s and wave height of 1.5 – 2 meters, the minesweeper was not able to deploy the RHIB with the EOD team on board. At night the mine swept through the storm and hit the ship on her astern port side.

According to Romanian Naval Forces, the detonation created a small hole, at the water line. The damage appears to be limited though there had been some ingress through the hole. the 75-strong crew on board has not suffered any injuries.

The minesweeper Lieutenant Dimitrie Nicolescu returned to her homeport Constanta with the help of the navy tugs Grozavul and Viteazu, that provided assistance and research against the mines.

Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine 30 mines have been found and destroyed in the Black Sea. Here is the list of them

Date Mines Location Country Action
26.03.2022 1 Anchorage area Türkeli north of Bosphorus Turkey Turkish navy EOD teams dragged the mine to their Exercise area near the northern entrance of the Bosphorus and destroyed it.
28.03.2022 1 Off the shore of İğneada town Turkey Turkish navy EOD teams neutralised the mine in location.
28.03.2022 1 39 nautical miles off the Black Sea, across from Capu Midia Romania Romanian navy EOD teams neutralised the mine in location.
6.04.2022 1 Off the shore of Kefken town Turkey Turkish navy EOD teams neutralised the mine in location.
6.04.2022 1 Crimean shore Russia Mine washed ashore on an unspecified Crimean beach.
30.06.2022 1 27 nautical miles east of the mouth of the Kamchia river Bulgaria Bulgarian naval EOD team neutralised the mine in location.
31.07.2022 1 2 nautical miles off Eforie town Romania Romanian navy EOD teams neutralised the mine in location.
8.09.2022 1 25 nautical miles northeast of Constanta harbour Romania Romanian Navy mine sweeper Lieutenant Dimitrie Nicolescu was damaged when the mine could not be neutralised by EOD teams due to bad weather
1.07.2022 22 Ukrainian coast Ukraine 20 mines were destroyed by Ukrainian forces. Locations and dates are unknown.

As always any corrections or additions to the list above are welcomed.

New Sensors For Gabya Class Frigiates

A photo of TCG Gaziantep with the new electro-optic sensor. Photo: Oğuz Eroğuz. Used with permission.

The Turkish Navy started to upgrade the Gabya class frigates with a new electro-optic sensor.

The sensor was first observed on board TCG Gökçeada a couple months ago, the new electro-optic sensor appeared on board TCG Gaziantep this week. The ship was in overhaul. The E/O seems to be installed on a special pedestal on top of the bridge.

While there are no official announcements either from the Turkish Navy or Aselsan the system used on board seems to be the Denizgözü-Ahtapot version.

According to Aselsan Ahtapot is an E/O reconnaissance and surveillance system. The system has high-performance IR, HDTV and Spotter cameras, and an eye-safe laser range finder.

The sensor was specifically designed for naval use on board large ships. The first ship it was installed was on TCG Burgazada.

The lack of a dedicated E/O reconnaissance and surveillance system on board Gabya class frigates was an important shortcoming. With the installation of Ahtapot E/O, this shortcoming will be rectfied.

First Steel Cut For The New OPV


The first steel is cut for the Turkish Navy offshore patrol vessel Akhisar on 9 April 2022.

The OPV is being developed by Asfat and is based on the Milgem class corvettes. By using the hull of the Milgem class ships the OPV will be built in a shorter time and at a lower cost.

The OPV will have a very different main propulsion system from the Ada class corvettes. These ships will have a combined diesel-electric or diesel engine combination (CODELOD). This combination will give the ships a cruising range of 4500 miles and an economical speed of around 15 knots with very low fuel consumption. The crew will be 104.

According to Asfat these OPVs will be built with the fitted for but not with design philosophy, which will allow the integration of newly developed national weapon and sensor systems.

Dynamic Manta 2022 Has Started

The participating warships and submarines in one photo. Original photo by NATO Marcom, improvements by me.

NATO’s Submarine Warfare Exercise Dynamic Manta 2022 kicked on 21 February 2022, off the Sicilian coast, with ships, submarines, aircraft and personnel from 9 Allied nations.

According to the NATO press release, submarines from France, Greece, and Italy joined surface ships from Canada, France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Turkey, the U.K. and the U.S. for the exercise. Maritime patrol aircraft from Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the U.K. and the U.S. support the simulated, multi-threat environment during the exercise.

