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.

Advertisements

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.

Test And Evaluation Ship Takes Shape

A CGI image of the Test and Evaluation Ship showing her general configuration. The lack of weapons, the enclosure of the section between the funnel and the mast are particularly striking features.

 

The project was first made public in a presentation made by Undersecreteriat for Defence Industries, (SSM) during the 7th Naval Systems Seminar in 2017. SSM simply told that they have signed a contract for a Test and Evaluation Ship.

More information was released in a presentation made by the engineering company STM during the same event. According to STM, they are the main contractor of a project, where one Test and Evaluation Ship (TaES) will be constructed by Istanbul Denizcilik Shipyard. The ship will have hull form of Ada class corvettes. Aselsan, as a subcontractor is responsible for the manufacturing of the mission systems to be used on board.

STM also shared the above photo. The ship showed there has a striking resemblance to Ada class corvettes. Two most obvious differences between this ship and the Ada class corvettes are this ship doesn’t have a gun in A position and any other weapons. The space between the mast and the funnel, where 8 Harpoon missiles are installed in Ada class ships doesn’t exist in the TaES. The aft of the superstructure is also slightly different. The superstructure aft of the funnel is larger since the TaES doesn’t have the STAMP remote-controlled gun system and anti-torpedo countermeasures system, the deck on which these systems are installed is added to the hull.

According to news reports, the TaEs 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 of the TaES will be lower than Ada class corvettes.

Since TaES shares the same hull and superstructure of the Ada class corvettes, I believe the physical measurements of the TaES will be same or very similar of Ada class ships.

On the left are the mast and forward superstructure of the first Ada class corvette TCG Heybeliada. On the right are the mast and the forward structure of the Test and Evaluation Ship. Although the shape is similar, the number of supports on the mast of the TaES is much more compared to TCG Heybeliada. Obviously, more sensors will installed on TaES.

The stern view of the TaES and TCG Heybeliada. The TaES does have a flight deck and a hangar. But the shape of the superstructure at the aft is different.

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.

TCG Gökçeada Deployed To The Indian Ocean

TCG Gökçeada heading into a sand storm. Photo: Turkish Naval Forces

TCG Gökçeda will start her goodwill visit to Doha, Qatar on 28th January 2019.

The frigate departed from Aksaz Naval Base on 13th January 2019 for a 3-month deployment to the Indian Ocean which will be her third. The frigate passed through the Suez Canal on 16th January and proceed to Djibouti her first port of call.

Following her visit to Qatar, TCG Gökçeada will sail to Pakistan and will take part in the exercise AMAN-19.

Pakistan started to organize AMAN multinational exercises in 2007 to promote regional cooperation and stability, greater interoperability and to display a united resolve against terrorism and crimes in the maritime domain including Piracy. AMAN-19 is the sixth such exercise planned.

After completion of the exercise, TCG Gökçeada will join CTF-151, the multinational task force against piracy off the coast of Somalia and will return home on 17th March 2019.

 

 

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.

Turkish Anti-Ship Missiles Contract Signed

A test firing of Atmaca missile. Date unknown.

On 2nd November 2018, The Presidency of Defence Industries –former Undersecreteriat of Defence Industries- the main defense acquisition agency of Turkey announced that a contract for the serial production of Atmaca (Hawk) anti-ship missile was signed.

The contract was signed between PDI and Roketsan the leading company in the country for designing, developing and manufacturing rockets and missiles, as the main contractor. Aselsan the main defense electronics company is acting as sub-contractor and providing the RF seeker head and guidance section.

Since its start, the Atmaca Project has always been shrouded by thick layers of secrecy. And this habit continues still. Neither the value of the contract nor the number of missiles to be procured was revealed. The scheduled commissioning date of the missiles was also not made public. The press release about however mentioned that the first missiles are to be installed on board of the TCG İstanbul. TCG İstanbul is a İ class frigate currently under construction in Istanbul Naval Shipyard.

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.

 

%d bloggers like this: