In a recent dispute between Turkey and Greek Cyprus over drilling for hydrocarbons in the eastern Mediterranean, Turkey has given the green light to its military to station units in various critical zones in the region in order to conduct surveillance and monitor activities, the Bugün daily reported on Monday.
Turkey has deployed frigates and choppers in the eastern Mediterranean carrying naval units, including Special Underwater Defense Units (SAS) and Special Underwater Attack Units (SAT), Bugün reported. These specially trained units have been given orders to keep 10 critical zones of hydrocarbon exploration under surveillance, in line with a map prepared by the Turkish military that defines risky zones in the area.
Turkey dispatched four frigates, one logistical support vessel and three naval choppers in accordance with a military decree dating back to Aug. 15 to work in shifts around these zones. The first troops currently deployed are expected to monitor activity until Nov. 15, with two following shifts already planned to provide coverage until August 2012, the daily reported.
Turkey has increased activity on the Mediterranean high seas since Greek Cyprus began drilling for sources of hydrocarbons in its self-proclaimed exclusive economic zone (EEZ), drawn in confidential agreements with Israel last year. Turkey rejects the Greek Cypriot EEZ, claiming that because there is a territorial dispute between the Turkish and Greek sides of the island, drilling should be delayed until reunification negotiations bring a solution.
Turkey on Tuesday announced that its first domestically produced warship, the Heybeliada, is operational in a ceremony held at the İstanbul Naval Shipyard Command amidst ongoing tension over a Greek Cypriot drive to explore gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Speaking during the ceremony, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan proudly said Turkey has taken its place among 10 countries that can design and construct warships, as he introduced the warship. Recalling that the Heybeliada, a patrol and anti-submarine warship produced by the İstanbul Naval Shipyard Command, was constructed in three years as part of the National Ship (MİLGEM) project, Erdoğan said he is pleased to see that the government did indeed take a correct step with the MİLGEM project.
The delivery of the Heybeliada to the Turkish navy comes amidst the country’s efforts to protect its own interests in the Eastern Mediterranean in the face of a gas row with the Greek Cypriot government. Turkey has decided to begin its own gas exploration project in the Eastern Mediterranean and to boost its military presence in the region after the Greek Cypriot government vowed to go ahead with its plans to drill for gas south of Cyprus. Last week, Turkey marked its marine borders with Turkish Cyprus for offshore oil and gas drilling and a Turkish seismic research ship began exploring for gas on Tuesday near Cyprus.
Turkey said Turkish naval ships could escort Turkish energy exploration ships in the Mediterranean, raising the possibility of a naval confrontation. “We will try all channels of peace but we will also protect our country’s interests until the end,” Erdoğan said during the ceremony commenting on the gas row.
Turkey also earlier vowed to take measures to ensure freedom of navigation in the Eastern Mediterranean in the face of Israel’s refusal to apologize to Turkey over a deadly raid in 2010 on an aid ship trying to break the blockade of Gaza, which resulted in the deaths of eight Turks and a Turkish-American. Erdoğan said earlier that Turkish frigates and assault boats might be sent to the Eastern Mediterranean at any time to ensure freedom of navigation, raising the possibility of a naval confrontation with Israel.
Tuesday’s ceremony also marked the sending of the MİLGEM project’s second ship, Büyükada, to sea for trial. The MİLGEM project stands as a turning point for Turkey, as it marks the first corvette-class warship designed by Turkish naval engineers.
Both the software and hardware of the corvette’s war management systems were also developed domestically and much of the equipment was designed by domestic companies. Around 38 Turkish private sector companies were involved in the production of the Heybeliada’s sub-systems. The prototype cost close to $260 million to build.
The construction of the Heybeliada began on Jan. 22, 2007 and it has undergone comprehensive sea trials since 2008. Harpoon missiles as well as RAM PDMS air-guided missile defense systems are among the warship’s features. The systems and sub-systems developed for the ship include 3-D detection and tracking radars, degaussing systems, fire-control radars, hull-mounted sonar, naval guns, navigation radars and torpedo countermeasure systems.
