Unmanned assault vessel ‘ULAQ’: Turkey's gamechanger in eastern Mediterranean

 | Updated: Feb 17, 2021, 01:50 PM IST

Turkey's unmanned surface vessel

Turkey has unleashed armed unmanned surface vessel (USV) starting sea trials off the coast of Antalya, on Turkey’s southern coast where ARES Shipyard is located.

The vessel was first unveiled last October. It has a range of  400 km  and travels at 65 km wth day/night vision capabilities. The super boat carries with it jamming and electronic warfare systems with missiles being supplied by missile systems provider Roketsan.

“In the field of Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs); we would like to proudly announce that we have launched the first Armed Unmanned Surface Vehicle of ULAQ series," the company said in a statement.

Photo Courtesy: ARES Shipyard and METEKSAN Defence 


Turkey's USV

The vessel is Turkey's first indigenous armed USV. The vessel can operate from mobile vehicles and from sea platforms such as aircraft carriers or frigates.

It can will be used for missions like intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, surface warfare, asymmetric warfare, escort missions, strategic infrastructure protection.

Photo Courtesy: ARES Shipyard and METEKSAN Defence 


Turkey vs Greece

The latest addition to Turkey's arsenal comes as NATO set up a hotline to stave off a military conflict between Ankara and Greece after the Erdogan government sent a research ship accompanied by a navy flotilla into waters near the Turkish shore which Greece claims with EU support.

Greece wants to limit the discussions between the two countries' deputy foreign ministers to continental shelf borders and the size of exclusive economic zones. 

But Ankara also accuses Athens of illegally stationing troops on some of its islands and wants to discuss aerial zones -- a separate dispute that saw a Greek pilot killed when his jet collided with a Turkish one in 2006.


Turkey's unmanned surface vessel

The USV has entered sea trials with the official launch yet to be announced. The armed vessel can carry a payload of up to 2,000 kg and is armed with a four-cell Cirit launcher and a pair of L-UMTAS missiles. 

Cirit is an infrared (IR)-guided 70 mm missile with a maximum range of 8 km.

ARES Shipyard and Meteksan Defence have reportedly said that other USVs will be manufactured after the first prototype vessel. Turkey had earlier launched its first Armed Unmanned Surface Vehicle (AUSV) programme, ULAQ. 

Photo Courtesy: ARES Shipyard and METEKSAN Defence 


Turkey's naval excercise

Turkey and Greece had earlier staged rival military exercises with regional partners and had seen two of their gun boats collide in the last August. In December last year, Turkey had carried out naval exercises in the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey is at loggerheads with EU members Greece and Cyprus over energy resources in disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean. 

Turkey's defence ministry had earlier accused Athens of violating two international treaties by planning aerial exercises near two Greek islands in the Aegean Sea.



Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias had tweeted that "Turkey has been constantly intensifying its illegal actions in the eastern Mediterranean, flagrantly violating international law".

Turkey does not lay claim to the two Aegean islands but insists they must remain free of all military activity under the terms of the 1923 Lausanne and 1947 Paris peace treaties that followed World War I and World War II.

The Turkish navy also issued three of its own Navtex messages pointing out that it had reserved the right in to conduct "firing exercises" in the Aegean until the end of 2020.


Turkey enrages Greece

Turkey had earlier sparred with EU over inspections when a French frigate under NATO command sought in June to search a Tanzanian-flagged cargo ship.

Paris then complained that one of its ships was subjected to radar targeting by Turkish frigates while trying to inspect the cargo.

Turkey has enraged Greece by sending a survey ship and navy vessels to the Mediterranean, prompting Athens to push its EU allies for tougher sanctions at Thursday's summit. 


Turkey against EU

Greece has insisted Turkey - a candidate country to join the European Union - must halt its exploration. Turkey had earlier pulled its research vessel Oruc Reis back to port, just as it did before a previous EU summit. 

Germany and Turkey are part of NATO, though Turkey has been causing friction with its European partners in a number of areas, including gas exploration forays it is making in the territorial waters of Greece and Cyprus.