Kurtaran 2019 Submarine Rescue Exercise

TCG Alemdar. The main submarine rescue ship of the Turkish Navy.

Turkish Navy organized the third initiation of Kurtaran series submarine rescue exercises between 27 and 31 May 2019.

This year the submarines TCG Gür, TCG 1. İnönü and TCG Dolunay, submarine rescue ship TCG Alemdar, rescue and salvage ships TCG Işın and TCG Akın, frigate TCG Gelibolu, minehunter TCG Akçay, patrol boat TCG Köyceğiz, one P-235 maritime patrol aircraft, one SH-70 ASW helicopter from Turkish Navy took part in the exercise as well as one AS-535 Cougar helicopter from Turkish Army, one C-130 Hercules cargo plane from the Turkish Air Force. One P-8 Poseidon ASW plane from US Navy also participated in the exercise.

Turkish Navy operates one dedicated submarine rescue mother ship TCG Alemdar and two rescue and salvage ships TCG Işın and TCG Akın. All of them have taken part in the exercise. TCG Alemdar can act as mother ship both for NATO Submarine Rescue System and US Navy Submarine Rescue System if needed.

Kurtaran 2019 started on 27th May with the pre-deployment briefing. On 28th May the surface units and aircraft honed their skill in finding the 3 submerged disabled submarines (DISSUB) sitting at the bottom of the sea.

On 29th May, the first training was to render assistance to submariners who were forced to leave the DISSUB by rush escape. Turkish Navy Parachute Search and Rescue Team similar in function to the Royal Navy’s Submarine Parachute Assistance Group made jumps from a C-130 cargo plane to help these submariners. The team of 12 jumped in 3 parts as the plane made 3 passes over the submariners waiting to be rescued. The Parachute Search and Rescue Team quickly inflated several life rafts and biding them creating a support base. They have used the RHIBs to collect the submariners from the water and rendering the first aid at the support base. Later they were brought to TCG Alemdar.

There is a wide range of medical facilities on board of TCG Alemdar including one full functional operation room, one x-ray room, a five-bed medical ward, and two hyperbaric chambers. Each chamber can hold 22 persons. The SMERAT team performed a quick triage and treated the patients according to their injuries and sufferings. Those who needed to be transferred to a more advanced medical facility were evacuated by the Land Forces’ Cougar helicopter.

TCG Alemdar search with her onboard sensors for the DISSUB played by TCG 1. İnönü. After locating the submarine TCG Alemdar positioned herself over the submerged disabled submarine. Using her active position controlling systems the rescue ship was able to stay on the exact spot for the remainder of the exercise.

First, the remotely operated underwater vehicle TCB Istakoz 1 was lowered to the submarine. The ROV was constructed by a Turkish company and can operate up to 1000 meters depth. Following the contact with the DISSUB, a diver immersed to the submarine inside the atmospheric diving system. The diver in ADS brought an emergency life support store containing urgently needed supplies by the submarine. The diver placed the emergency life support store inside the submarines escape trunk located inside the sail. The diver in ADS also connected the down-haul cable to a special pad-eye on the submarine hatch. The cable was later used by the submarine escape chamber to align itself with the submarine and mate.

The McCann bell type submarine escape chamber was lowered to the submarine. This type of submarine escape chamber is old but proven technology and can be used for evacuating personnel from the submarine if the pressure inside the submarine is not above one atmosphere and the submarine is not deeper than 207 meters. The chamber descended to the submarine and mated successfully. Two submariners entered the chamber and it resurfaced.

This was the final training for the day. TCG 1. İnönü reemerged from the depths and both vessels returned to the base. While TCG Alemdar was training with TCG 1.İnönü, the other two ships TCG Işın and TCG Akın were also conducting similar activates with the other submarines.

On 30th May, the submarine TCG 1. İnönü bottomed at 30 meters depth. During this exercise, sailors left the submarine via the escape trunk, donned Mk 10 Submarine Escape Immersion Ensemble and surfaced freely. The units waiting on the surface rescued them.

The exercise ended on 31st May with the post-exercise briefing.

TCG 1. İnönü. She dived to 75 meters and waited at the bottom of the sea.

Turkish Navy Parachute Search and Rescue Team jumped from a C-130 Hercules cargo plane of Turkish Air Force

The injured submarines rescued by the Turkish Navy Parachute Search and Rescue Team rushed to the medical area on board TCG Alemdar.