A joint group of Turkish and German companies are competing with a South Korean attempt to sell two HDW-class 209-type diesel submarines to Indonesia
A team of Turkish and German companies, as well as Turkey’s procurement office, are jointly looking to sell two HDW-class 209-type diesel submarines to Indonesia in a $1 billion deal, a senior Turkish procurement official said Friday.
“Our package is excellent. We are hopeful and waiting for Indonesia’s decision,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The only competitor for the German-Turkish partnership is South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine, which emerged as the favorite after French and Russian bidders for the Indonesian Navy’s tender fell off.
Daewoo was expected to bid together with Germany’s Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft, or HDW, but later decided to join the competition on its own.
Facing the threat of being left out of the deal, HDW, a subsidiary of ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, then approached the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries, or SSM, Turkey’s defense procurement agency, to seek the Indonesian contract jointly; at the same time, President Abdullah Gül was paying an official visit to Indonesia in April during which the two countries signed a comprehensive defense industry cooperation agreement. Both Muslim nations, Turkey and Indonesia share close political and cultural ties and are developing their industrial relations.
HDW is also co-manufacturing six modern U 214-type diesel submarines with Turkey for the country’s Navy. Turkey earlier built 14 U 209-type submarines with the German company that Indonesia now wants to buy.
In June HDW sent a letter to SSM, confirming that “SSM is entitled to market and sell HDW class U 209 1,400-tonne submarines to be built in Turkey for the Project of Procurement of Diesel Electric Submarines by the Indonesian Navy.”
A decision on the bid is expected either late this year or in early 2012.
A 2-billion-euro submarine deal between SSM and HDW for the joint manufacture of six U 214 platforms for the Turkish Navy formally took effect July 1.
]Sweetening the deal
In an effort to win the bid over their Korean rivals, SSM is reported to be offering sweeteners. In a letter sent to Indonesian Adm. Soeparno, who uses one name like many Indonesians, SSM chief Murad Bayar said, “Our offer includes one or two 209-class submarine leases to the Indonesian Navy as a ‘gap-filler’ solution until your submarines have been built.”
Bayar also pledged a maximum work share for Indonesian defense companies, including the Indonesian national shipyard PT-PAL, in emphasizing HDW’s full support for the Turkish bid.
“A very attractive and advantageous financial package will be included as well,” Bayar said.
“Our Navy and defense companies shall provide full support to your Navy and defense companies for operational and maintenance training, as well as military exercises in the shallow waters of your country,” he said.
“As a well-known worldwide brand and proven technology, 209-Class submarines will increase your country’s industrial capabilities and will bring us a chance to share our knowledge to provide regional peace and stability,” Bayar said.
In a letter to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in late July, Gül confirmed and reiterated Turkey’s sweeteners and stated his desire for increased defense industry cooperation.
If the Turkish bid is chosen, the two Class-209 submarines will be built at Turkey’s Gölcük naval shipyard in the northwestern province of Kocaeli by the Turkish company STM under license from HDW.
South Korea optimistic
Despite Turkey’s hard push for the deal, many in the South Korean press are convinced that their country will win the bid. The Korea Times quoted a South Korean industry source as saying that “Indonesia will likely pick Korea as the preferred bidder for its submarine acquisition program, worth $1.08 billion.”
One South Korean official said he was aware of his country’s rivalry in the project with Turkey, but did not comment further.
Despite competing against each other this time, Turkey and South Korea are very close allies, particularly in terms of the defense industry. Turkey is building howitzers under a South Korean license and the two countries are jointly producing basic aircraft trainers for the Turkish Air Force. South Korea’s Korea Aerospace Industries is among the strongest candidates in a bid being offered by Turkey to design, develop and manufacture a fighter aircraft by 2020
Israel has deployed drones to keep watch on gas fields off its northern coast, fearing attack by the Hezbollah militia from neighboring Lebanon, the Jerusalem Post daily reported on Aug. 9.
