Monday, 3 January 2022

Bigger Business: Turkey Unveils F142 Frigate Design

By Stijn Mitzer
As naval shipbuilders in Europe face fierce competition by catering to a market that has meanwhile become too small for all of them to survive the coming decades, naval shipbuilding in Turkey is booming. Currently offering a wide range of naval vessels and arguably just as important, the associated armament and radar systems, at prices that are actually attainable for most countries worldwide, Turkish naval shipyards have achieved significant successes during the last decade. The most successful of these shipyards are Yonca-Onuk, STM and Dearsan. The latter two offer anything from small submarines to large frigate designs, one of which will be the subject of this article.
Turkey's technological growth in the naval sector has meanwhile meant that the country's shipyards' portifolios are steadily expanding to include ever larger and even novel ship designs. The year 2021 witnessed the unveiling of three armed unmanned surface vessel (USV) types, the ULAQ-series by ARES, the NB57/RD09 by Aselsan and Sefine Shipyard and the USV 15 by Dearsan. [1] [2] [3] The ULAQ-series of USVs can be armed with anti-ship missiles, anti-submarine weaponry and long-range anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs). The large scale introduction of these USVs to the Aegean Sea could alter the current naval balance firmly in Turkey's favour, and take over many of the tasks previously carried out by manned vessels.

For their novelty, the USVs are certain to garner the most attention. Nonetheless, the design of larger naval ships too indicate a continuing trend of modernisation and an increase in capabilities in Turkey's defence industry. One of these designs is the F142, a large type of frigate first unveiled by Dearsan in late 2021. [4] The F142 is the largest and most heavily armed ship ever designed by Dearsan Shipyard. The F142 will have a length overall of 142 metres, a maximum beam of 18.5 metres and a displacement of 5,500 tonnes. In comparison, Dearsan's previous largest design came in at a length of 'only' 92 metres and a displacement of 1,600 tonnes. [5]
The F142's most daunting weapon system is a 32-cell Vertical Launch System (VLS) capable of firing the 20km-ranged VL MICA surface-to-air missile (SAM). Two torpedo launching systems are also carried, which can be used to fire torpedoes at submarines detected by the F142's own sonar or its onboard anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopter. For close-in defence, two forward and aft-facing 35mm Rheinmetall Oerlikon Millennium Gun close-in weapon systems (CIWS), two 12.7mm remote weapon stations (RWS) and six chaff decoy launching systems are present. Forward armament consists of a 76mm Super Rapid naval gun or an indigenous Turkish 76mm naval cannon. [6]

The F142 also boasts the impressive amount of 16 anti-ship missiles (AShMs) to unleash on its opponents, likely consisting of the indigenous Atmaca AShM or a foreign design depending on the customer's requirement. With up to sixteen AShMs the only limiting factor on its capabilities is the ship's ability to detect its targets, so significant space has been dedicated to the installment of suitable radar systems. On the F142 this comes in the form of numerous radars designed to actively detect and track multiple targets at long ranges (including an AESA radar) and a number of EO/IR systems. Also carried is an extensive electronic warfare (EW) suite by Elettronica of Italy for defensive EW operations.

After constructing sixteen Tuzla class patrol boats for the Turkish Navy from 2010 to 2014, Dearsan Shipyard (in a joint venture with Gülhan Shipyard) was awarded a number of contracts by Turkmenistan to equip its State Border Service (Coast Guard) and Navy starting in the early 2010s. This has so far led to the delivery of at least 29 naval vessels, including one corvette, ten patrol boats and six fast attack craft (FAC). In November 2021 it became known that Dearsan had been awarded a contract to deliver two 76m OPV 76s to the Nigerian Navy, succesfully outcompeting shipyards in Israel, the Netherlands, China and Singapore. [7]
The largest naval design by Dearsan actually constructed so far is the 92 metres long Deniz Han corvette (design designation: Corvette C92), the first out of two Turkmen-class corvettes to be built for the Turkmenistan Navy. The Deniz Han is the most well-armed naval vessel in the Caspian Sea, boasting an Oto Melara 76mm main gun, eight 200km-ranged Otomat Mk 2 Block IV AShMs, sixteen 20km-ranged VL MICA surface-to-air missiles, a Roketsan ASW rocket launcher, an Aselsan 35mm Gökdeniz CIWS and four 25mm and 12.7mm remote weapon stations. The vessel also features the same electronic warfare suite that equips the design of the F142.

The Deniz Han corvette of the Turkmenistan Navy.

While the Tuzla class has proven its worth in service with the Turkish Navy, the F142 was designed too late to participate in the tender for Turkey's future frigate, which was ultimately won by STM in the mid-2010s. [8] The resulting design is known as the İstif class (sometimes also referred to as the Istanbul class), which similarly comes equipped with sixteen anti-ship missiles. The lead vessel of the class, TCG İstanbul, was launched in January 2021, and bidding for the construction of three more vessels in the class is set to commence in early 2022. [9]

Most of Dearsan's naval designs are specially designed for export. Although the F142 does not appear to have been designed to meet the requirements of a specific country, nations that could be interested in the frigate design include Indonesia, Malaysia, Morocco and a number of countries in South America. STM has already offered its CF3500 frigate design based on the Ada class corvette to Colombia in late December 2021, paving the way for Turkey to enter the South American naval market. [10]

The Turkish Navy's upcoming İstif class frigate. This class too is armed with 16x Atmaca AShMs while sporting a lighter SAM loadout of sixteen missiles and one CIWS instead of two on the F142.

In a timespan of some ten years Turkey's naval shipyards have come up with an impressive number of designs in almost every ship class. Designed along with the ships are a multitude of modern indigenous weapon systems, radars and sensors. As a result, Turkish shipyards soon no longer have to rely on foreign-made weaponry when offering their ships for export. For Dearsan specifically, this includes its newly-unveiled USV lineage, a 33-metres midget submarine as well as conventional vessels like the Turkmen class corvettes and the F142 frigate. It doesn't seem unthinkable that these could soon reach entirely new markets in Europe, South America and Southeast Asia.

Dearsan's 33-metres Light Submarine (L SUB 33).

Special thanks to Kemal.
[1] Turkey begins the mass-production of ULAQ armed USV