Analysis TCG Anadolu; past, present and the future.

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Brief history of Turkish LHD/LPD project​

Turkish Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) project, in fact dating back to the 1990s, was referred as an Landing Platform Dock project which was planned to fulfill amphibious force transfer - projection needs of the Turkish Navy. In 2000s, the first sketches of the LPD has emerged, in a collaboration by STM (Subsidiary of Turkish Republic Defense Industry Presidency, back then secretariat) and Turkish Navy's project control office. The first designs were straight forward LPD design with a supper structure placed afore, 2 40 or 76mm naval cannons are present in the A-location with 1/2 Phalanx CIWS are present above the hangar and afore the bridge.

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The ship had covered side-bays capable of launching several RHIBS and Inspection boats / Landing boats, Hangar capable of storing 6/8 medium tonnes helicopter and a Dock capable of launching LCAC / LCM / Amphibious tracked vehicles.

However, by 2010 the Turkish Navy's interest has shifted towards the flat-top designs, capable of simultaneous helicopter operations, dedicated bay for storage of the helicopters with limited maintenance capability. At this point, Navy was interested in acquiring a platform that will be a force projection asset, rather than an amphibious transport one. First indigeneous designs then emerged by the efforts of the STM and DeltaMarine with an unknown foreign advisor.
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At this point we can safely assume, Navy was not interested in using elevators but hangar in classical formation to deploy medium / heavy lift helicopters and using flat-top deck as simultaneous operation pad.​

Current status, first appearance and decision​

However when it has past 2010, the Navy's intention has been clear, now the Turkish Navy was more interested in a true LHD, with a whole flat-top and equipped with elevators. At this stage operation of STOVL aircraft were not mentioned, neither included in the Request for Information call (RFI), yet the Navy has published a strange requirement "a flight deck capable being jet resistance at a specified volume rate and temperature jet-flow". 3 options have emerged here and later bid for the Request for Proposal call. The project at this stage was referred as "Turkish Landing Helicopter Dock".

The requirements for the LHD was given as, in the earlier times;​
  • ~20000 tonnes​
  • Dedicated aviation bay / deck / hangar with maintenance capability​
  • Flat-top design with minimum 6 spots for simultaneous operation (for medium lift helicopters)​
  • Jet-resistance deck coating (hinting deployment of F-35B, as Turkish Republic was a partner of the F-35 JSF program)​
  • Dock capable of 2 LCAC or 4 LCM​
  • 2 x 40 mm fast-forty, 2/3 x 25mm RCWS​
  • 2 x CIWS (Phalanx)​
  • 1 x Elevator​
  • Side loading ramp for heavy armored units​
  • Cutting edge radar and electronic support units, with SATCOM and Military Links.​
First candidate, RMK Marine with an unknown collaborator, originating from UK.
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Second candidate was Sedef shipbuilding industries, collaborating with Navantia (Spain) which has submitted the Juan Carlos I design as is, with possible removal of the ski-jump. At this point the possible modifications were not heard of and it was speculated in fact Sedef & Navatia was going to bid with a version based on ATHLAS 20000 (lighter variant of ATHLAS 26000)
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The third and last candidate was Desan shipbuilding industries, collaborating with Chinese shipbuilding industry. Here there has been concerns regarding to the NATO codes, apart from the electronics but related to the size of helicopters / aerial platforms operated and other mechanical procedures and standards related to the size. Later Desan has carried out integration re-works and adapted Chinese LPD / LHD design to the NATO codes.
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The winner of the bid was announced as Sedef & Navantia concortium exceeding Euro 1B for unknown units which was included, with transfer of technology to be carried out by Navantia and the contract was signed for license production of the 2 hulls, including delivery of the whole design packages offering consultancy services for modification demands have been placed by Turkish Navy Project Control Office (PKO).

In parallel, another project for Amphibious Armored Vehicle, called ZAHA, has been announced and FNSS has started the design studies for a tracked AAV design in lights of the requirements have been set by the Turkish Navy. In the latest updates, ZAHA has neared completion of the qualification runs as end of 2021 and first units will be delivered to the Navy in 2022.

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The first hull of the T-LHD project has been marked as "Anadolu" with the pennant number "L400", indicating it is part of the Amphibious force command, the second ship then was planned to be referred as "Trakya" with pennant number "L401", however the intention for the second ship was unclear at the time of project initialization.

