DefenceHub Article On premises of flotilla expansion: Turkish Navy evaluates transfer of Royal Navy's Type-23 (Duke Class)

Anıl Mert Taşkın 

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As the Minister of Defence, Hulusi Akar, paid a visit to the United Kingdom on 15th January, it has come to light (with an article by Marine Deal News) that the Turkish Navy is interested in the Type-23 of the Royal Navy, which is due to be phased out from 2023.

A little background on the Type-23 is available in Wikipedia, some of the ships have undergone an upgrade (more MLU), while some of the hulls have only undergone a life extension upgrade (overhaul of necessary equipment and machinery to keep the ship operationally safe and sound beyond its planned service life). The general information is therefore not provided in this article; simply refer to Wikipedia.

This is not the first appearance of the Type-23 for the Turkish Navy, nor is it the first time the Turkish Navy has evaluated a used platform for flotilla extension. Since 2010, there have been several evaluations, inspections and feasibility studies on some platforms that are to be decommissioned and operated by foreign navies. One of the well known cases was additional Oliver Hazard Perry hulls to supply Gabya class flotilla, operating as air defence frigate within TN. In addition, in the 1990s the Type 23 design was offered to the Turkish Navy with a customised weapons suite, but lost the tender to MEKO 200;​

Type 23 offered to Turkish Navy in 90s, with sea zenith

Image source; Ibrahim Sunnetci

The ship has a unique propulsion system not previously seen in TN combatants, a CODELOG system consisting of 4 diesel generators and electric motors for cruising speed and 2 Rolls-Royce made gas turbines for high speed, note that none of the engines or machinery are currently in use by TN. The ship does not offer better air/point defence capabilities than either the existing Gabya class or the soon to be commissioned Istanbul class. However, compared to the Istanbul-class frigates, the Type 23 has a higher endurance at high sea state (predicted to be operational at 6/7 and endurance up to 9), a longer autonomous range (7500 NM compared to 4700 NM) and the ability to operate without logistic support (provisions, water storage, etc.).

The ship's main contribution to the Turkish Navy would be the state-of-the-art active towed variable depth sonar; sonar 2087 and bow-mounted sonar 2150. For this reason alone, it can be a good fit for the future LHD task force to protect the flotilla from underwater threats and perform ASW duties in blue waters. As Aselsan's DUFAS (Low Frequency, Variable Depth Sonar) is being tested and studies continue to develop a multi-static sonar system for TF-2000 and other platforms - coupled with sonars installed on unmanned systems - there is no need for the 2087 sonar in the medium term. Although the Anadolu LHD is expected to enter service by the end of 2023 after extensive sea trials, the urgency has increased in the short term as the construction of the Istanbul Class and the Barbaros Class MLU have been delayed by years. Moreover, TF2000 is not expected to enter active service before 2030, so Type 23s could be an interim - urgent - solution to save the day, not the future of TN.

According to the latest information, the Turkish Navy is less likely to acquire the Type-23 due to the "alienation" of the ship's major subsystems. An upgrade-modernisation-commonisation was considered to replace the existing combat management system with ADVENT, the fire control radar with Aselsan AKREP, the torpedo decoys with Hızır TAKS countermeasures and the 114mm / 30mm weapon systems with MKE 76mm and Aselsan stabilised guns. Since it is not possible to upgrade the propulsion system in this case, the platform would be cumbersome for the Turkish Navy with unusual propulsion units, which are rather common in the rest of the ships. (Gabya, MEKO, Ada, Istanbul classes use MTU / LM2500 with almost common propulsion related equipment).

If upgraded, Type 23s are not expected to enter service before 2024, and are expected to be delivered in batches of 2; as the first 2 ships have arrived and been upgraded, the other 2 ships will be available for delivery and enter service no earlier than 2026. The Royal Navy also has no intention of giving up the Type 23 as a whole, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine warms the Arctic waters.​
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