The command consoles of the two hyperbaric chambers on board of TCG Alemdar.

An AS-532 Cougar helicopter of the Turkish Land Forces is waiting to pick up the evacuee to bring him to the land.

TCB Istakoz 1 is the name of this ROV. Istakoz means lobster in Turkish. I can only admire the humor of the godfather of this device. It has two arms with 7 functions. Two pilots are required to use this ROV. One operates the ROV, the other arms.

An image from an ROV as it is attaching ventilation cables to the submarine TCG Doğanay.

the pilot inside the atmospheric diving suits concentrates on his tasks before starting his long and lonely dive into the dark sea.

This is an emergency life support store. It can fit inside the escape trunk of NATO submarines and used to deliver urgently needed supplies to the DISSUB

The crew enters the submarine rescue chamber.

Turkish Coast Guard boat TCSG-27 intercepts a sailing boat that mistakenly entered the training area.

TCG 1. İnönü resurfaces after playing DISSUB for 10 long hours.

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An Afternoon On TCG Burgazada

TCG Burgazada. The third Milgem class corvette.

TCG Burgazada. The third Milgem class corvette.

During the IDEF 2019 defense exhibition last week I had the privilege to visit TCG Burgazada.

TCG Burgazada is the third of the four Ada class corvettes. She was commissioned on 4th November 2018 and is the newest warship of the Turkish Navy.

Turkish Navy always considered the first two ships as prototypes. The lessons learned in constructing and using these ships were to be incorporated in the subsequent ships as there were under construction. Thus TCG Burgazada is slightly updated compared to TCG Heybeliada and TCG Büyükada, though these changes are subtle and mostly not visible from the outside at all.

One exception is the new Aselsan Seaeye-Ahtapot electro-optic sensor on the aft mast while the previous ships use Aselflir 300. Aselflir 300 was originally designed for airborne platforms and was installed without much modification. Thus the mean time between regular maintenance is quite short for a maritime system and the whole sensor must be taken down for the maintenance. These shortcomings are rectified in Seaeye-Ahtapot and the operators are quite happy with its performance. But Aselsan needs to come up with a better and catchier name.

The other changes are under the skin. The main machinery has 10.000 more horsepower making TCG Burgazada faster than the other Ada class ships.

TCG Burgazada has Aselsan made Hızır countermeasure system for torpedo attacks. She is the first ship to be fitted with this system. The system consists of two decoy launchers on both sides of the funnel and one towed array and decoy. Though the system is very similar to Ultra built torpedo countermeasure system used on the other ships I believe the logistics of a locally built system is preferred by the end user.

One could still get “the new ship smell” when walking through the passageways.

I wish fair winds and following seas to TCG Burgazada and her crew.

TCG Anadolu Has Been Floated

TCG Anadolu, temporarily in her element. Photo: Ali Özkök

TCG Anadolu has been floated on 4th May 2019. It is important to note that it is a technical procedure and not the official launching of the ship.

TCG Anadolu is being constructed on a floating dock and the keel blocks under her hull need to be relocated. She will be taken back to the dock after the keel blogs have been relocated and the construction will continue.

The ship was floated 4 days after she suffered a fire. The fire broke out as some isolation material caught fire when welding was done nearby. Although there is no visible damage from the outside, the fire must have damaged the parts of the ship. Since the construction of the ship continues the repair of the damaged parts won’t be much difficult.

First Logistic Support Ship On Builders Trials

First, of the two logistic support ships, A-574 TCG Yüzbaşı Güngör Durmuş has started her shipyard trials. These two ships will be a welcomed addition to the existing fleet of tankers and replenishment ships of the Turkish Navy.

These ships do not have a rig for underway replenishment alongside but will be able to stream a fuel hose astern for a more old fashioned way.

TCG Yüzbaşı Güngör Durmuş is constructed by Selah Shipyard and should have been handed over to the Navy 18 months ago.

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.

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.

Korkut-D Air Defence System Remodeled

Left, a screen capture of TCG Sokullu Mehmet Paşa as she is transiting through Istanbul. Note there is no 100mm gun or the Korkut-D CIWS at the aft of the ship. Right, an archive photo of the Korkmaz on board of the ship from 2018.

