Analysis TCG Anadolu; past, present and the future.

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Brief history of Turkish LHD/LPD project​

The Turkish Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) project, which actually dates back to the 1990s, was referred to as a Landing Platform Dock project. It was designed to meet the amphibious force transfer - projection needs of the Turkish Navy. The first drafts of the LPD were made during the 2000s, with the cooperation of the STM (Turkish Defence Industries Branch, then the Secretariat) and the Project Control Board of the Turkish Navy. The first sketches were straightforward LPD design with a supper structure placed afore, 2 40 or 76mm naval guns 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/landing boats, a hangar capable of storing 6/8 medium weight helicopters and a dock capable of launching LCAC / LCM / amphibious tracked vehicles.

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

Current status, first appearance and decision​

By 2010, however, the Navy's intentions had become clear: the Turkish Navy was now more interested in a true LHD, with a complete flat-top and equipped with elevators. At this stage, the operation of STOVL aircraft was not mentioned, nor included in the Request for Information (RFI), but the Navy has published a strange requirement "a flight deck capable of being jet resistant at a specified volume rate and temperature jet flow". 3 options emerged from this and were later submitted to the Request for Proposal. The project at this stage was called "Turkish Landing Helicopter Dock" - TLHD.

The requirements for the LHD were the same as before;​
  • ~20000 tonnes
  • Dedicated aviation bay/deck/hangar with maintenance capability
  • Flat top design with at an minimum of 6 spots for simultaneous operation (for medium lift helicopters)
  • Jet resistance deck coating (indicative of F-35B deployment, as the Republic of Turkey was a partner in the F-35 JSF programme)
  • Docking capability for 2 LCAC or 4 LCM
  • 2 x 40mm Fast Forty, 2/3 x 25mm RCWS
  • 2 x CIWS (Phalanx)
  • 1 x elevator
  • Side loading ramp for heavy armoured units
  • State-of-the-art radar and electronic support units, with SATCOM and military links.
First candidate, RMK Marine, with an unknown collaborator from the UK.
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The second candidate was Sedef Shipbuilding Industries in collaboration with Navantia (Spain), who submitted the Juan Carlos I design as is, with possible removal of the ski-jump. At this stage, the possible modifications were not known, and it was speculated that Sedef & Navatia would actually bid with a version based on the ATHLAS 20000 (a lighter version of the ATHLAS 26000).
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The third and final candidate was Desan Shipbuilding Industries, which is working with the Chinese shipbuilding industry. Here there were concerns about the NATO standards, not only in terms of electronics, but also in terms of the size of the helicopters/lifting platforms operated and other mechanical procedures and size-specific codes. Later, Desan carried out integration re-works and adapted the Chinese LPD / LHD design to the NATO codes.
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The winner of the tender was announced as the Sedef & Navantia consortium in excess of Euro 1B for unknown units, with technology transfer to be carried out by Navantia, and the contract was signed for the licence production of the 2 hulls, including the supply of the complete design packages, with consultancy services for modification requirements that have been placed by the Turkish Navy Project Control Office (PKO).

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

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The first hull of the T-LHD project was designated "Anadolu" with the pennant number "L400", indicating that it was part of the Amphibious Force Command, the second ship was then to be designated "Trakya" with the pennant number "L401", but the intention for the second ship was unclear at the time of the project's initialisation.

It was then revealed that the Turkish Navy had opted for the ATHLAS 26000 design instead of a lighter version, and specifically requested that the "ski-jump" be retained, as it was one of the main reasons for choosing this design. Thus, the intention to operate the F-35B was clear and the ship was henceforth referred to by Turkish officials as an "aircraft carrier". It should also be noted that the Royal Spanish Navy also operates the Juan Carlos I LHD in partial light carrier mode with the AV-8B Harrier, which has been made compatible with the F-35B for future projection.

Several modifications to the Anadolu LHD have been announced by officials at the IDEF fair in several times, the main items have been listed below;​
  • Replacement of 2 x gas turbine gensets with 5 x diesel gensets. This action was taken for a number of reasons.
  • Add 1 x RAM (RIM-116) infrastructure for future upgrades
  • Add side platforms for chaff launchers
  • Improved placement of masts, electronics and additional communications systems

  • Addition of a side ramp

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Image source; Anadolu Agency

Juan Carlos I, two different loading plans for Light Aircraft Carrier (right or bottom) and Mixed Mode (left or top) also apply to TCG Anadolu, 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 enabling ship-to-shore integration and C4 add-on enabling the ship to act as a communications hub/command centre for theatre operations.
  • 5 x Aselsan STOP RCWS, two of which are spare as they can be upgraded to heavy calibre guns.
  • 2 x Phalanx CIWS Baseline 2
  • Unknown number of Nazar DIRCMs by Meteksan as active IR countermeasures. However, this remains unverified, it was reported by Ibrahim Sunnetci[1] in an interview with Meteksan's director of the Nazar programme.
  • Thales (under licence from Aselsan) Smart-S Block-II multipurpose medium-range radar.
  • ASELSAN PIRI IRST, stabilised infrared search and tracking system operating in two IR bands.
  • Aselsan ARES-2NV2 (but could be a transitional version between 2N and 2NV2) Electronic Support Measures
  • A version of the AREAS Electronic Attack suite, called LHD EA by Aselsan. Known to be based on AESA technology.
  • A version of Aselsan's Electronic Defence antennas/suites. Known to exist for both communications and radar frequency bands.
  • Chaff launchers
  • Hızır TACS (Torpedo Countermeasure, Decoy Launching System)
  • TACAS, VHF / UHF communications, SATCOM of various bands.
Nazar DIRCM
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Future of TCG Anadolu, Projection of the Navy's plans​