The fields lie in a part of the Mediterranean that is claimed by Israel for gas exploration and production, but Lebanon says the fields lie within its territorial waters.
“The decision to deploy drones was made in order to maintain a 24-hour presence over the site,” the paper said, adding that the air force was equipped with the locally made Heron drone, which has special electro-optics designed for maritime work.
The Israeli military would not confirm or deny the Post report to AFP.
The paper said that the air force started aerial surveillance after a warning last month from Hezbollah, which in 2006 fought a deadly war with the Jewish state in which it used anti-ship missiles.
“The Israeli enemy cannot drill a single meter in these waters to search for gas and oil if the zone is disputed … No company can carry out prospecting work in waters whose sovereignty is contested,” the Shiite group said.
The Hezbollah threat came after Israel’s cabinet approved a map of the country’s proposed maritime borders with Lebanon and submitted it to the United Nations, which has been asked to mediate in the dispute.
The map conflicts with one submitted by Lebanon to the U.N. last year, which gives Israel less territory.
The two countries are technically at war and will not negotiate face to face.
The disputed zone consists of about 330 square miles.
The two biggest known offshore fields, Tamar and Leviathan, lie respectively about 50 miles and 81 miles off Israel’s northern city of Haifa.
Tamar is believed to hold at least 8.4 trillion cubic feet of gas, while Leviathan is believed to have reserves of 16 trillion cubic feet.
In June an Israeli company announced the discovery of two new natural gas fields, Sarah and Mira, around 45 miles off the city of Hadera further south.
Turkey’s naval programs are expected to gain prominence after the appointment of a maritime expert as the country’s new defense minister, procurement officials said.
There may also be a reshuffle of personnel at the procurement office, excluding the top official, Murad Bayar, as well as a flurry of new procurement rules. But they said the government’s doctrinal approach in favor of national/indigenous programs would progress on the same line regardless of a change at the Cabinet level.
The mildly Islamist government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month appointed Ismet Yilmaz as new defense minister after his party’s third consecutive election victory June 12. Yilmaz replaced Vecdi Gonul, defense minister since 2002.
“The new minister may introduce some new procurement rules and order a personnel reshuffle, but the top bureaucracy will remain intact, and so will the government policy to go local as much as possible in procurement programs,” a senior government official familiar with defense procurement said.
Yilmaz, born in 1961, graduated from the Maritime Academy in 1982 and from Istanbul University’s Law Faculty in 1987. He holds master’sdegrees in maritime and law from Swedish and Turkish universities, and a doctorate in private law from Marmara University in Istanbul.
Yilmaz worked for public and private sectors for 20 years as engineer and lawyer. In 2002, he became the undersecretary for the government’s Maritime Undersectariat. In government service, he also worked as deputy board director for the national telecom company, and as caretaker transport minister before the 2007 parliamentary elections. In November 2007, Yilmaz was appointed as undersecretary for the culture ministry.
Saudi Arabia, which has long considered the purchase of American littoral combat ships (LCS) with a lightweight Aegis combat system, is contemplating the acquisition of new DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class Aegis destroyers that could be fitted with ballistic missile defense (BMD) capability.
The U.S. Navy briefed Saudi officials in late May on the capabilities of the destroyers, which would be far more powerful than any ship currently in the kingdom’s service.
The U.S. Navy would not confirm whether the brief included BMD options, but sources did not deny that it was part of the presentation.
Saudi Arabia has been looking at Aegis-equipped LCS designs from both Lockheed Martin and Austal USA since mid-2008. Those designs, which range in size from 3,000 to about 4,000 tons, would be equipped with SPY-1F lightweight Aegis radars similar to those fitted on Norwegian frigates. But the SPY-1F lacks the fidelity and software to perform the BMD mission, and the ships probably wouldn’t have the electrical capacity to power a BMD radar.