Today TCG Sokullu Mehmet Paşa made a northbound passage through Istanbul. This ship was built for Germany Navy as FGS Donau, by Schlichting-Werft in Travemünde as a tender for fast attack boats. She was transferred to the Turkish Navy in 1995 to replace the old ship of the same name.

TCG Sokullu Mehmet Paşa was selected as a test platform for the Korkut-D close-in weapon system. In 2018 the 100mm gun turret at the aft of the ship on X position was replaced with a Korkut-D mount and a 3D radar mast. As the ship passed today the Korkut-D system was no longer on board meaning the test are officially over. It was interesting to note that the original gun mount was not replaced.

Left, the Korkut-D mount during the test on board of TCG Sokullu Mehmet Paşa. The fire control radar is on the mount while the 3D search radar is on a separate mast. Right, rendering of the remodeled Korkut-D mounts with and without the 3D radar.

It is quite easy to fit a weapon system to the ships which are on the design table. We will see Korkut-D on the future Turkish warships if the Turkish Navy is satisfied with the end product. But it is much more difficult to retrofit a new weapon system such as Korkut-D to existing ships. It should not penetrate decks, not worsen the stability of the ship and not add too much weight.

Aselsan, the manufacturer of the Korkut-D CIWS system seems to have remodeled the mount. During the tests, the original Korkut-D mount has only the fire control system mounted on the turret while the 3D search radar was on a separate mast. It was at the end of the turret and on the center as the guns were quite forward. On the remodeled turret, the fire control system is located to the left side of the turret and the guns seem to be moved a little to the back more towards the center of the turret. The new configuration will no doubt have shortened the overall length of the system making it easier to fit into smaller spaces and increased the possibility of changing the legacy close-in weapon system on older warships with Korkut-D.

Dynamic Manta 2019 Has Started

The participating warships and submarine in one photo. Original photo: Turkish Ministry of Defence, improvements by me.

NATO’s Submarine Warfare Exercise Dynamic Manta 2019 kicked off yesterday, off the Sicilian coast, with ships, submarines, aircraft and personnel from 10 Allied nations.

According to NATO press release submarines surface units and ASW planes and helicopters from Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, and USA, under the control of Commander, Submarines NATO (COMSUBNATO) taking part in the annual exercise.

Altogether 4 submarines, 9 ships, and ASW planes and helicopters will try to hone their skill in anti-submarine warfare.

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.

Below is the complete list of the participants:

Number Name Type Country
333 Toronto Frigate Canada
D-654 Auvergne Frigate France
A-608 Var Tanker France
F-450 Elli Frigate Greece
S-120 Papanikolis Submarine Greece
F-594 Alpino Frigate Italy
S-527 Scire Submarine Italy
F-805 Evertsen Frigate Netherlands
F-103 Blas de Laze Frigate Spain
F-81 Santa Marina Frigate Spain
S-74 Tramontana Submarine Spain
S-357 Gür Submarine Turkey
F-493 Gelibolu Frigate Turkey

TCG Ufuk Launched

The previously unnamed test and evaluation ship has now a name and a pennant number: A-591 TCG Ufuk.

The ship, the first one in Turkish Navy to bear that name, was launched on 9th February 2019.

TCG Ufuk shows a striking resemblance to Ada class corvettes. Even some main physical attributes like the length, width, drought of the ships are the same. Here is a comparison chart:

TCG Ufuk Ada Class
Length (meters) 99,5 99,5
Width (meters) 14,4 14,4
Draft (meters) 3,6 3,9
Displacement (tons) 2400 2300
Speed (knots) 18+ 29

Two most obvious differences between this ship and the Ada class corvettes are that that TCG Ufuk doesn’t have any weapons.  The test and evaluation ship does have a flight deck to support 10-tonne class helicopters but does not have a hangar.

According to news reports, TCG Ufuk will have an all diesel main propulsion whereas the Ada class ships have a combined gas turbine and diesel engines as main propulsion. The top speed is given as 18+ knots, which is considerably slower than 29 knots top speed of Ada class corvettes.

During the launching ceremony, the President of Turkey Mr. Erdoğan told that this ship was the first intelligence gathering ship built by national means and mentioned the importance of signal intelligence.

The intelligence gathering mission of this ship may explain why the ship will have a 100 tons more displacement compared to Ada class corvettes despite having no weapons and the sensors associated with fire control and why its construction was not published much compared to other defense industry projects.

The commissioning of TCG Ufuk is scheduled for July 2020.

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