Monday, 21 October 2019

Turkey To Go Its Own Way With Submarines

Gür class TCG BURAKREIS S359 -

Turkey To Go Its Own Way With Submarines

Turkey operates the second-largest submarine fleet in NATO. Currently all of them are imported designs, but that is set to change. The program to build the first indigenous submarine has been formally launched. Known as MiLDEN (Milli Denizaltı), six of the new boats should join the fleet in the 2030s.

The move comes at a time many defense deals with Turkey are under the spotlight, with the U.S. cancelling sales of F-35 fighter jets to the country and taking away its production role in the program over Turkey's decision to acquire Russian S-400 air-defense missiles. Turkey also has ambitions to be more self-sufficient in defense, building indigenous frigates and main battle tanks. It even has a railgun project.

The new submarines will have Air Independent Power (AIP), which will allow them to remain submerged for much longer than traditional non-nuclear submarines. Contrary to popular belief, AIP is used to power the electric motor which turns the propeller, not to charge the batteries. The batteries are reserved for silent running and high-speed dashes when the AIP alone is not enough.

Turkey;s 12 current submarines are all based on the German Type-209 family. The plan has been for these to be partly replaced by six of the more advanced Type-214TN model, also from Germany. The Type-214TN submarines will be known as the Reis Class and, unlike previous Turkish submarines, will be built locally. The project has suffered from serious delays however and is not expected to join the fleet until the 2020s.

The MiLDEN program will take years more of research and development. In the meantime the local shipbuilding industry is gaining experience by upgrading three of Pakistan's submarines. These were built in France so, together with the construction of German-designed boats, Turkey is gaining a broad awareness of submarine design.

When the Pakistani submarines reenter service they may shoulder the nuclear deterrent in the form of nuclear-tipped cruise missiles. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has suggested he’s interested in developing nuclear weapons, saying on September 4 that "Some countries have missiles with nuclear warheads, not one or two. But [they tell us] we can’t have them. This, I cannot accept." The role of Turkey's submarines in any future nuclear deterrent is unclear.

Either way, Turkey occupies a strategic location on the eastern edge of NATO. It controls the Bosporus, a narrow waterway between the Mediterranean and Black Sea. Crucially, under the 1936 Montreux Convention other countries' submarines are forbidden from passing through the Bosporus. For example, this means that Russia cannot use its submarines based in the Black Sea for operations off Syria.

H I Sutton
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