The Turkish defence industry has made remarkable progress in recent decades and is increasingly able to develop indigenous systems not only for the Turkish Armed Forces but also to export to international customers.
Especially after the performance of the TB2 drones in the Russo-Ukrainian war, there’s a consensus about the success of Turkish unmanned aerial vehicles. Turkish companies have been working on unmanned surface vessels for some time to replicate the industry’s success in drones. There are four USV systems operational or at the test phase, and their variants for different areas of naval warfare are currently under development.
Turkish Navy has a great expectation from USV projects that offer the prospect of tactical elasticity by conducting high-risk missions without risking human life. After delivery, the USVs will be embarked at naval bases and warships.
Here is a summary of Turkiye’s USV projects.
ULAQ USV (Ares Shipyard – Meteksan)
ULAQ is the brand name for the Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) product family developed by ARES Shipyard and Meteksan Defence, which covers a variety of platform types, capabilities, and roles.
It has a 400 km range, 65 km/h speed, day/night vision capabilities, encrypted communication infrastructure, which can be operated from mobile vehicles, navy headquarters or from sea platforms such as aircraft carriers or frigates. Its missions include intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, surface warfare, asymmetric warfare, escort missions, strategic infrastructure protection.
The prototype (also ASuW variant) carries a launcher for four laser-guided Cirit missiles and two laser-guided long-range anti-tank missiles (L-UMTAS) produced by Turkish missile manufacturer Roketsan.
ULAQ was first unveiled to the public in October 2020. Following the launch in early 2021, Turkiye’s first armed USV, ULAQ, completed sea trials in the first quarter of 2021. During the Denizkurdu 2021 exercise, which took place in May 2021, ULAQ fired a missile at a land target, achieving initial operational capability.
The JV has also been working on other variants of ULAQ USV. The port security variant, which is armed with a 12.7 mm remote weapon station (RWS), carried out a live firing test in January 2022. The JV showcased port security and anti-submarine warfare variants at DIMDEX 2022 expo.
ULAQ is currently in mass production.
ULAQ USV main specifications
- Length: 11 meters
- Speed: 35 knots
- Range: 400 Kilometers
- ASuW – 4x Cirit and 2x UMTAS missiles
- Base/Harbor Protection – 12.7 mm RWS
- ASW – 2x Lightweight Torpedoes
- Control station: Can be controlled from ground and sea stations
SALVO USV (Dearsan Shipyard)
Dearsan Shipyard unveiled the USV 15 family of armed unmanned surface vessels (USVs) on 23 December 2021. The prototype unveiled on social media is named “ATAK USV 15”, referring to an attack version of the USV armed with a stabilized weapon system and a missile launcher. Before the live firing tests, the company called the USV “SALVO”.
SALVO conducted the live firing trials by engaging a sea target with a laser-guided Cirit missile and RWS in the Sea of Marmara on 25 May 2022.
Dearsan-SALVO has an overall length of 14.79 m, a width of 3.83 m, and a draft of 0.75 m. Depending on the selection of diesel machines the new vessel can reach a top speed of 45-60 Kts (83 km/h – 111 km/h). It can be armed with a surface-to-surface and surface-to-air guided missiles system, as well as a 12.7 mm stabilized machine gun system.
In addition to these functions, variants are being developed to perform specific tasks such as reconnaissance, surveillance and intelligence gathering. SALVO can’t only be operated by land-based mobile control stations or command centres, but can also be deployed on naval forces such as helicopter landing docks (LHDs), frigates, corvettes, and MCM ships.
The SALVO is the 2nd operational-ready armed USV of Turkiye.
SANCAR (Yonca Onuk Shipyard – HAVELSAN)
SANCAR is an armed USV developed by Yonca Onuk and Havelsan Partnership. It’ll be equipped with the HAVELSAN Network Enabled Data Integrated Combat Management System, ADVENT. This is a new generation command and control system tailored to the needs of a force-oriented, network-centric concept of operations rather than a single ship.
Yonca Onuk JV launched SANCAR in Istanbul on June 07, 2022. The timeline of the project wasn’t shared by the company officials.
Specifications of SANCAR
- Length: 12.7 meters
- Displacement: 9 tons
- Max Speed: 40 knots
- Range: More than 400 nautical miles
- Seaworthiness: Sea State 4
- Endurance: 40 hours
- Weapon payload: 12.7 mm remote weapon station (RWS), 2×2 UMTAS or L-UMTAS missiles
- Sensors: Navigational radar, EO sensors and collision avoidance system on a telescopic mast dubbed MILMAST
USV SWARM – Aselsan ALBATROS, Sefine MIR
Turkiye’s leading defence company Aselsan has conducted two demonstrations of its USV Swarm project. The first was conducted with four ALBATROS -S USVs just before the IDEF 2021 Internetional Fair, and the second on 19 June 2022 with a brand new addition to the swarm, Sefine MIR.
The Albatros-S is an indigenous USV that can operate in a swarm. The swarm, which may consist of different navigational units, is able to continue its mission despite the loss of individual platforms by avoiding other components and obstacles (including moving hazards). The assigned work is distributed independently among the components of the swarm. The 7-meter USV can reach speeds of more than 40 knots and has a range of over 200 nautical miles. The USV can operate for up to 10 hours and has a payload of 250 kg.
Manufactured by Sefine Shipyard, MIR USV is being developed under another project to carry a large payload and demonstrate an important capability for Turkiye in the field.
“MIR” means “commander” in Turkish, and the ship’s long mast, which contains more than the usual sensors, reinforces the idea that MIR USV would assume a “control” role over the other USVs in the swarm.
The USV was introduced as an ASW variant of the Sefine’s Constellation-class unmanned vessel, equipped with variable depth sonar (VDS) and designed to meet the endurance, sea keeping, and maneuverability requirements of defensive ASW operations in littoral waters. However, it appears to have additional roles in surface drone swarms, due to the boat’s flexibility that can be configured in accordance with the user needs.
With her hull design and propulsion system, MIR is capable of reaching speeds in excess of 36 knots and operating in sea state 4. According to the company brochure, there are some “important, surprising, and significant detection and capabilities” that can not be disclosed publicly.