Following the failure of the Turkish Air Force's F-35 procurement due to embargoes, and subsequent acquisition of Russian S-400 AD systems, the F-35B option for the LHD is no longer an option. Therefore, the Turkish Navy has started to look for alternatives to introduce fixed-wing capabilities to the Anadolu. It was then revealed that Baykar, manufacturer of the famous TB2 UCAV, had been chosen to develop a naval version of the TB2, called TB3, with higher installed power (TEI's PD180ST or DT) and payload, as well as a stronger airframe to allow ski-assisted take-off with catapult and landing with arresting wires.

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It was later announced that the delivery of Anadolu would be as originally designed and that the modification work would be carried out in parallel with the TB3 UCAS development phase. As unmanned surface vehicles are also planned to be procured in 2022, it is expected that TCG Anadolu will be modified to accommodate multiple, highly capable USVs that can be equipped with different mission modules to support amphibious operations/beaching/port security/flotilla passage. It is also expected that Anadolu will be equipped with an additional antenna for LOS communication with UAVs / USVs, as well as additional operator consoles linked to the CMS to enable data exchange between the unmanned platforms and the ship's main sensors.

On the rotor wing side, TAI has already announced that Atak-II, the heavy attack helicopter project for the land forces, will also be available for the naval forces, and the Turkish Navy has been listed as one of the operators to carry out the tests. In addition, TAI has launched a general purpose medium lift helicopter project using the same power train as Atak-II for naval use, in Aerial Early Warning, ASW duties.

Multi-role heavy attack helicopter
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The latest possible configuration of the Atak-II after being redesigned with Ukrainian turboshaft engines.
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General purpose utility helicopter with retractable landing gear.
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It was announced at the 10th Naval System Seminars that the Turkish Army will transfer the AH-1W to the Naval Forces. Previously, it was thought that the Naval Forces were funding a programme to convert ATAK helicopters for naval use, including the use of corrosion-resistant materials and marinisation, but it was reported by Ibrahim Sunnetci[2] that the cost of the conversion may have led the Navy to use partially upgraded AH-1Ws. It is also believed that until the ATAK-II is delivered, the Navy will primarily use the AH-1Ws for training purposes and to introduce naval aviation culture into the Amphibious Forces Command.

The future of Anadolu is also tied to Trakya, the upgrades to be carried out on Anadolu will be decided later as a result of the Strategic Planning Committee's decision on the future of the Turkish Navy's Amphibious / Force Projection Flotilla.

The Turkish Navy has not yet decided the fate of Anadolu. There are 2 ways at the moment, I have roughly mentioned this earlier in this thread.​
  • 3 ships are planned: Anadolu will be kept primarily in LHD role, with the capability to launch / recover TB3 for ISR and amphibious support / precision strike / target illumination duties, note here Anadolu will not be extensively modified, modifications will be an add-on. A second ship, planned pre-2030 for project start, 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 start, is aimed at bringing long deployment true aircraft carrier capable of operating MIUS, Hurjet-Naval and other Naval aviation fixed units to operate as a true aircraft carrier with maintenance capability.
  • 2 ships are planned: Anadolu starts as an LHD operated for a few years, then its capability is gradually upgraded to the level of the second ship, the one mentioned above, and takes over the drone carrier duty 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 starts here before 2030, focusing on manned and heavier unmanned systems.
The changes shown are for both a vision of Trakya and a possible upgrade for Anadolu. It is so " convoluted " at the moment that nobody can make clear statements about it, including the top officials. The Navy will make a strategic decision and then they will follow one of the two paths from above, but a strong mind in the Navy wants to keep Anadolu as an LHD with limited drone capabilities for the 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 that the model shown does not have the systems that the Navy particularly wants in the Trakya; side elevators, AESA based MFR / AESA based EW, maintenance bay etc.
So we end up with 3 possible plans;
  • Anadolu + Trakya + AC - 3 distinct ships​
  • (Anadolu + Trakya) + AC - 2 distinct ships​
  • Anadolu + (Trakya + AC) - 2 Distinct ships​
A preliminary design, a rather 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 at the IDEF '21 fair.

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Notable changes included widening the flight decks, covering the aft equipment deck with a top deck, and moving the gun platforms to the sides of the newly expanded platform. The new design was designed to allow simultaneous take-off and landing, with an extended landing path for rapid response. However, the next ship is planned to carry the MIUS jet UCAV.

A concept image unveiled by Baykar showing the MIUS Jet-UCAV operating in the STOBAR configuration. It was noted that MIUS will not need a catapult to take off from short runways. However, Anadolu has been used here as a placeholder, as Trakya's design has not yet been finalised or decided upon.

References;
[1] Linkedin Article by Ibrahim Sunnetci (In Turkish)
[2] Twitter Flood By Ibrahim Sunnetci (In Turkish)

Note: Pictures are personally collected, some from the DefenceHub forum's genuine content, some from official sources/companies, unless otherwise stated.
 

Anmdt

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