STM’s Naval Expertise Propelling Export-Oriented Development and Collaboration Projects with the Turkish Defence Industry

In this interview, STM General Manager Murat İKİNCİ discusses STM’s focused efforts in Naval Projects that are in step with National 2023 target. He shares with our magazine how STM’s role in these projects are producing results for the maritime sector that are proudly demonstrated internationally.

Issue 95

Defence Turkey: Mr. İkinci, first of all thank you very much for your time for the interview.   In 2006 STM made a significant expansion in the maritime sector with the MİLGEM project.   During this process the main objective was “to create a dedicated team that will take an active role in the field of military shipbuilding industrialization and lead the national industry in this direction”. Can you share some insight with our readers about the achievements over last 13 years in terms of staff, technological infrastructure and knowhow in line with this target?

Murat İKİNCİ: This process began with the MİLGEM Project which was initiated by the vision of the Turkish Naval Forces Command and through the determination and responsibility of the Presidency of Defence Industries (SSB). With the MİLGEM Project, naval projects have become one of STM’s leading fields of activity, and within a structure that did not previously exist in the private sector in Turkey in the field of engineering, all of which has been created by STM.

Our role in the MİLGEM project, we had the opportunity to work together with our Naval Forces Command and to benefit from their knowhow and experience.  As a result, STM amassed substantial engineering experience which has become important and a source of guiding experience for our forthcoming projects.

Within the scope of the MİLGEM Project, STM assumed the tasks of providing design service, classification, model tests, for all other systems except for the combat management system and the main propulsion system for the first two ships, and construction/equipment materials to be used in the construction of the ship, from head to toe, so to speak, and all the services needed during the construction including the design service. During the construction of the third and fourth ships, STM also assumed the same responsibilities as well as the supply and integration responsibility of the main propulsion system. Within the scope of the contract we signed with the SSB in 2019, STM assumed responsibility as the Main Contractor for the MiLGEM-5 “I” Class Frigate Project, which will be built as the first ship of its class.

We provide turnkey engineering services in both national and international projects as the main contractor for the design, construction, modernization and detailed engineering activities for military surface ships and submarines, and in shipbuilding & modernization and maintenance/repair activities for surface and submarine ships and military facilities/shipyards. 

Our company has been concentrating on the field of military shipbuilding and modernization, maintaining the level of engineering we have reached in the maritime field with an approach focused on sustainable and continuous development.  We have become the leading company in this field, especially in recent years, executing national and international projects with more than 200 engineers and experts working in line with the progress that our country has achieved in the field of military maritime. 

Defence Turkey: Within the scope of the MiLGEM Project, STM assumed responsibilities for the supply of platform construction and equipment materials and services as well as design services for the TCG Heybeliada and TCG Büyükada Corvettes and has undertaken the design responsibility for the platform and platform integration (including main propulsion system integration) of the Burgazada and Kınalıada Corvettes.  Can you share your comments on the domestic participation rate achieved in the construction work of the Burgazada and Kınalıada Corvettes and the savings obtained by the integration activities of the main propulsion system rendered locally?

Murat İKİNCİ: Starting from the construction process of the TCG HEYBELİADA (F-511), which is the prototype ship of MiLGEM Ada Class corvettes, the idea of “what else can we localize?” has always been a subject matter for us. With efforts performed to this end, the domestic participation rate of 65% achieved in the first two ships of the project reached 70% in the 3rd and 4th ships.

The Main Propulsion System is a complex system that emerges as a result of the interaction of independent systems. The system components procured from different countries and manufacturers in order to establish the main propulsion system of Ada Class corvettes have been integrated in accordance with the CODAG (Combined Diesel and Gas Turbine) model within STM. In other words, STM has not procured the main propulsion system directly from a foreign company on a turnkey basis, whereas it has assumed the integration responsibility of the main propulsion system by making separate contracts with the manufacturers. This is a very important stage that should be maintained. We have achieved significant talent acquisition for our company and our country as well as significant foreign exchange savings through this integration.