The U.S. Navy’s 9,100-ton DDG 51s are the heart of the fleet’s BMD force. About 20 U.S. cruisers and destroyers have had their SPY-1D Aegis systems upgraded to perform the BMD mission, and more are being backfitted. Future DDG 51s will be built with the BMD capability.
A land-based Aegis BMD system also is under development by the U.S. for deployment in Europe as part of that continent’s missile defense shield.
Capt. Cate Mueller, spokesperson for the U.S. Navy’s acquisition office, confirmed that the “non-binding price and availability (P&A) rough order of magnitude estimate was delivered in May” to the Saudis.
The brief, she said, included information on the capabilities and prices of “medium surface combat ships with integrated air and missile defense capability, helicopters, patrol craft and shore infrastructure.”
Saudi Arabia is in the midst of a major weapon upgrade for its armed services. The Saudi Naval Expansion Program II is said to be considering the purchase of up to a dozen new warships worth, according to various media accounts, between $20 billion and $23 billion.
The recent U.S. brief provided options that included buying a mix of destroyers and LCS vessels, sources said. One source said the Saudis were considering the purchase of two destroyers plus an unknown number of LCS vessels.
No decisions have been made by the Saudis. Back-and-forth talks are continuing between the countries, a Pentagon source said, with no deal imminent.
The Navy and Lockheed Martin are awaiting feedback from the Saudis, Paul Lemmo, Lockheed’s head of Mission Systems and Sensors, said June 10 through a spokesman. He confirmed that Lockheed supported the U.S. Navy’s presentation.
Acquisition of Aegis BMD would provide the Saudis with a considerable anti-missile capability, possibly in excess of any other gulf-region country, including Israel.
“The DDG 51 is the most capable destroyer on the planet,” said one naval expert. “If the Saudis get anything like that, it would be quite significant.”
A seagoing BMD capability would minimize terrorist threats to the system, said one senior retired naval officer.
“It’s much more difficult to defeat it – a truck bomb doesn’t matter,” the retired naval officer said. Moreover, “you can move a ship to a particular threat axis. It’s much harder for the other guy to plan against.”
But Iran, the primary threat in the region, already operates three Russian-built Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines and is acquiring more small subs, all able to threaten ships at sea. But identification of the target may prove difficult, particularly if an Iranian sub was trying to target Saudi but not U. S. ships.
The addition of BMD-capable ships in the gulf would help the United States, which already maintains at least one such ship in the region.
“If the Saudis always have one in the gulf, it makes it easier for the U.S. Navy to meet its commitments in the region,” the retired senior naval officer said.
Several other countries already operate the Aegis system or are building it into new warships, and Japan’s four Aegis destroyers are BMD-certified. But the transfer of such high-level technology comes with risks – which could become a concern in Congress, particularly after this year’s “Arab Spring” featured anti-government uprisings in several countries.
“If you think the kingdom isn’t long for this world, a fundamentalist takeover could put a system in the hands of the enemy,” the retired senior naval officer observed.
He harkened back to the late 1970s when prerevolutionary Iran, led by the shah, was a U.S. ally. Several highly capable destroyers were under construction for Iran when the shah fell.
Those ultimately were not delivered, but earlier, the U.S. had certified Iran as the only ally to receive F-14 Tomcat fighters equipped with the Phoenix air-to-air missile, then a state-of-the-art capability. Those aircraft and missiles all fell into the hands of the anti-U.S. Iranian government.
Iran’s navy has sent submarines to the Red Sea “to collect data,” its first mission in distant waters, the Fars news agency reported June 7 without giving further details.
“The submarines, dispatched in May, have entered the Red Sea after a mission in the Gulf of Aden to collect data on the sea bed in the high seas and to identify other warships,” Fars said quoting an unnamed source.