It was, then, came to the light that Turkish Navy was opting for ATHLAS 26000 design instead of a lighter version and particularly requested "ski-jump" to remain as is, since it was the one of the major reasons for picking the design. Thus, the intention of operating F-35B has been clear and the ship, from now on, was referred as "Aircraft carrier" by Turkish officials. It shall be further noted, Royal Spanish Navy also operates Juan Carlos I LHD in partial, light aircraft carrier mode with the AV-8B Harrier made compatible with F-35B for future projection.

Several modifications on Anadolu LHD was announced by officials at the IDEF fair in several times, the major items have been listed below;​
  • Replacement of 2 x Gas turbine gen-sets with 5 x Diesel gen-sets. The action was taken for several reasons.​
  • Adding 1 x RAM (RIM-116) infrastructure for future upgrades​
  • Adding side-platforms for chaff-launchers​
  • Improved mast and electronics placement, as well as additional communications systems.​
  • Adding side-ramp.​

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Image source; Anadolu Agency

Juan Carlos I, two distinct loading plan for Light Aircraft Carrier (Right or Bottom) and Mixed Mode(Left or Top) applies to TCG Anadolu as well, either in LHD role, LAC role or mixed duty.
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Image source; buquesdeguerra

In the latest configuration, TCG Anadolu is / will be equipped with;​
  • ADVENT Network enabled Combat management system (CMS), with Amphibious joint support module that enables ship to shore integration, as well as C4 add-on that allows ship to operate as a communication hub / command center for theatrical operations.​
  • 5 x Aselsan STOP RCWS, two of the spots are spared as upgrade-able to heavy caliber cannons.​
  • 2 x Phalanx CIWS Baseline 2​
  • Unknown count of Nazar DIRCM by Meteksan as active IR counter-measures. However remains not verified, it was reported by Ibrahim Sunnetci[1] in an interview with Meteksan director of the Nazar program.​
  • Thales (license made by Aselsan) Smart-S Block-II medium range multi-purpose radar.​
  • ASELSAN PIRI IRST, stabilized Infrared search and track system operating in two IR bands.​
  • Aselsan ARES-2NV2 (however, could be a transition version between 2N and 2NV2) Electronic support measures​
  • A version of AREAS Electronic Attack suite, referred as LHD EA by Aselsan. Known to be AESA based.​
  • A version of Aselsan Electronic Defense antennas/suites. Known to be present both for Communications and Radar frequency bands.​
  • Chaff launchers​
  • Hızır TACS (Torpedo counter-measure, decoy launching system)​
  • TACAS, VHF / UHF comms, SATCOMs of various bands.​
Nazar DIRCM
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Future of TCG Anadolu, projection of Navy Plans​

Upon failure of the F-35 procurement by the Turkish Air-force, as a result of embargoes followed by acquisition of Russian S400 AD systems, F-35B option for the LHD is not possible anymore. Thus Turkish Navy has started to seek alternatives to introduce fixed wing capabilities to the Anadolu. Then it has been clear that Baykar, producer of famous TB2 - UCAV, was chosen to develop a naval version of the TB2, called as TB3 with higher installed power (TEI's PD180ST or DT) and payload as well as stronger air frame to allow ski-assisted take off with catapult and landing with arrest wires.

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Later, it was announced that the delivery of Anadolu will take place as in the original design and later,in an appropriate time the modification re-works will be carrier in parallel of TB3 UCAS's development phase. As Unmanned surface vehicles were also planned to be procured in 2022, it is expected that TCG Anadolu will be modified in a way to host multiple, highly-capable USVs that can be equipped with various mission modules to aid amphibious operations / beaching / securing ports / passages of the flotilla. Thus it is further expected Anadolu will be equipped with an additional antenna for LOS communications with UAVs / USVs as well as additional operator consoles inter-connected with CMS to allow data-exchange between unmanned platforms and ship's main sensors.

For the rotary air wing it has been announced earlier by TAI that Atak-II, the heavy attack helicopter project for Land forces will be also available for the Naval forces and Turkish Navy was listed among the receiver of the operators for carrying out the tests. In addition, TAI has launched a general purpose medium-lift helicopter project using the same drive-train as Atak-II for Naval use, in Aerial Early-Warning, ASW duties.