Thanks to this stage, we believe that we will not only just be able to complete the integration of the Main Propulsion System in the future and that the experience and confidence we gain in order to localize the system step by step is more important than the achieved hard savings. 

Defence Turkey: STM was assigned as the Main Contractor by the SSB in 2018 within the scope of the Istanbul Class (I-Class) Frigate Project, which is the continuation of the MiLGEM Project, the contract negotiations of which were made and finalized. The construction of the first of the four ships was initiated on January 19, 2017 at Istanbul Shipyard Command. Could you please tell us about the latest status of the project and the responsibilities of STM?

Murat İKİNCİ: The MiLGEM-5 “I” Class Frigate Project is a follow-up of the MiLGEM Ada Class Corvette Project, which is carried out by the SSB and the Turkish Naval Forces.

Within the scope of the contract signed between the SSB and STM, effective September 27, 2019, which is the anniversary of the Battle of Preveza, the MiLGEM-5 will be constructed under the main contractorship of STM by Istanbul Shipyard Command which has great experience and success in the construction of the MiLGEM Project Ada Class Corvette. The design of the ship was accomplished by the Naval Forces Command Design Project Office, where STM provided engineering support services. In this project, STM, as the Main Contractor, undertakes the responsibility of program management, design, documentation, shipbuilding, equipment, integration, verification and preparation of the MiLGEM Project Technical Data Package.

The launch of the ship, which will further develop our national and national warship production capability was initiated with the MiLGEM Project and is planned to be launched in the first months of 2021 and commissioned to the Naval Forces Command in the second half of 2023 following sea acceptance tests which are to be executed after outfitting activities. 

Defence Turkey: The ceremony of the first welding of the Pirireis Submarine, the first submarine to be constructed within the scope of the New Type Submarine Project, was held on October 8, 2015 at Gölcük Shipyard Command. The design change needs in the submarine were fulfilled thanks to the intense efforts of Turkish engineers and technicians, and such efforts led to a shift in the delivery schedule of the submarines. What would you like to say about the current status of the construction activities of the Pirireis Submarine that is expected to be put into service in 2022? What kind of activities has STM performed so far?

Murat İKİNCİ: As you know, the 214TN submarines being constructed at Gölcük Naval Shipyard within the scope of the project are quite different from the previously built 209 Class submarines in terms of equipment, configuration and construction techniques. It should be noted that Gölcük Shipyard Command has been successfully conducting the construction of the first submarine of its class with high domestic and national industry participation, in contrast to its predecessors.

STM is the indigenization subcontractor of tkMS, which is the Main Contractor in the New Type Submarine Project, for all activities within the scope of improvement of Submarine Platform Systems, Submarine Construction Materials and Shipyard Infrastructure. The domestic participation that was almost absent at the beginning of the project has been successfully increased by the indigenization of many materials and systems including the Air-Independent Propulsion System components that will be included in the inventory for the first time and will enhance the strategic features of the submarine. Apart from this, the Integrated Logistics Service, which will significantly contribute to the design of the submarine, is also provided by STM. On top of that, the task of Talent Acquisition in the Submarine Design that our government assigned us is being fulfilled under this project. Currently, the level has been reached where Submarine Modernization Projects are assumed, and all kinds of Submarine Design activities are executed abroad. 

Defence Turkey: The AY Class Submarines modernized by STM gained the capability to launch DM2A4 Heavyweight Torpedoes under the MÜREN AY SYS Project and 8 torpedo shots were performed during the tests. Has STM assumed any role in this activity?

Murat İKİNCİ: Modernization of the TCG Doğanay and TCG Dolunay submarines was realized at Gölcük Naval Shipyard Command within the scope of the Ay Class Submarines Modernization project, in which STM has undertaken a role as the main contractor. The project was successfully completed within budget and on schedule. Periscopes, ED System and INS Gyros that were changed in the project have been developed to be incompatible with the MÜREN AY Combat Management System that were being developed at that time and all interfaces and connections to be used by the system to be integrated to the ship later have been prepared. I would like to express our pride that both of our submarines will continue their missions successfully for a longer period of time.

