The Turkish Navy took delivery of its fourth and final Ada-class (MILGEM, or “National Ship”) anti-submarine warfare (ASW) corvette in a ceremony presided over by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on September 29 at Istanbul Naval Shipyard. Handover of the latest ship, TCG Kinaliada (F 514), follows in the wake of its predecessors TCG Heybeliada in 2011, Buyukada in 2013, and Burgazada in 2018.
Bakan Akar, beraberinde Gnkur. Bşk. Org. Güler ve Dz.K.K. Ora. Özbal ile birlikte Cumhurbaşkanımız Sn. Erdoğan’ın teşrifleriyle gerçekleşen TCG KINALIADA’nın Hizmete Giriş ve Pakistan MİLGEM Korvet Projesi 1’inci Gemi Sac Kesme Töreni'ne katıldı.https://t.co/I3P1qqOwuL#MSB pic.twitter.com/EyhEV1eUJa
— T.C. Millî Savunma Bakanlığı (@tcsavunma) September 29, 2019
Originally launched in 1996 to replace the Turkish Navy’s aging patrol vessels, the MILGEM project was temporarily shelved due to funding shortages and defense budget cutbacks. It received new life after the former Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM, now the Defense Industries Presidency, or SSB) issued requests for proposals (RFP) for the local design and manufacture of a first-of-class ship in September 2005.
MILGEM called for the design and build of 12 ships for the Turkish Navy, split between a first batch of eight (two being produced by the Istanbul Naval Shipyard, the others by the winning bidder in the MILGEM competition), followed by an option for a second batch of four. Local industry was to account for a minimum of 80 percent of the program, though per reports, the level of indigenous content on the initial batch of four corvettes amounts to 70 percent.
Following the launch of the Heybeliada in 2008, Turkey’s SSM downsized a competition among Turkish shipyards to determine which main contractor would produce the final 10 ships, announcing on May 12, 2011, that Dearsan Shipyard and Koc Holding’s RMK Marine Shipbuilding would vie for the orders. On January 3, 2013, the country’s top procurement body, the Defense Industry Executive Committee, green-lighted talks between the SSM and RMK Marine regarding a $2.5 billion production contract for six MILGEM corvettes.
However, on September 26, 2013, the prime minister’s inspection office canceled the contract after concluding the original tender violated the rules of competition and was not in the public interest. Questions were immediately raised as to whether the move was political, as Koc Holding was believed to be in Prime Minister Erdogan’s crosshairs following demonstrations against the government earlier in June in which protesters took sanctuary in an upscale Istanbul hotel owned by Koc.
The competition was re-opened in 2014, with Turkey inviting all original seven competing local shipyards back into the bidding process.
Under the new competition, the winner – Savunma Teknolojileri Mühendislik ve Ticaret (or STM) – was commissioned to build just four ships after the government scaled back the MILGEM project from the previous aspiration of a total of 12 ships to just eight corvettes, with four (instead of the initial two) to be provided by Istanbul Naval Shipyard.
Work on the first of these Istanbul-class (or I-class) ships began with construction on the lead ship in 2018. This ship – Istanbul – is slated for completion in 2021. These 3,000-ton second-batch MILGEM ships will have greater fuel capacity and range than their Ada-class predecessors.
As for the final Ada-class MILGEM corvette Kinaliada, the vessel boasts Turkey’s first domestic anti-ship cruise missile, Atmaca (Hawk), produced by domestic supplier Roketsan. Atmaca is slated to replace the Turkish Navy’s U.S.-supplied AGM-84 anti-ship missiles. The 2,400-ton Kinaliada will be the only one of the four Ada-class ships equipped with the missile as well as the Advent combat ship management system.