Monday, March 15, 2010
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey has recently revived an ambitious program to build six anti-air warfare frigates to bolster its Navy's defense capabilities, a project which it had to shelve nine years ago because of a severe economic crisis.
The Undersecretariat for Defense Industries, Turkey's defense procurement agency, in early March collected information from several foreign and domestic companies seeking to take part in the program, dubbed "TF-2000," which is expected to cost around $3 billion in today's prices.
The program is expected to be completed in 10-12 years and provide the Navy with its next generation frigates.
Turkey had originally designed the program in the late 1990s, but the 2001 financial crisis then prompted Ankara to shelve it indefinitely.
In 2006, Turkey's top procurement body, the Defense Industry Executive Committee, decided to revive the project and called for the manufacture of six TF-2000 frigates, instead of an earlier-planned eight.
Turkey's Gölcük military shipyard in the country's northwest is planned to build the six vessels. They will be equipped with state-of-the-art anti-missile and anti-aircraft air defense missile systems as well as other weapons.
In line with the high degree of technology transfer required, heavy foreign involvement is expected in the program.
Tough competition expected
Several international ship builders, including Germany's Blohm + Voss, Norway's Kongsberg, and U.S. weapons maker and systems integrator Lockheed Martin are interested in this program, defense analysts said.
The TF-2000 frigate is expected to have a weight of more than 6,000 tons, and the first ship is planned to enter service in 2018, another defense analyst said.
Naval warfare helicopters and pilot-less aircraft also are planned to take off from the TF-2000s.
Among traditional surface warships, frigates are larger than corvettes but smaller than cruisers and destroyers. Turkey’s lack of ocean coastline has led the country to base its surface warship fleet on frigates, which have higher maneuverability than destroyers.
The Turkish Navy's present inventory consists of 19 frigates, including U.S. Perry and Knox-class as well as German Meko-class warships. Some of the older Knox-class frigates will be retired soon.
Turkey has focused on Navy programs in recent years and is expected to spend slightly more than $4 billion for defense procurement in 2010.
Other top Navy projects include a joint program with Germany for six modern submarines with mostly local development and production of up to 12 corvettes. The first ship in the Milgem-type corvette program, the TCG Heybeliada, was put to sea in late 2008 and is planned to be commissioned in 2011.