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İSTİF Class Frigate Launching and PN MİLGEM 3rd Ship First Welding Ceremony at Istanbul Shipyard

The Launching Ceremony of TCG Istanbul (F-515) Frigate and the First Welding Ceremony of the 3rd ship of the PN MİLGEM Project (3rd ship in the preliminary construction schedule but the 2nd ship in accordance with the construction schedule), the construction activities of which continue in line with the requirements of the Pakistan Navy, was held at Istanbul Shipyard Command on January 23rd with the participation of President Recep Tayyip ERDOĞAN, Speaker of the Turkish Grand National Assembly Mustafa ŞENTOP, Minister of National Defense Hulusi AKAR, Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar GÜLER, President of Defense Industries (SSB) Prof. İsmail DEMİR.

Issue 104

Istanbul Naval Shipyard Commander Rear Admiral Recep Erdinç YETKİN, who made the opening speech of the ceremony, stated that the İ-Class (also known as İSTİF Class) Frigates were launched as a continuation of the ADA Class Corvettes as a result of the Navy’s requirements for longer-range weapons, more effective command control and combat systems, and a national floating element with a higher cruising range, and said the following: “In the construction of this ship, we have benefited from the design of our ADA Class Corvettes as well as the experience of our Navy and our national defense industry considerably. The contract for the first ship of the 4-ship flotilla to be named as the ISTIF Class became effective on September 27, 2019. Its length is 113.2 meter and its displacement is 3,000 tons. Until today, 8,600 documents for shipbuilding have been produced, 62,000 days of work have been achieved, 1,110 tons of steel plates have been processed, 5,600 meters of pipes have been installed, and 1,454 pieces of equipment have started to be procured for the main ship.” Rear Admiral YETKİN also emphasized that unlike the ADA Class Corvettes, due to the changing needs and developing technologies, a significant part of the systems previously supplied from abroad are now developed and made ready indigenously, and added, “Our combat systems manufactured with domestic resources include longer range surface-to-air vertical firing systems, ATMACA Anti-Ship Missile, 3D Search Radar, Fire Control Radar, Infrared Search and Tracking System, Point-Defense Weapon Systems and Torpedo Tube Systems. Besides such capabilities, it will have a cruising range of 5,700 nautical miles thanks to more efficient main propulsion systems. In other words, our ship will be able to sail from Istanbul to Yemen without the need for refueling and food.”

Rear Admiral YETKİN: “Construction of the 4th Ship in the PN MILGEM project to start in Karachi in June 2021.”

Giving information also about the Pakistan MILGEM Project (PN MİLGEM), Rear Admiral YETKİN said that the construction activities are continuing simultaneously. YETKİN: “As of today, 6 of the 37 blocks of the 1st Ship have been placed on the cradle and the manufacturing of 18 blocks continues. This ship will be launched in July. Within the scope of the project, 47 personnel were provided on-the-job training at the Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works in the first stage, and subsequently, the construction building activities of the 2nd ship started again at the Karachi Naval Shipyard. The first block of the ship was placed on the cradle on October 25, 2020. The first welding of the 3rd ship will be made today, and the construction of the 4th ship is planned to begin in June at Karachi Military Shipyard and the entire program is scheduled to be completed in February 2025.”

In the Pakistan MILGEM project, the third ship is in the construction start order, but in accordance with the construction program, the launch date of the 2nd ship is planned as September 2022 and the delivery date is August 2024. Following the launch of the I Class Frigate, the first ship of the project, where the first steel cutting ceremony was held in June 2020, is planned to be laid down for building block activities. With the completion of the construction activities of the first ship of the project, it is aimed to be launched in July 2021.

The 3rd ship of Pakistan PN MILGEM project (the 3rd ship in the preliminary construction schedule but the 2nd ship in accordance with the construction schedule) is planned to be launched in September 2022 and to be delivered to the Pakistan Navy in August 2024. Following the launch of the I Class Frigate, the keel of the 1st PN MILGEM ship, the steel cutting ceremony of which was held in June 2020, will be laid for construction activities.

Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar GÜLER: “Three Vessels will be in service by 2027.”