Defence Turkey: Within the scope of the New Type Submarine Project, production capability of the new type 30 PS 15B Battery Sets for REIS Class Submarines were also acquired for the Battery Factory. What could you tell us about the annual production capacity, the domestic participation rate and the activities executed until today?

Murat İKİNCİ: STM has also been carrying out the development activities for the infrastructure of the Submarine Battery Factory within the scope of the shipyard infrastructure development. Submarine Batteries, which have to be renewed continuously during the lifetime of submarines, will be able to be manufactured with a high proportion of domestic materials upon the completion of the project.

Defence Turkey: The RFP for the Preveza Class Submarine Mid-Life Update (MLU) Project was announced by the SSB and initiated on June 20, 2016.  The domestic development project model will be implemented for four electrically/diesel driven Preveza Class (Type 209/1400) submarines, which were built at Gölcük Naval Shipyard and put into the service of the Turkish Naval Forces between July 1994 and July 1999. The contract was signed with the STM-Aselsan-Havelsan-ASFAT Business Partnership on February 8, 2019. Could you please inform us on the responsibilities undertaken by STM, the scope of the project and the activities performed to date?

İMurat İKİNCİ: The contract was signed on February 8, 2019 and the project was initiated on July 17, 2019. STM has assumed a role as a pilot partner in the project which will last for 10 years. 9 of the 21 main systems undertaken as business partnerships are provided under the responsibility of STM. 

In this large-scale and complex project, STM has assumed the responsibility for the integration of all systems with the submarine platform. In addition, the change of 3 systems including the MÜREN Combat Management System is planned under different contracts during the same period. This project will be carried out at Gölcük Shipyard Command as with the AY Class Submarine Modernization Project.

Defence Turkey: Having successfully completed the AY Class Submarine Modernization Project, your company has taken part in the New Type Submarine Project, which covers the construction of REIS Class (Type 214TN) submarines with the Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system for the Naval Forces and the Preveza Class Submarines MLU Project. Could you share more with our readers about your company’s expertise in submarines?

Murat İKİNCİ: Submarines are the most advanced and complex platforms following spacecraft. It is obvious that you need to activate all facilities and capabilities of your country in order to design a submarine starting from scratch. Preliminary design activities start with scientific research in universities and research institutions, and then continue with the development of critical technologies for the submarine, and finally it is completed with 3-4 years of effort with a design team of five hundred people (at least 250) and an eco-system in the industry. As STM, we have been making utmost efforts to achieve this goal of our country for nearly 10 years. To this end, we successfully continue on our path for all the projects we undertake regarding the modernization or construction of submarines. We strive to readiness ourselves, our stakeholders and educational institutions for the National Submarine to be constructed in the future by providing information transfer and engineering support through agreements that we have signed. For example, for the first time this year, we organized a competition on submarine technologies and design without any prerequisites between undergraduate and graduate students studying at our universities in order to increase the number of academic studies on submarines and to raise awareness about submarines. STM’s competent staff gives lectures at universities as well. As STM, we aim to increase the number of our submarine design team of over 60 people to a number sufficient for the National Submarine Design activities to be realized with the joint participation of all institutions which I have already mentioned.

Defence Turkey: STM is one of the parties involved in the Turkish Type Assault Boat Project initiated by the SSB in order to meet the needs of the new generation assault boats of the Naval Forces Command with national facilities. To this end STM designed the FAC-55 Fast Attack Craft and has performed tests. According to the information we have obtained, the speed requirement was reduced from 60 knots to 45 knots. Could you please inform us on the latest status of the project and the changes made to the requirements?

Murat İKİNCİ: The Turkish Type Assault Boat Project carried out by the SSB is a project that we place great importance upon and we have been working on it for a long time, starting from the feasibility stage. We are continuing our efforts to provide an effective platform solution that will meet the needs of our Naval Forces at the highest level, with rapid, high strike power and innovative features.

