MERSIN, Turkey — The Turkish Navy has completed the “largest-ever” iteration of exercise Denizkurdu, involving 132 surface vessels, 10 submarines, 43 winged aircraft, 28 helicopters and 14 drones.

Denizkurdu is a large-scale exercise carried out by the country’s naval forces every two years. It was most recently held May 25-June 6 in the Aegean and Mediterranean seas. All Navy units participate in the training, which aims to demonstrate the service’s operational readiness, evaluate decision-making processes in a multithreat environment, test interoperability methods and mutual support capabilities, and allow for personnel to training with naval assets.

Denizkurdu-2021 was carried out in three phases. In the first phase, participating units conducted operational readiness drills. The second involved force-on-force training based on a four-day crisis scenario. In the third phase, participating ships made port visits at the Aegean and the Mediterranean coasts of Turkey.

On completion of the port visits, the fleet hosted a “Distinguished Visitors Day” that saw a gathering of officials from Turkey’s Defense Ministry and military command echelon as well as military attaches from 25 countries. The turnout of the attaches was a “first” for the Denizkurdu series, according to officials.

The Navy’s TB2 Bayraktar drone hit a target at sea with the MAM-L guided munition for the first time, striking a decommissioned auxiliary ship floating at sea on the Distinguished Visitors Day.

The Defense Ministry was unable to provide an interview to Defense News by press time. However, the Turkish military tends to maintain lessons learned from drills as confidential.

A statement on the ministry’s official Twitter account said this year’s iteration stood out from previous versions because nongovernmental organizations such as Kızılay (or Red Crescent) participated. As new this year was Naval Warfare Center Command managing the exercise. It was responsible for acting as the exercise control center, established in accordance with NATO exercise planning processes adopted by the Turkish Navy.

Turkey’s first indigenous unmanned combat surface vessel, dubbed ULAQ, conducted its first live-fire trial during the exercise, though the event was not part of the training itself. Developed by Turkish defense companies Ares Shipyard and Meteksan Defence, ULAQ was launched in January and completed sea trials in April. During the live-fire trials, conducted as the last phase of acceptance tests for the Navy, it launched a laser-guided Cirit missile twice — the first one involved telemetry, and the second used a real warhead — hitting its target in the Eastern Mediterranean. The ULAQ was controlled from a mobile coastal control station and illuminated the target with a laser designator before firing.

Turkey’s top defense procurement official, Ismail Demir, said in a speech after the firing: “We have reached an indigenousness rate of up to 70 percent in our projects, and we will increase this even more. The days have come where we began to see similar products to the gamechanging UAVs: now inland vehicles, surface vessels and submarine forms. We are aware that combat environments with integrated unmanned systems await us, and therefore we continue our work accordingly.”

Tayfun Ozberk is a Turkey correspondent for Defense News.

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