Taking the podium after Rear Admiral Recep ERDİNÇ, Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar GÜLER, in his speech, highlighted that the local content rate in the defense industry rose nearly to 70%. General Yaşar GÜLER also stated that by adding additional weapons and systems to the Istanbul Frigate, its firepower and capabilities were further increased compared to the Ada Class ships constructed previously and continued as follows: “Many national technological innovations being developed are aimed to be used in this frigate in the forthcoming period. The Istanbul Frigate will be put into service in 2023, when we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of our Republic. Within the scope of the ISTIF Class Frigate Project, our other 3 vessels, namely İzmir, İzmit and İçel, are planned to be completed by 2027. Moreover, the fact that the friendly and allied country Pakistan has chosen the MILGEM project to strengthen its naval forces is another source of pride for us. The joint efforts we have been exerting in the field of warship construction are the most significant indicator of confidence in the Turkish defense industry and of the cooperation between Turkey and Pakistan.”

In his speech, Minister of National Defense Hulusi AKAR stated that it is important to conduct comprehensive and effective activities in the field of defense and security with Pakistan, to establish collaboration, to carry out joint projects and to benefit from mutual experiences, with regards to the medium and long term gains of both countries: “In this context, sharing the experience gained in the MILGEM project from design to production with our Pakistani brothers will be an important gain for our countries. In this way, our regional and global cooperation will be further strengthened.”

Minister AKAR stated that Turkey and Pakistan are very close thanks to their brotherly ties, even though they are geographically distant, and have strong relations and cooperation in various fields. AKAR: “The solidarity between Turkey and Pakistan, especially for Kashmir, is no longer limited only to bilateral issues, the three countries in the Nagorno-Karabakh issue have also banded together. The support of our Pakistani brothers for the rightful struggle and cause of the Azerbaijani Turks with the understanding of ‘three states, one heart’ is very meaningful and valuable for us.”

Minister AKAR: “Through mutual talks with Greece, we hope the issues will be addressed/dealt with and resolved fairly and legitimately.”

Emphasizing that they are striving to move regional and global cooperation forward not only with friendly countries such as Pakistan, but also with neighbors and allies, Minister AKAR said, “Everybody should know that we want peace, in our region and in the world, not war; dialogue, not conflict; justice, not double standards; equality, not hegemony; and we want cooperation, not exploitation, and we are making every effort to achieve this. If we have not remained indifferent to the cruelty and injustice suffered by those innocent and oppressed in our region and our geography in which we have ties of affection, if we are hosting 4 million Syrian brothers, if we are in the lead in the world in providing humanitarian aid, if we are fighting in our country, in our blue homeland, Cyprus, Iraq and Syria, if we are present in Azerbaijan, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Qatar and many other regions in the world, it is because we defend humanitarian ethics and moral values as well as rule of international law, and because we are determined and resolute to protect our rights and interests. We will never surrender to defend such values at all costs and to protect our rights under international law. We expect our neighbors and allies to understand that our efforts, our sensitivities and the measures we have taken to ensure homeland security are a matter of law and sovereignty and we want them to be objective.”

“We consider that some decisions taken towards Turkey, a strong NATO alliance member, that are not in line with the spirit of alliance need to be revised by our counterparts in the new era,” said Minister AKAR and continued: “Especially, in our relations with Greece, we are always on the side of friendship and good neighborly relations. We hope that the issues will be dealt with within the framework of rights, law and fairness and a solution will be reached through mutual negotiations. Our country has critical rights and interests in the Aegean Sea, where special geographical conditions prevail. Our stance is clear; these territorial waters should not be expanded unilaterally in a way that restricts the freedom of navigation and access to open seas both for our country and third countries. There is no change in our stance. In this context, what we expect from our neighbor is to respect Turkey's rights in the Aegean Sea and in the Eastern Mediterranean as well as to abandon and avoid statements and actions that may cause misunderstandings.” 

President Recep Tayyip ERDOĞAN touched upon the following points in his speech: “Today, we carry the brotherly relations between Pakistan and Turkey a step forward. The cooperation between the two countries will continue to strengthen in all respects. We know that it has great potential, especially in the defense industry. It is not possible for countries that are not strong and independent in the field of defense are confident about the future. This has become more important for two countries like us fighting on different frontlines. We are a country that has suffered a lot from foreign dependency; we have not forgotten the pain of the embargoes we suffered in the past. We were coerced at every step we took to protect our national security. It is vital for us to be strong in military, economic and diplomatic terms. While only 62 projects were carried out in the defense industry in 2002, this figure has reached 700 today. We initiated almost 350 projects in the last five years. Projects amounted to US$ 5 billion back then have reached a volume of $ 60 billion today. With the ongoing projects, the volume of the projects has been reaching US$ 75 billion we have exported 130 marine platforms, the total cost of which approximates 3 billion dollars, to nine countries in three continents. We are among the top 10 countries that design, manufacture and sustainability their own warship.”