So far, we have crosschecked that we have designed a maritime platform for the FAC-55 Fast Attack Craft, which performs effectively up to 55+ knots in the test activities realized at internationally competent institutions. In the light of our knowhow and experience in the design of the FAC-55 Fast Attack Craft, together with the leading stakeholders of our defence industry, we aim to provide the Naval Forces with the most capable assault boat solution amongst the competitors in the world.

Defence Turkey: PNS Moawin (AOE-39), a 17,000-ton class marine tanker built within the scope of the Pakistan Navy’s Fleet Replenishment Ship Project, the first export of STM on the basis of military ships and the largest export of our country in a single lot at that time, was launched on August 19, 2016 at Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works and was put into service on October 16, 2018.  What would you like to tell us about the experience gained from this project, where STM has been the Main Contractor and what type of feedback have you received from the end user regarding the ship during the previous year?

Murat İKİNCİ: PNS Moawin has been actively used in the Pakistan Navy since its entry to service and has accomplished many tasks and exercises. It successfully performed its duties in the international exercise AMAN-2019, which was organized by the Pakistani Naval Forces with the participation of senior government representatives. During this exercise and following Pakistan National Exercises, senior guests and press members followed the naval phase of the exercise at PNS Moawin.

During the course of the exercises the ship attended and underwent activities such as the replenishment of fuel, water, food, medicine, etc. to the other navy vessels. It was also observed that the ship was able to cruise smoothly even under harsh sea and wind conditions and that it was able to perform helicopter operations successfully thanks to its helicopter deck and hangar, and also provided medical support to other navy units through its medical facilities.

As expressed by Pakistani President Arif ALVI during the launching ceremony and the press statements in the media, the PNS Moawin is a modern and state of the art technology combat support ship. It is a ship capable of assuming many tasks in peacetime as well as emergencies and times of crisis. The commissioning of the ship into the inventory will provide the Pakistani Naval Forces superior flexibility in long-term operations. If required, the ship will also be performed in humanitarian operations as well.

STM has gained substantial experience in the establishment and maintenance of high-level cooperation with the Ministry of Defence Production, Naval Forces and military shipyards of a friendly and allied country, as well as in military shipbuilding, equipping, commissioning and testing activities. One of the most important gains in this project was the creation and development of a common working culture in all processes from the determination of ship configuration to the date of commissioning. This experience is positively reflected toward prospective projects.

Defence Turkey: STM recently signed a contract with the Pakistani Ministry of Defence Production on June 22, 2016, surpassing French DCNS Shipyard, Naval Group, the submarine manufacturer, in an international tender opened for the Mid-Life Update (MLU) of Khalid Class Submarines ‘Agosta 90B’. During this period, three contract amendments were signed in June 2017, February 2018 and March 2019 for the provision of two submarines and important subsystems from Turkish companies. Could you please inform us on the current status of the project, activities performed so far and the important milestones of the project in the upcoming period?

Murat İKİNCİ: As the main contractor, we are in the phase of Assembly and Integration on the first ship, disassembly of system devices because of unavailable space on the second ship and the preparation of the location for the assembly. By the end of 2019, we plan to complete the installation and integration activities of the systems supplied within the scope of Mid-Life Update in the PNS/M HAMZA submarine, the first submarine of the Project, and to finalize the Setting to Work (STW) tests. We aim to deliver the first submarine of the project PNS/M HAMZA to the Pakistan Navy at the end of December 2020, after the completion of Harbor Acceptance Tests (HAT) in the first quarter of 2020, followed by the Sea Acceptance Tests (SAT).

Simultaneously with the first submarine activities, we plan to complete the Factory Acceptance Tests (FAT) of the systems belonging to PNS/M KHALID which is the second submarine within 2020, to perform the Assembly and Integration activities and to finalize the Preparations for Set to Work (STW) tests by the end of 2020. Our main goal is to deliver PNS/M KHALID to the Pakistani Navy in December 2021, one year after the delivery of the first submarine PNS/M HAMZA.