“They are accompanying an Iranian navy fleet,” it added, without mentioning the number of the submarines, their types or the make of the fleet. Iran has several types of submarines, including the home-produced 500-tonne Nahang which was first introduced to the navy in 2006, as well as three Russian-made submarines of the Kilo class purchased in the 1990s.
In August 2010, Iran’s army chief Ataollah Salehi announced the inauguration of a new “semi-heavy” submarine, named Qaem, capable of operating in the high seas, such as the Indian Ocean or the Gulf of Aden.
Iran’s navy operates 11 mini submarines of the domestically built 120-ton Ghadir class, first launched in 2007, which according to Iranian officials are “stealth” submarines and patrol shallow waters, notably the Gulf.
Last February, two Iranian warships were sent to the Mediterranean Sea for a visit to Syria, crossing the Red Sea and Suez Canal, a move that angered Israel.
The two ships docked in Syria on February 24, marking Iran’s first such mission since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Tel Aviv put its navy on alert, following the entry of the Iranian vessels in the Mediterranean, while Israeli President Shimon Peres described the move as a “political provocation.”
A Russian submarine will take part in the world’s biggest submarine rescue exercise with its former Cold War foe NATO next week, the military alliance said May 27.
The Russian submarine, the first to participate in any NATO exercise, will drop to the bottom of the Mediterranean along with Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish submarines and will await listless for a rescue mission off the coast of Cartagena, Spain.
Around 2,000 military and nonmilitary personnel as well as ships and aircraft from more than 20 nations will take part in the exercise, dubbed Bold Monarch 11, that will run from May 30 to June 10.
Held every three years, it “is the world’s largest submarine rescue exercise,” said a statement from NATO’s SHAPE allied military headquarters based in Mons, Belgium.
“The exercise is designed to maximize international cooperation in submarine rescue operations – something that has always been very important to NATO and all the submarine-operating nations,” it said. The inclusion of a Russian submarine in the exercise comes amid a warming of ties between Moscow and the 28-nation alliance, nearly three years after Russia’s war with Georgia had sparked tensions between the two sides.
The U.S., Russia, Italy, Sweden are contributing submarine rescue vehicles and sophisticated gear to clear debris. France, Norway and Britain will use a jointly owned rescue system.
Aircraft will deploy from Italy, Britain and the U.S. to help locate the submarines and drop parachutists to provide emergency assistance.
The vast exercise will culminate with a 48-hour coordinated rescue and evacuation of 150 survivors, including casualties, from a submarine acting in distress.
Russia suffered a traumatic submarine accident more than 10 years ago, when the Kursk sank in the Barents Sea, killing all 118 sailors inside.
International search operations had taken a week to start after the Aug. 12, 2000, incident.
Turkish defense industry company, Aselsan, has manufactured Turkey’s first domestic sonar system capable of ‘jamming’ incoming topedos.
Aselsan’s underwater sonar system, “Kulac”, has the “jammer” technology aiming at eliminating torpedo threat. Moreover, it can be used to measure sea depth, as well as distance, direction and speed of enemy submarines, defense experts told AA on Wednesday.
Kulac, which can work in two different frequencies based on various depths, can perceive sound reflections coming from a 1,000 m distance, experts also said.
Earlier in May, Aselsan has introduced several other torpedo seeker sonar systems at the IDEF’11 international defense industry fair in Istanbul.
Turkey, thanks to Aselsan’s contribution, is one of the top 10 countries in the world which design their own electronic war equipment.
Aselsan started operating with the aim of creating a self-sufficient industry primarily for defense requirements of the Turkish Armed Forces. Today, the company has become a high technology, multi-product defense electronics company by introducing state-of-the-art equipment and systems solutions for both military and professional applications.
Aselsan’s main fields of activity are Communication and Information Technologies; Defense Systems Technologies; Radar, Electronic Warfare and Intelligence Systems; and Microelectronics, Guidance, and Electro-Optics.