Turkey’s first major domestically made warship, the TCG Heybeliada, will be formally delivered to the Turkish Navy on Tuesday.
A second ship of the same “corvette” class – small, maneuverable and lightly armed – will be put to sea at an Istanbul ceremony expected to be attended by President Abdullah Gül.
The Turkish Navy’s moves come amid rising tensions with Israel in the eastern Mediterranean.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz, Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel and other dignitaries will also attend the ceremony at the Turkish Navy’s Pendik shipyard in Istanbul.
The TCG Heybeliada and the TCG Büyükada, which will be put to sea from the Pendik shipyard, are the first two ships in Turkey’s MİLGEM program, from the Turkish words “Milli Gemi” (National Ship). The program calls for the design, development, outfitting, integration and construction of 12 patrol and anti-submarine warships, four of them optional, produced with the eventual objective of exporting the vessels to allied and friendly countries.
The corvettes are capable of performing a variety of tasks: reconnaissance and surveillance, target detection, recognition and identification, early warning, base and coastal defense, anti-submarine warfare, surface warfare, anti-air warfare, amphibious operations and patrolling.
The MİLGEM program aims to reduce Turkey’s dependence on foreign ship-makers for ship design, construction and systems integration, and for the construction and integration of naval and private shipyards.
MİLGEM’s first prototype ship, the TCG Heybeliada, has been built by the Istanbul Naval Shipyard of the Turkish Naval Forces Command, while the procurement of supplementary design and construction services, systems and materials has been provided by the Undersecretariat for the Defense Industry, or SSM. The MİLGEM program kicked off in 2004.
The TCG Heybeliada’s construction began in September 2008. This first national warship is scheduled for delivery to the Turkish Navy on Tuesday, while the second ship of this class, the TCG Büyükada, is also scheduled to be put to sea.
More than 50 domestic companies have contributed to the TCG Heybeliada, more than 65 percent of which was locally produced. A mono-hull vessel, the Heybeliada has a length of 99 meters and a displacement of 2,300 tons. One MİLGEM corvette can carry a 10-ton helicopter. Its anti-submarine and surface-warfare capabilities are enhanced with the integration of a 76-mm main gun and a harpoon-guided missile system.
MİLGEM corvettes will be sold to any interested allied and friendly countries. After the completion of the MİLGEM program, the next project will be the design, development and construction of a national frigate, a larger ship. This program will be open to cooperation with interested foreign companies.