Turkey’s arms industry has risen to prominence in the past few years. Armed drones, such as the Bayraktar TB2, have grabbed headlines in Ukraine, and orders around the world. Warships, missiles, rail guns and tanks are also worth noting. This rapid growth extend into the silent world of submarines.
Turkey’s first indigenous submarine, the MILDEN, is taking shape. It will be larger and more capable than the country’s current German-designed boats.
A new model of the submarine, shown by the shipbuilder, provides valuable insights into its current design. The model was revealed by Golcuk Naval Shipyard who build Turkey’s submarines. Starting in 2025 they will construct 6 MILDEN (Milli Denizaltı : National Submarine).
Based on license production of German-designed boats, the Golcuk Naval Shipyard has a strong foundation in submarine technology. Currently the yard is building 6 Type-214TN submarines, known locally as the Reis Class, for the Turkish Navy. These incorporate significant locally produced systems. And they follow some 11 Type-209 submarines from 1981 to 2008.
Outwardly the submarine has some hints of the Type-214’s influence, particularly at the stern. But it features a distinctive streamlined bow which resembles of Japan’s latest submarines. The sail is narrower and the casing more clearly angled.
The new submarine will be significantly larger than the Type-214. Displacement will be around 2,700 tonnes, compared to 1,860 tonnes for the 214. Length will be greater two, increasing from 65 meters (213 ft) to over 80 meters (262 ft).
Key Capabilities Of The New Submarine
Tayfun Ozberk, a Defence Analyst and veteran of the Turkish Navy, says that the main reason for the increased size will be armament. “It is about the enhanced firepower. Although there is no official statement about the weapons load, many analysts believe that it will be capable to carry and fire GEZGIN strategic land attack missiles.”
The GEZGIN is an indigenous weapon roughly analogous to the U.S. Navy’s Tomahawk and Russian Kalibr. In its submarine form it is expected to be encapsulated so that it can be shot from the submarine’s torpedo tubes. The capsule will then rise to the surface and launch the missile.
Another Turkish missile which Ozberk suggests might be incorporated is the Atmaca anti-ship cruise missile. This new weapon is beginning to replace the venerated Harpoon aboard Turkish Navy warships. An encapsulated version may be developed to replace the Sub-Harpoon aboard Turkish submarines.
Turkey is also developing its own heavyweight torpedo, the AKYA. Being larger, and carrying more types of weapon, it is also expected to carry more weapons. The Type-214 can carry a maximum of 16 torpedo-sized weapons, the MILDEN will surely carry more.
Like the Type-214, MILDEN will have a AIP (air independent Power). However it is unclear what form this will take. AIP allows the submarine to operate submerged for longer without having to snorkel to recharge the batteries.
Ozberk points out that with six Reis class submarines and six MILDEN, Turkey will have 12 AIP submarines in the second half of the 2030s.
AIP is one of the few technologies Turkey seems likely to import rather than attempt to develop locally. Another may be the masts. However the sonar, combat system and decoys are likely to be indigenous. The flank array sonars are notable for being much longer than on the Type-214. Few other details are available however.
Overall the current iteration of the MILDEN design appears a sensible design. It balance’s Turkey’s desire to grow local industrial and technological capabilities with a design which is not too ambitious.
MILDEN promises to take Turkish shipbuilding to the next level, joining the elite few which can design and build submarines.