Stating that the number of companies active in the defense industry has increased from 56 to over 1,500, President ERDOĞAN continued his words as follows: “The annual turnover of the sector, which was only US$ 1 billion, has reached US$ 11 billion today. Our exports have exceeded US$ 3 billion, which was previously US$ 248 million. While there were only 2 companies in the top 100 global defense companies 4 years ago, we have 7 companies in the same list today. We have become a country that meets our own needs as well as the needs of friendly and allied countries in land vehicles and naval platforms. We are among 10 countries that are capable of designing, building and maintaining their own warships. We are now amongst the top 3-4 countries in the world in the production of unmanned aerial vehicles, armed and attack UAVs. Despite all smear campaigns, our unmanned aerial vehicles and armed UAVs are followed with admiration throughout the world.” 

President ERDOĞAN also highlighted that the success achieved by Turkish Armed-UAV’s in the Nagorno-Karabakh victory has also changed the methods of warfare and added: “They changed the course of the war in Libya as well. With the remarkable success of our Armed-UAVs, interest in other defense products of our country is also increasing. Our country is in the position that is capable of overcoming the challenges posed by global suppliers as well as the implicit and explicit embargoes imposed.”

President ERDOĞAN: “We will soon initiate the construction process of other three I Class Frigates.”

Stating that they are proud to launch the TCG F-515 frigate project today, ERDOĞAN said, “We will commission our frigate with GÖKDENİZ CIWS for the first time. We will also utilize the 3D-Search Radar and Illuminating Radar for the first time on this frigate. The National Vertical Launching System (MIDAS) will also be used for the first time on this vessel. We have already commissioned the ATMACA G/M on our ships. We will utilize the ATMACA Anti-Ship Guided Missile on this frigate as well.”

President ERDOĞAN underlined that they will further strengthen the navy with 5 big projects to be put into service in 5 years and added: “Our Navy will acquire the test and training ship TCG UFUK this year and the Multi-Purpose Amphibious Assault Ship TCG ANADOLU on which helicopters and UAVs will be deployed also this year, and Piri Reis, the first of our new type submarines next year, and our Istanbul Frigate in 2023, and DIMDEG (TCG Derya), the Fleet Replenishment Ship in 2024.” 

Following the speeches, the first steel cutting of the 3rd ship of PN MILGEM project was realized by President Recep Tayyip ERDOĞAN and Pakistani Ambassador to Turkey Muhammad Syrus Sajjad QAZI. Later, the first of the ISTIF/I Class Frigates, the TCG F-515 Istanbul Frigate, was launched with a ceremony. 

The Agreement was signed between STM and SSB in 2019 

The agreement was signed between the Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB) and STM on April 12, 2019 for the construction of the TCG Istanbul (F-515) Frigate, the first ship of the MILGEM ISTIF Class frigate project, which is the second phase of the MILGEM ADA Class Corvettes.

Within the scope of the project, in which the local content rate is aimed to be increased to 75%, nearly 80 subcontractor companies work together for more than 150 systems, while 220 different companies are involved in total.  The I Class Frigate features include anti-surface and surface warfare systems, air defense system, execution of outpost activities, reconnaissance, surveillance, target detection, identification, recognition and early warning systems. While the length of the National Frigate has been extended by 10 meters due to equipment changes/additions in the weapon systems, structural changes have also been made on the ship.

When the construction of the F-515 Frigate is completed, its length will be 113 m, its width 14.4 m wide and its displacement will be 3,000 tons. Different from ADA Class Corvettes, TCG Istanbul (F-515) and other I Class frigates will also have the capacity to launch a surface-to-air guided missile.

An intensive process will begin after the launch of the TCG Istanbul (F-515) Frigate, the construction activities of which began in 2017 at Istanbul Shipyard Command. Following the rigging of the ship in the dry dock, the harbor acceptance tests, and sea acceptance tests are planned to be started in May 2022 and it is aimed to be delivered to the Turkish Naval Forces Command in September 2023