Jan 27, 2022

Turkish mini-submarines to be ‘game-changer’ like UAVs: Expert

STM modernized the Turkish Naval Forces Command's submarines. (Courtesy of STM)
STM modernized the Turkish Naval Forces Command’s submarines. (Courtesy of STM)

After securing great success in developing, operating and exporting its domestic unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), Turkey is preparing for similar success stories with mini-submarines in the near future. A defense and maritime researcher said the “game changer” combat drones will have an equivalent in mini-submarines that can operate in the “Blue Homeland” that represents the seas surrounding the country.

Kozan Selçuk Erkan, who is one of the experts closely following developments, speaking on Turkey’s submarine building skills, told state broadcaster TRT Haber that there “is a quiet and deep process in line with the spirit of the submarine.”

Stating that Ankara has acquired this strategic approach thanks to the submarine construction programs that have been going on since the 1980s, Erkan points out that more localization rates and new production skills are gained with each new production.

With the development of the Reis class submarines – air-independent propulsion-system submarines developed under the New Type Submarine Project – the country’s industry has reached much higher levels, Erkan said.

Commenting on the mini-submarines, Erkan underlined that small submarines, due to their nature, will be more difficult to develop because too many subsystems need to be built into small volumes.

“But this is something our shipbuilding industry can handle now,” he said.

He said that the mini-submarine, coded as STM-500, which was developed by STM that has previously undertaken an important role in the development of the Reis class submarines, will be a platform where the rate of the domestically produced parts is set to be much higher.

“Everyone knows what kind of embargoes our country is exposed to on some strategic subsystems,” he commented, noting that “with the mini-submarines we will produce, a class will emerge in which foreign dependency in this area will remain at the lowest level.”

Describing these platforms as “powerful, high-range vehicles that can stay underwater for a long time,” Erkan pointed to Turkey’s geostrategic position, explaining: “It may not be possible to achieve the desired result with large submarines in areas such as the Aegean Sea, which is also known as the Sea of Islands, with a partially shallow depth, and the Black Sea, which is a closed sea.

“Turkey, which is on the way to becoming a global player, does need submarines like the Reis class, where technology is at the highest level.” He went on to say, “however, mini-submarines, which are cost-effective to manufacture and operate, are of vital importance for us as well for near waters.”

The products produced by Turkey in the defense industry find buyers in different markets of the world, Erkan said, and “Turkey has risen to the top league in the military shipbuilding industry in recent years,” he added.

“As for mini-submarines, we are exactly in the position of tactical class UAVs … When Turkey started to produce tactical class UAVs, there were only large class or expensive tactical UAVs in the world. It would not be wrong to say that Ankara ignited this market in the world with the right choice,” he explained.

“In the small submarine class, we are exactly at the same point currently. In other words, while the West is oriented toward either very large and expensive submarines or very technological and expensive submarines, our orientation to this type of small submarine may create a different market for us,” he added.

Erkan said that many countries in the world want to have a submarine but do not want to be under the burden of operating costs.

“I believe that national mini-submarines have the potential to be a different power multiplier just like UAVs,” he said.