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Antalya-based ARES Shipyard and Ankara-based METEKSAN Defence Industry Inc. have launched Turkey’s first Armed Unmanned Surface Vehicle (AUSV) programme as a result of intensive Research & Development (R&D) activities that have been going on for the last couple of years.

Comprising five production facilities located in the Antalya Free Zone, ARES Shipyard has built more than 100 vessels in various classes and lengths, fulfilling various types of military and commercial marine platform needs based on a customer-oriented approach and Integrated Logistic Support (ILS) system. METEKSAN Defence Industry Inc. was established in 2006 to combine and coordinate the projects and activities of high technology companies operating within the body of Bilkent Holding for the defence industry on a single roof.

Their AUSV prototype, which will be launched in December, is going to be the first platform of the “ULAQ” line. The two partners informed that ULAQ is a messenger, an envoy from the Ancient Turkish Culture who represents the state with his extraordinary skills in Central Asia. Along with the intelligence and experience, ULAQ possesses extreme ‘warriorship’ capabilities; thereupon, the AUSV was named after “ULAQ.”

Built from advanced composites, the vehicle will come with a bundle of robust capabilities sought for the unpredictable naval/maritime environment, including: a range of 400km; a top speed of 65km/hour; day/night vision capabilities; and an encrypted communications infrastructure allowing the platform to be operated from mobile vehicles and headquarters or from sea-going platforms such as aircraft carriers or frigates. The spectrum of missions will include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), surface warfare, asymmetric warfare, escort missions and strategic infrastructure protection.

According to the two industrial partners, the design of the prototype vessel was completed last August and its structural building process has just been completed. The two partners expect the launching of the platform in Mediterranean waters later in December, after completion of outfitting. The AUSV’s armament is centred around four cells for accommodating the CIRİT laser-guided 70mm missile system and two additional cells for the L-UMTAS (or Mizrak-U; Uzun Menzilli Tanksavar Sistemi) long-range guided missile system, both of which are developments of the Turkish armour and missile system manufacturer ROKETSAN. Initial firing tests are scheduled for the first quarter of 2021.

In addition to the guided missile systems, the AUSV will be fitted with different communications and intelligence systems, depending on the mission requirements. Additional equipment to be fitted includes jamming and Electronic Warfare (EW) systems to cope with the diversity of expected operational needs. The AUSV will be capable of carrying out joint operations with complementary forces such as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). The platform was designed as a remotely controlled vehicle; but with the usage of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the platform can be deployed as a fully autonomous vehicle to cope with completely new mission requirements in the 2020s.

Both ARES Shipyard and METEKSAN Defence confirmed that – after the first prototype vessel - further AUSVs will be ready for manufacturing for operations such as ISR, mine countermeasures, Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), firefighting and search and rescue.

In a joint press conference held on 28 October 2020, ARES Shipyard’s CEO Utku Alanc expressed: “We are indescribably happy and proud to announce the launch of the first Armed Unmanned Surface Vehicle programme after years of intensive engineering works and investments following our dream. We have achieved this success and pride with our owner’s equity investments by prioritising our national interests as it always has been. We hereby present the [AUSV] as the first platform of the ULAQ line to be launched in December.”

METEKSAN Defence’s CEO Selçuk Alparslan explained: “We have once again understood the importance of the ‘Blue Homeland’ defence, Economic Exclusive Zone protection, protection of maritime borders of the Turkish Peninsula especially with recently emerging disputes.” He added that METEKSAN Defence is very proud to utilize its technologic assets of know-how in communications and sensor systems for the development of USVs. While designing the critical electronic systems of the platform, METEKSAN Defence sought the maximum indigenousness of Turkey’s first armed USV that will cope with the operational needs of the Turkish armed forces.

Stefan Nitschke

Utilizing Artificial Intelligence, the ULAQ AUSV can be deployed as a fully autonomous vehicle for a variety of mission types. (Photo: ARES Shipyard/METEKSAN Defence)

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