Multi-role heavy attack helicopter
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The latest configuration, possible, design of the Atak-II after re-designing with Ukranian turboshaft engines.
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General purpose- Utility helicopter with retractable gears.
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In 10th Naval System Seminars, it was announced that Turkish Land Forces will transfer AH-1W to Naval forces. Earlier it was considered that Naval Forces were funding a programme to re-design ATAK helicopters for Naval use, including corrosion resistance material use and marinization, however it was reported by Ibrahim Sunnetci[2] that the cost of the conversion may have re-directed the Navy to use partially upgraded AH-1Ws. It is further thought that Navy will use AH-1Ws primarily for training purpose and to introduce Naval Aviation culture into the Amphibious Forces Command, until delivery of ATAK-II.

The future of Anadolu is also tied to the Trakya, the upgrades to take place on Anadolu will be later decided as a result of strategical plan committee's decision on future of Turkish Navy's Amphibious / Force Projection Flotilla.

Turkish Navy is yet to decide fate of the Anadolu. There are 2 paths at the moment, i have roughly mentioned about this earlier in this thread.​
  • 3 ships are planned: Anadolu is kept in LHD role primarily, with the ability of launching recovering TB3 for ISR and Amphibious support / precision strike / target illumination duties, note here Anadolu won't be modified extensively but modifications will be an add-on. A second ship, planned pre-2030 for project to commence, will be the drone carrier capable of launching /recovering MIUS / TB3 and other (2 more) unmanned systems with future option of Hurjet-Naval, acting as a Light aircraft carrier, while a 3rd ship ,planned post-2030 for project to commence, aimed to bring long-deployment true aircraft carrier, able to operate MIUS, Hurjet-Naval and other Naval aviation fixed units to operate as a true aircraft carrier with maintenance capability.​
  • 2 ship are planned: Anadolu starts as an LHD operated for a few year, its capability then upgraded gradually to the second ship's level, the one mentioned above, and takes duty of the drone carrier by 2030, this plan includes a permanent modification on Anadolu above the level we expect including the sensors etc. The third ship of the above plan commences pre-2030 in here focusing on manned and heavier unmanned systems.​

The displayed modifications are for both a vision of Trakya, and a possible upgrade for Anadolu. It is so "mixed up" at the moment nobody can make straight claims about those including the top officials. Navy will make a strategical decision and then they will follow either of the path from above, but a strong mind in Navy wants to keep Anadolu as an LHD with limited drone capabilities for sake of low-maintenance power projection capabilities and in a third plan they plan to combine the 2nd and 3rd ship of the 1st plan. However i know the displayed model does not hold the systems that Navy particularly wants in the Trakya; Elevators on sides, AESA based MFR /AESA based EW, maintenance bay etc.

So in the end we actually end up with 3 possible plans;​
  1. Anadolu + Trakya + AC - 3 Distinct ships​
  2. (Anadolu + Trakya) + AC - 2 Distinct ships​
  3. Anadolu + (Trakya + AC) - 2 Distinct ships​
A preliminary design, rather very-early concept design based on simple inputs and feedback from the Navy, for Trakya, the second planned ship of the T-LHD project was shown as below in IDEF '21 Fair.

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Noticeable changes were expansion of the flight-decks in breadth, covering the stern-equipment deck with a top-deck and relocating gun-chaff platforms to the sides of the newly expanded platform. The new design was made to allow simultaneous take-off capabilities and extended landing-path for rapid response, allowing simultaneous take-off and landings. However this shall be mentioned further, the next ship is planned to operate the MIUS jet-UCAV.

A concept image revealed by Baykar, depicting MIUS Jet-UCAV to be operated in STOBAR configuration. It was noted that MIUS will not need catapult to take off from short-runways. However in here Anadolu was used as a placeholder because Trakya's design is yet to mature or be decided.
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References;
[1] Linkedin Article by Ibrahim Sunnetci (In Turkish)
[2] Twitter Flood By Ibrahim Sunnetci (In Turkish)
Note: Images are collected personally, some from the DefenceHub Forum's genuine contents, some from official sources / companies unless otherwise a reference to the image source is given.
 
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