The aim of this exercise is to provide all participants with complex and challenging warfare training to enhance their interoperability and proficiency in anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare skills, with due regard for safety.

Aselsan Gökdeniz CIWS System Will Be Tested On Board TCG Sokullu Mehmet Paşa

Today the Rhein class auxiliary ship, TCG Sokullu Mehmet Paşa, left her homeport in Tuzla, İstanbul and headed to the Black Sea.

TCG Sokullu Mehmet Paşa and her sister TCG Cezarli Hasan Paşa have two 100mm gun turrets. The aft turet on board of TCG Sokullu Mehmet Paşa was removed in 2018. She was used as test ship for the Aselsan made close in weapon system Korkut-D in May 2018.

After the completion of these tests, the Korkut-D mount and the associated hardware was removed from the ship.

Today TCG Sokullu Mehmet Paşa was spotted with a new gun system installed. While the whole gun system and the associated radars and other sensors were under wraps the shape of the system is very distinguishable. The system to be tested is the Gökdeniz close-in weapon system.

Gökdeniz consists of one unmanned gun turret with two 35mm guns, an X band 3-D tracking radar and one fire control radar with electro/optical sensors. All subsystems of the Gökdeniz system are recognizable on board.

The gun turret has been remodelled from her initial version making it suitable to be retrofitted in place of the existing CIWS systems on board. The guns can use the ATOM 35mm airburst ammunition developed by ASELSAN. ATOM is a smart ammunition, having a base fuze increasing the effectiveness of the barreled guns. Thus such ammunition is an important option to fight against small and high-speed targets.

The X band tracking radar has a range of 100km. With its phased array, multi-beam antenna the radar can track multiple air targets simultaneously.

The Gökdeniz close-in weapon system will be installed onboard Barbaros class frigates during their mid-life upgrade, İ class frigates and in the future other ships.

Turkish Parliament Extends The Presence Of The Navy In Gulf Of Aden For One Year

On 2nd February 2022, The Grand National Assembly of Turkey, extended the presence of the Turkish Navy in the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, and adjacent seas for one more year.

The first bill allowing the Turkish government to deploy Turkish Naval Forces for anti-piracy operations was accepted on 10 February 2009. It was extended in one year periods ever since.

Turkish warships are  tasked with:

  • Performing reconnaissance and patrol duties,
  • Calling on ships suspected of piracy/ armed robbery, on the radio, boarding them if their flag country approves and interfering by the international law if the ship is not showing any flag,
  • Escorting and protecting merchant ships,
  • Helping merchant ships under the attack of pirates/sea robbers,
  • Intervening, stopping, neutralizing, and confiscating any vessels used by pirates/sea robbers, and using proper force if necessary,
  • Arresting and detaining pirates/sea robbers and armed persons in these vessels,
  • Accepting the representatives of the countries that will prosecute pirates/ armed robbers on board, for the preparations of judicial proceedings, according to the UN resolution 1851.
  • Arresting and detaining, pirates/armed robbers on board until they are being handed over to the countries that will prosecute them,
  • Turning in, the suspects of pirates/sea robbers except for the case that these are Turkish citizens, to the authorities the nation where the pirates/sea robbers will be prosecuted,
  • Executing all kinds of policing duties including interrogation, collecting evidence.

Since 2009, the Turkish Navy took the helm of the multinational anti-piracy task force CTF-151, 6 times and made at least 21 deployments to the region in order to combat piracy.

Converting LHD Anadolu To A Drone Carrier

Prologue: This article was first published in Defence Turkey Magazine Issue 106.

It is not a secret that Turkey intends to operate an aircraft carrier. This desire was made public by President Erdoğan during his speech at the launching ceremony of the frigate TCG Istanbul.

The interest of Turkey to operate airplanes from a large ship with a big flight deck is not new. This is a lesson learned from the big humanitarian assistance operation in Libya. Between 19 February and 4 March 2011, Turkey evacuated 23.127 persons from Libya fleeing from the fighting in the country. 8.351 evacuees were transported by sea. The need for a large amphibious ship with a large flight deck and a dock becomes very apparent during this Non-Combatant Evacuation Operation. During the evacuation, a few times, F-16 fighter planes of the Turkish Air Force had to be flown from Turkey to Libya to provide airpower, an operation requiring multiple in-flight refuelling. Despite all the hardship and the cost of flying land-based F-16 fighters from Turkey to Libya their time on target was not adequate and they were not available on short notice. These operations showed the niceties of having an organic air force for the Turkish Navy.