Defence Turkey: The MLU of the first submarine, which started in 2018, was planned to be delivered within September 2020 or the first quarter of 2021, and the MLU of the second submarine PNS/M Saad (S-138) was scheduled to start in 2019. Could you please provide information about the modernization and improvement work to be carried out on submarines, the products to be procured from Turkish Defence Industry companies, especially from Aselsan and Havelsan, and the estimated labor / man x hours for each submarine?

Murat İKİNCİ: Our main goal for the French originated KHALID class submarines, which are the most popular underwater platform of the Pakistan Navy, is to incorporate the cutting-edge technology products which are indispensable in terms of both effective duty execution and deterrence in a modern submarine. STM, following the completion of our efforts on activity analysis and customer requirements for such platforms, we will provide the Integrated Underwater Command Control System (ESKKS) and Sonar Suite and Sonar Subsystems that work in integration with it, the Submarine Information Distribution System, Underwater/Torpedo Fire Control System, Attack and Navigation Periscopes, ESM, Navigation Radar, Static Converters, Steering Control System, Ship Self-Noise Measurement System, Submarine Rescue Buoy and Digital Bridge Information Console with a 45 bar strength, and in addition to these systems we provide the Auxiliary Cooling Water System to cool the ESKKS, Torpedo Counter Measure System and Electronic Map Display and Information System.

The integrated Underwater Command Control System (ESKKS) and Submarine Information Distribution System are supplied by Havelsan, the ESM, Torpedo Counter Measure System and Navigation Radar System are supplied by Aselsan and the Auxiliary Cooling Water System by Bronswerk, Turkey. STM provides the Submarine Rescue Buoy, 45 bar resistant Digital Bridge Information Console, Electronic Map Display and Information system in addition to all materials for all structural/technical design, analysis, documentation and installation. We can express with pride that we have involved dozens of Turkish defence industry companies in this ecosystem considering the cables for installation, pipes, valves, flanges, panels, consumables, etc. 

In addition to the aforementioned supplies, we are working together with Poyraz3M Ltd for activities within the scope of Integrated Logistics Support (ILS). In addition, for the first time in the world in a modernization project in the field of “Diving Safety”, which is vital for the submarine platform, we cooperate and procure services from the IACCS member DNV GL for the control of all the modifications made in the resistant boats and waterproofing bulkheads, control of certifications for all materials and the workmanship towards such parts and finally for the provision of “Diving Safety Certification” for the submarines.

For each submarine, an average of 930-man x months is estimated within the scope of the MLU. This figure does not contain the man x month values of our Subcontractors and the Pakistan Military Shipyard that provide labor activities. We proudly state that the number of companies or countries that can undertake a submarine MLU project on such a scale is countable on just one hand.

Defence Turkey: STM is also involved in the Pakistani Navy’s Miniature Submarine Program that includes 3 Cosmos MG110 (SX756 / W) mini submarines which were purchased in the 1980s and are currently in the inventory. At the signing ceremony held on February 8, 2019, you presented the scale model of the new design mini submarine to the officials of the Pakistani Ministry of Defence Production. What would you like to say about this Project?

Murat İKİNCİ: The first project prepared by STM in line with the needs of the Pakistan Naval Forces was submitted in 2017. Within this framework, efforts on the design of small-sized submarines capable of addressing a wider market are continuing within the scheduled plan.

Defence Turkey: During the AMAN 2019 Multinational Naval Exercise held in February 2019, Pakistani Navy officials were very pleased with STM and its activities. According to the information we obtained, the Pakistan Naval Forces plan to meet the needs for the MoShip Submarine Rescue Mother Ship if the necessary budget allocation is made. In addition, the feasibility study of Gwadar Port was carried out by STM. Could you please inform us about the projects that STM is currently interested in and about the activities conducted in Pakistan?

Murat İKİNCİ: As you mentioned, the Pakistan Navy brought to the agenda the need for the MoShip Submarine Rescue Ship and they are making efforts to meet such a need depending on the proposals that will be in line with their budgets. STM continues to search for alternative solutions for this request, and we will submit our study that includes alternative solutions for the Pakistan Navy in the near future. As mentioned before, the MLU of the Agosta-90 Submarines in the Pakistan Navy inventory is currently being carried out in Pakistan under the main contractorship of STM. In addition, Ormara Naval Harbor (ONH) Hydrodynamic studies and the port approach and in-port design are being carried out within the scope of our existing contract. STM is carrying on feasibility studies for the Submarine Maintenance Shipyard design to be located at Ormara Naval Harbor and Gwadar and Gwatar forward naval bases. 

