The first Istanbul-class frigate aims to be constructed with 75 percent indigenous material as part of a national warship program.
Turkey is on its way to building its first frigate warship in a bid to ensure the country is able to meet future security challenges.
Built mainly from indigenous materials, the program is part of MILGEM, a national warship project aimed at ensuring that Turkey can develop and deploy multipurpose corvettes and frigates for a multitude of scenarios and strengthen its naval defence.
A corvette is a small warship and is traditionally the smallest class of vessel that can be considered a warship. The class above is a frigate. Both warships are hugely versatile and offer offensive and defensive features.
The Istanbul-class frigate, as it is known, will be constructed using manufacturing material made in Turkey. According to the Anadolu Agency, this will mean 75 percent of the components will be indigenous.
In contrast, 72 percent of the Ada-class corvettes will be built from parts sourced from Turkey.
The milestone is also supported by a growing ecosystem of Turkish defence-related companies. Around two-thirds of the 80 subcontractors for the Istanbul-class frigate consist of homegrown Turkish companies.
Over the last two decades, Turkey has accelerated its defence modernisation projects in order to ensure the army is well-equipped to deal with challenges emanating from its immediate neighbourhood.
Media suggests that by the country’s 100th centenary, in 2023, Turkey will have 24 new ships, including four frigates, entering operations and defending its territorial waters.
In 2019, the Ada-class corvette entered the service. Now, work on a fifth project, the Istanbul-class frigate, is set to begin. These are all indicators of the growing confidence within Turkey’s military-industrial complex.
The Naval projects are being led by the STM Defense Technologies Engineering and Trade, a company that was founded in 1991 by decree in order “to provide system engineering, technical support, project management, technology transfer and logistics support services for Turkish Armed Forces and Undersecretariat for Defence Industries.”
Expected to enter into service in 2023, the Istanbul-class frigate, will likely be deployed in the Mediterranean in a bid to strengthen freedom of navigation and ensure stability in the region.
Turkey’s growing defence industry also has an eye on the international market. In July 2018, Pakistan's Navy signed a contract for the acquisition of four MILGEM-class ships.
A report released by the Turkish Defence and Aerospace Industry Manufacturers Association (SASAD), announced that income from defence exports had increased by more than 20 percent in 2018.
Growing Mediterranean challenges
Turkey has been working to secure resource rights for the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, in the eastern Mediterranean. In keeping with this, Ankara has expanded hydrocarbon exploitation operations in the region.
Turkey’s rights to energy exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean gained a further boost as the country signed a maritime treaty with the UN-recognised Libyan Government of National Accord, which defined the respective sea boundaries of the two states.
As Ankara’s commercial and security interests in the region rise, the growing deployment of capital has ushered in a need to secure such rights with additional naval support.
Turkey has in recent years condemned unilateral Greek attempts laying claim to large portions of the Eastern Mediterranean on the basis of remote islands forming part of its territory.
Politicians in Turkey have long called for negotiations between the Mediterranean states to resolve such disputes and for countries to avoid violating maritime agreements.
In recent years, Turkey’s defence spending has seen a marked growth, reaching $19bn in 2018.