ANKARA — The Turkish government has said that it intends to buy scores of naval assets in the next years, potentially giving a major boost to the country's flourishing shipyards and their foreign partners.
Under a program dubbed MILGEM (a Turkish acronym for "the national ship") Turkish shipyards have built two corvettes. The third ship will be launched soon, according to procurement officials. The fourth will be delivered in 2020, with additional orders expected.
Turkey's top procurement official, Ismail Demir, said that the government will order four more "new generation" corvettes. "These [corvettes] will be more advanced, bigger vessels," said Demir, head of the procurement agency, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM).
The corvettes are the smallest warships in the Turkish Navy's inventory. Turkey plans to use the experience gained in the MILGEM project to design, develop and construct its first indigenous frigate, the TF-2000, in the 2020s.
Demir said Turkey has a "very active" private shipbuilding industry. Naval platforms "are one of the primary items we market abroad," he said.
Early in June, a privately-owned Turkish shipyard, Dearsan, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Kazakh government for technical cooperation for the construction of a batch of six corvettes with vertical-takeoff-and-landing capability for drones. Kazakhstan plans to use the corvettes in the Caspian Sea.
Demir said that the construction of six "new type" submarines, under German license, has started with initial deliveries scheduled for 2020. "These [submarines] will be built entirely in Turkey although they are German design," he said.
SSM's chief said that the next generation of submarines would be designed, developed and constructed locally.
A procurement official said that the next order for the new-generation submarines would be "an initial batch of six."
"Naval platforms of different types are in popular [governmental] demand because they earn the country capabilities that are in line with Turkey's regional foreign policy ambitions, most notably in the Mediterranean," said one senior Turkish diplomat.
One such program is the Landing Platform Dock (LPD), which Sedef, a Turkish shipyard, in partnership with Spain's Navantia, is building under an approximately $1.5 billion deal. In a high-profile ceremony on Apr. 30, the construction of the TCG Anadolu, an amphibious assault ship, took off.
The planned amphibious assault vessel will carry a battalion-sized unit of 1,200 troops and personnel, eight utility helicopters and three unmanned aerial vehicles. It can transport 150 vehicles, including battle tanks.
The ship also may get an aircraft platform for vertical takeoff and landing, and a ski jump at the front of the deck can be used to launch fighter planes.
One feature of Turkey's naval ambitions is focused on the littoral zones. Turkey is bordered by sea on three sides: the Black Sea in the north, the Mediterranean in the south and the Aegean in the west. In the northwest, there is also an important internal sea, the Sea of Marmara, between the straits of the Dardanelles and the Bosporus, important waterways that connect the Black Sea with the rest of the world. The Turkish coastline is 4,474 miles, excluding islands.
That makes the Coast Guard, in addition to the Navy, another key end user. On June 9, SSM released a request for information for the acquisition of an unspecified batch of 600-class Coast Guard ships.
The document said that the planned vessels would be between 60 meters and 75 meters. They should have a landing platform to allow VTOL for helicopters of up to 10 tons.
One SSM official familiar with the program said that Turkey plans to buy eight Coast Guard ships.
Burak Ege Bekdil was the Turkey correspondent for Defense News.