Defence Turkey: Has STM assumed any task/role in the Pakistan Naval Forces MiLGEM Corvette Project (later named the Jinnah Class by the Pakistan Naval Forces), the contract of which was signed on July 5, 2018 and was effective on March 11, 2019?  Has there been any negotiation or cooperation with ASFAT? The construction of the first ship was planned to begin in September 2019.

Murat İKİNCİ: As I mentioned in the beginning of the interview, the export of the MiLGEM project, in which we take place in every phase from the outset, has been our target toward which we have been making great efforts as STM from the beginning and we continued these activities under the management and support of the Presidency of Defence Industries.

STM’s first contact with the Pakistan Naval Forces was at the IDEAS/Karachi Fair in 2006. The Pakistan Naval Forces expressed their desire to participate in the design and prototype construction of the Turkish Naval Forces MiLGEM Corvette, and as a result of the ongoing negotiations since 2015, detailed studies have been initiated with a focus on the Pakistan MiLGEM “Jinnah” Class Corvette Project.

During this process, with the close support and contribution of our Naval Forces, the Pakistani delegation was invited to Turkey to examine the MiLGEM Class ships.

As a result of the ongoing efforts, the MiLGEM “Ada” Class Corvette was chosen as the platform thanks to our solutions and engineering recommendations, and a Letter of Intent was signed by the Defence Ministers of both countries at IDEF’ 17 for the construction of MiLGEM corvettes in Karachi. The ongoing supply model was decided upon to be transformed into the model of direct purchase from Turkey and in the contract phase it was ensured to be a single Country and Ship as Turkey-MiLGEM.

Throughout this process, our main goal, as STM, has been to provide support for the sustainable development of technology and our defence industry through the national knowhow that gained via the MiLGEM Project, in addition to the export of the platforms that emerged during the MiLGEM Project.

As it is known, the contract for the supply of MiLGEM Class ships that will be constructed together by two allied countries and are to be acquired by the Pakistan Navy was signed with ASFAT. What is important is not the party of the contract; the important thing is that Turkey has obtained this project and the MiLGEM Corvette will be put into service of our friendly and allied country. We, as an organization with the greatest engineering experience in MiLGEM, are always ready to give our utmost support.

As STM, our efforts in shaping the Pakistan corvette project (the construction and delivery of which will be realized by ASFAT) as MiLGEM and obtaining it for our country will continue to bring forth benefits also to the navies of other countries.

Defence Turkey: What would you like to say about STM’s expectations and targets for naval projects for the next decade?

Murat İKİNCİ: We have become a company that has proven its competence with the naval projects we have accomplished and been executing and that is recognized in the international military shipbuilding industry and by the naval forces of foreign countries. We have projects abroad that we have won as a successful bidder in international competition, which are a source pride for us. In the coming period, we aim to become an internationally recognized company that can compete with international companies by achieving export-oriented development in the global arena.

With the awareness that such dynamic relationships that are to be established both nationally and internationally in order to provide a sustainable national defence ecosystem, is an important input to carry us forward, we, as STM, aim to liaise with the leading institutions of our defence industry in promotion of defence export.

Defence Turkey: Would you like to convey an additional message to our readers?

Murat İKİNCİ: While exerting efforts in line with the 2023 targets set by our Presidency of the Turkish Republic and the Presidency of Defence Industries for the domestic defence sector, the fact that we are taking part in projects where we can demonstrate our capabilities in the international arena and their successful completion strengthen the steps we will take for the future.

Last year, we ranked 97th on the Defence Top 100 list as one of the three Turkish companies and this year we ascended to 85th place. As STM, we aim to be amongst the top 50 companies on the Defence Top 100 list with an export-oriented growth in the upcoming period