Turkey has begun constructing the first Istanbul-class frigate for the Turkish Navy.
Turkey’s Minister of Defence Fikri Işık and senior Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) officials presided over the steel-cutting ceremony. Admiral Bülent Bostanoğlu, the Commander of the Turkish Naval Forces, praised the TCG Istanbul as “the first original Turkish frigate to be realized in [its] republican history.”
The TCG Istanbul will be Turkey’s fifth domestically designed and built warship, following four Ada-class anti-submarine warfare (ASW) corvettes. Defence Minister Işık stated that over 65% of the MILGEM – i.e. Ada-class and Istanbul-class – is sustained from local industry support.
The TCG Istanbul is expected to be built within the next four years and put into service by 2021. The Daily Sabah reports that the Istanbul-class is capable of travelling from Istanbul to Yemen without refuelling.
Notes & Comments:
The Istanbul-class frigate, previously designated MILGEM-G, is variant of the Ada-class corvette with a longer hull (by 14 metres) and heavier displacement (3,000-tons vs. 2,400-tons).
While the Istanbul-class frigate retains the Ada-class’ ASW capabilities, it also benefits from a vertical launch system (VLS) for a medium-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) as well as eight additional sub-sonic anti-ship missiles (AShM) (for a total of 16 AShM vs. the 8 AShM on the Ada-class).
The Istanbul-class will be configured with a Mk.41 VLS with the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM). Its AShM load is expected to comprise of Turkey’s domestically developed and produced Atmaca.
Like the Ada-class, the Istanbul-class will be armed with one 76 mm main gun, two 12.7 mm guns, Mk. 46 lightweight ASW torpedoes, and RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM). It will also have a hangar and flight deck for a naval utility helicopter.
The common hull platform enables Turkey to significantly save in costs. First, by essentially re-using the Ada, the added development overhead for the Istanbul-class is relatively minor in comparison to a clean-sheet frigate design, which was the original objective (i.e. TF-100). Second, hull commonality will enable the Turkish Navy to maintain common maintenance infrastructure for the Istanbul-class and Ada-class.
The MILGEM platform has also drawn interest from several prospective overseas customers. Currently, talks are in place with Pakistan for the sale of four MILGEM warships. The lead contractor, Savunma Teknolojileri Mühendislik A.Ş., hopes to finalize a contract in 2017. If the Pakistan Navy is intending to build anti-air warfare (AAW) capabilities using the MILGEM, then it would be predisposed to the Istanbul-class frigate. However, if Pakistan is seeking the MILGEM to supplant its Type 21s in the peacetime patrol and coalition support duties, then it will opt for the Ada-class corvette.