In 2015 the Turkish defence procurement agency Savunma Sanayi Başkanlığı announced that Spanish Navantia’s solution for a large amphibious assault ship was chosen after a long tendering process. The ship is based on Navatia’s Juan Carlos LHD design and is very similar to SPS Juan Carlos 1 in Spanish and, HMAS Canberra, HMAS Adelaide in RAN service. The construction of the ship named Anadolu started in 2016. When finished Anadolu will be the largest ship in Turkish Navy inventory and the first Turkish naval platform where multiple helicopters can launch and land at once and fixed-winged air vehicles can operate. Anadolu will provide a unique experience and platform for the Turkish Armed Forces.

The ousting of Turkey from the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter Program has forced Turkey to change its plans. Turkey was a member of the F-35II Lightning fighter plane program for the start and wished to buy around 100 land-based F-35A versions for the Turkish Air Force. Later it was decided to buy a modest number of vertical and/or short take-off and landing (V/STOL) variant F-35B to be used onboard Anadolu. 6 to 8 planes deployed on board would provide air cover and perform strike missions during amphibious operations. Since the ship was designed to accommodate and operate Harrier in Spanish service it would be F-35 compatible with little changes. However, the ousting of Turkey from the F-35 Lighting II program made all these plans redundant. Necessity is the mother of invention. Thus, alternatives for F-35B are under consideration. There are two realistic options available for the Turkish Government and the Navy. The first is to convert the Anadolu, to accommodate unmanned combat aerial vehicles.

In March 2021 the president of the Savunma Sanayi Başkanlığı, Prof. İsmail Demir told that work was done to deploy unmanned combat aerial vehicles from Anadolu. Both the Sedef shipyard where the ship is constructed and Baykar Makina, one of the leading drone manufacturers, are conducting studies for this end. Selcuk Bayraktar, the CTO of Baykar Makina has announced that they are working on a new unmanned combat aerial vehicle TB-3 which will be able to be operated from Anadolu. The TB-3 is expected to start test flights in 12 months. It will have a maximum take-off weight of 1200 kg and will carry heavier ammunition compared to the contemporary UCAV, Bayraktar TB-2. To withstand the rigours of landing on a noticeably short and constantly moving flight deck the TB-3 will have a reinforced airframe and landing gear. TB-3 is believed to have foldable wings to make it easier to move on the flight deck and inside the hangar.

Currently, it is not clear whether Anadolu can accommodate the future UCAV in her current design or changes are needed. If structural changes are needed, these may further postpone the delivery of the ship. And if any changes are needed the redesigning of the hip will be performed by Sedef Shipyard as Navantia who has developed the original ship design has finished its contractual obligations.

While operating UCAV will be easier and probably safer than operating a manned system never the less it will be a novel concept and will be a unique experience with its own challenges. The Bayraktar TB-3 UCAV will enhance the air to ground mission capabilities. However, air defence and air-to-air operations missions will still need land-based manned fighters or ground-to-air weapons and good sensors on escorting ships.

Another option to deploy planes on board Anadolu is to redesign the Hürjet advanced jet trainer and light attack craft for carrier operations. Hürjet is a single-engine, tandem seat aircraft under development by Turkish Aerospace TAI. During the above-mentioned interview, Mr. İsmail Demir mentioned that discussions between SSB and TAI were held on whether Hürjet can be used on Anadolu. He also told that some design changes were carried out, some simulations were made and it has been concluded that the design can be modified to make Hürjet operate from a ship such as Anadolu. Adapting the ship and Hürjet planes for each other will be more challenging than developing new armed drones for shipborne operations. An important factor to be considered is the shape of the flight deck of Anadolu.

The flight deck of Anadolu is in a rectangular shape with a large island structure on the starboard side and a 12 degree Ski jump at the front. There is a large aircraft elevator at the very aft of the flight deck. In its current form, the flight deck resembles the flight decks of old aircraft carriers from 2. World War. The arrangement was acceptable as long as the planes had a low landing speed and were light although it was not without its hazards. However, when the planes got faster due to jet engines and heavier a rectangular flight deck arrangement was not safe or sufficient to sustain operations. Thus in the early 1950’ies, Royal Navy devised the angled flight deck. In this configuration, the flight deck has an angle of 6 degrees. This allowed the landing plane to roll away from the planes on the catapult waiting for launching. Ever since all modern aircraft carriers of all nations -with the exception of carriers specially designed for the Harrier S/VTOL planes- have an angled flight deck.

