Denizkurdu 2021: Turkish Navy Conducts Largest Naval Exercises Involving 132 Ships

Turkey’s first indigenous unmanned combat surface vessel, ULAQ, successfully carried out test-fires of laser-guided Cirit missile to a land target on 26-27 May 2021. The test-firings were conducted during the Turkish Navy’s Denizkurdu 2021 exercise, which was kicked off on 25 May in the Aegean Sea and the East Mediterranean.

Turkish Ministry of Defence announced the results with footage via Twitter. “Indigenously developed Armed Unmanned Surface Vehicle (SİDA) successfully conducted its first firing and hit the target with pinpoint accuracy during the DENİZKURDU-2021 exercise.” The Turkish MoD tweeted.

Developed by the Turkish ARES Shipyard and METEKSAN Defence duo, ULAQ was launched on January 2021 and has been conducting sea trials since then. A few weeks ago, it completed harbor and sea trials, and Ares announced that the last phase of trials consists of live-fire missile tests was scheduled in May.

ULAQ unmanned surface vehicle (Turkish MoD picture)

Following the schedule, ULAQ launched the Roketsan-made Cirit missile with telemetry on 26 May. After the successful results of the first firing, it launched the Cirit missile fitted with an actual warhead from 4 kilometers range on 27 May and hit the target with pinpoint accuracy. The test-firings were conducted off the Antalya coast, and the laser-reflecting target was located on Devecitasi Island in the region.

The surface and air assets of the Turkish Navy secured the firing area for maritime safety, which was promulgated with NOTAM (Notice to Airmen and Mariners) weeks ago, and prevented unwanted merchant vessel intrusion. During the event, ULAQ was controlled by a Coastal Control Station (SAKİ); it designated the target itself and finally launched the missile while proceeding with a high speed.

Turkish MoD picture

This event was a milestone for ULAQ USCV and unmanned surface vehicle technology because ULAQ is the first operational-ready armed USV worldwide. The mass production and deliveries will begin in the following months. ARES and METEKSAN aim to produce 50 ULAQ USVs per year. Meanwhile, the design and operational concept of the Anti-Submarine Warfare variant are complete, and mass-production is scheduled to start later this year, as the Turkish Navy seeks to enhance its ASW capabilities.

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Turkish Navy has a great expectation from ULAQ USVs that offer the prospect of tactical elasticity by conducting high-risk missions without risking human life. After delivery, ULAQs will be embarked at naval bases and warships.

About Denizkurdu 2021 exercise

Turkish Navy kicked off Denizkurdu 2021 large-scale exercise on 25 May. The exercise was defined as “largest-ever” during the pre-sail briefing.

Picture courtesy of Ertugrul Birel

According to an infographic released by the Turkish MoD;

  • 132 surface ships (12 frigates, 9 corvettes, 18 FACs, 11 MCM ships, 16 patrol boats, 33 auxiliary ships, 24 landing ships),
  • 10 submarines, 85 air assets (11 aircraft, 16 helicopters, 14 UAVs/UCAVs, general-purpose and attack helicopters from Turkis Land Forces, and jets from the Turkish Air Force),
  • Search and Rescue Corvette, boats, and helicopters from the Turkish Coast Guard,
  • Amphibious Forces and Special Forces
  • 25.500 personnel have been participating in the exercise.

The exercise consists of three phases. Within the scope of the First Phase, operational readiness training was executed between 25-27 May. The participating units are currently conducting the Second Phase of the exercise, Free Play (Force-on-Force Freestyle Training), which will last until 2 June. In the Third Phase, the participating units will visit 22 ports at Aegean and East Mediterranean. After the port visits, VIP Observer Day activities will be conducted.

Denizkurdu is a strategic level exercise that has been performed every two years. It’s considered the most important exercise to show the Turkish Armed Forces’ resolution and capability in protecting the country’s security and its rights and interests in the surrounding seas.

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