ANKARA, Turkey — A partnership between two leading Turkish defense companies has launched the country’s first armed unmanned surface vessel, the ULAQ.
Ares Shipyard and Meteksan Defence said Oct. 28 the ULAQ was built from advanced composites, has a 400-kilometer range and can travel up to 65 kph.
The companies also said the platform is equipped with day and night vision capabilities as well as encrypted communication infrastructure, which can be operated from mobile vehicles and headquarters or from sea platforms such as aircraft carriers or frigates. That infrastructure can be used for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, surface warfare, asymmetric warfare, escort and strategic infrastructure protection missions.
The design for the prototype was finalized in August, Ares and Meteksan said, and structural construction was recently completed, with the first vessel to enter Mediterranean waters in December following its outfitting.
ULAQ’s missile systems are inclusive of four cells of Cirit and two of L-UMTAS, manufactured by Turkey’s state-controlled missile-maker Roketsan. Firing tests are planned for the first quarter of 2021.
Along with the Cirit and L-UMTAS missile systems, the ULAQ will be equipped with different variations of communication and intelligence technology, like jamming and electronic warfare systems, to cover diverse operational needs. The vessel will be able to carry out joint operations with complementary drones.
Its builders said the ULAQ is not only remotely controlled but also an autonomous vehicle that hosts artificial intelligence.
“ULAQ is a messenger (original word is ‘ulak’), an envoy from the ancient Turkish culture who represents the state with his extraordinary skills since Central Asia. Along with the intelligence and experience, ULAQ possesses extreme warriorship capabilities,” Ares CEO Utku Alanc said.
Added Meteksan CEO Selcuk Alparslan: “While designing the critical electronic systems of the platform, we have sought maximum indigenousness and fully considered the operational needs of Turkish Armed Forces.”
Burak Ege Bekdil is a Turkey correspondent for Defense News. He has written for Hurriyet Daily News, and worked as Ankara bureau chief for Dow Jones Newswires and CNBC-e television. He is also a fellow at the Middle East Forum and regularly writes for the Middle East Quarterly and Gatestone Institute.