Anadolu does not have an angled flight deck. Thus, in her current form, she is only suitable for planes that can launch using a ski jump and land vertically or land in a very short distance. If Hürjet planes are to be configured to be used onboard Anadolu these planes need to be resigned radically. This will cost time and money. And the end result may not be satisfactory as it is very risky engineering work. A more realistic approach would be while modifying Hürjet for naval operations to design a new ship with a suitable launch and recover facilities that are suitable for navalised Hürjet. From an engineering point of view, this scenario is far more likely to be successful. But then again it will cost time and money and the planes will not be compatible with Anadolu.

Of course, one can always suggest buying a second-hand ship as an alternative. However, I believe that this road is a dead-end though Turkey has been looking for this option. Even when the construction of Anadolu was progressing, in 2017, Turkey showed interest in the ex-Royal Navy helicopter carrier HMS Ocean when she was decommissioned from Royal Navy service. The ship was not new and had extensive service in Royal Navy but never less someone thought the purchase of HMS Ocean would have increased the strength of the amphibious capabilities Turkish Navy and added new capabilities.

Head of Bahçeşehir University, Maritime and Global Strategies Center, Retired admiral Cihat Yaycı, told in March 2021 that the Turkish Navy should convert the decommissioned aircraft carrier ex Foch, ex São Paulo back to active service. The ship was bought by a Turkish scrapyard in March 2021 and will be towed from Brazil to Turkey. The ship started her life as French aircraft carrier Foch in 1963 and served in French Naval Forces until 2000. After years of arduous service under the French flag, she was sold to the Brazilian Naval Forces and renamed as NAe São Paulo. This old lady served 20 years in Brazil. After a major fire killing 3 crew members, the ship was extensively overhauled between 2005 and 2010. São Paulo was expected to rejoin the fleet in late 2013 but suffered another major fire in 2012. As of September 2016, she continued to undergo repairs, the commander of the Brazilian Navy, Admiral Eduardo Leal Ferreira, said plans were in place to renew the carrier’s propulsion system. The ship’s catapult was also reported to have problems.

Mr. Yaycı believes that the Turkish Navy should acquire the ship. After refurbishing her back into working condition, the ship can be used for training and system familiarization purposes.

The old French carrier operates like US Navy carriers catapult to launch airplane and arrester wires to slow landing planes. Neither Turkish Naval Aviation nor Turkish Air Force operates airplanes that are suitable for operations from a carrier and Turkey’s prospects to obtain such planes from abroad seems to be almost nonexistent. The idea of refurbishing this old and worn-out ship back to active service is absurd time consuming and very costly. Time and money are two luxuries Turkey cannot afford to misspend. Warships like any ship is a living system consisting of their crew, her equipment, systems and subsystems on board. Learning of the working of an organism is best done when one observes a living one and to through autopsies. Thus, posting Turkish naval officers as liaisons on board the aircraft carriers of our NATO partners is a better way of learning about the multiple aspects of operations onboard rather than dissecting the cadavers of decommissioned aircraft carriers sent to break yards in Aliağa.

Epilogue: During an interview in December 2021, Mr. İsmail Demir told the reporters that the primary aim was to commission the Anadolu into the Turkish Navy in her original design. When the carrier-borne drone TB-3 is materialised, the adaptation of these unmanned planes into the ship will be revised.

SNMCMG-2 Entered The Black Sea

Spanish Meteoro class OPV, ESPS Rayo in Istanbul.

Italian Gaeta class mine hunter ITS Viareggio.

Turkish Engin class mine hunter TCG Edincik.

Between 20 and 23rd September the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group Two (SNMCMG2) made a port visit in Istanbul.

The task force consisting of The flagship ESPS Rayo, Turkish minehunter TCG Edincik and Italian minehunter ITS Viareggio were berthed at the Sarayburnu quay.

After this short break, the task force sailed through Istanbul and entered the Black Sea for the third time in 2021. The Romanian mine sweeper ROS Lt. Lupu Dinescu and Bulgarian mine sweeper BGS Shkval joined the group after they enter the Black Sea.

According to the NATO press release the deployment will include the port visits to Batumi, Georgia, after which there will be an exercise with the Georgian Coast Guard. The deployment will also include a port visit to Samsun, Turkey.

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