Turkish Navy ended the “largest-ever” iteration exercise Denizkurdu. This involved 132 surface vessels, 10 submarines, 43 winged aircraft, 28 helicopters and 14 drones. The country’s naval forces carried out this large-scale exercise, Denizkurdu, every two years. It was most recently held from May 25-June 6 in the Aegean and Mediterranean seas. The training aims to demonstrate the service’s operational readiness, evaluate decision-making processes in a multithreaded environment, test interoperability methods and mutual support capabilities, and allow for personnel to train with naval assets. All the navy units participating in the training will be following the same.

Denizkurdu-2021 was carried out in three phases. In the initial phase, participating units conducted operational readiness drills. The second phase involved training based on a four-day crisis scenario. And in the third phase, participating ships made port visits at the Aegean and the Mediterranean coasts of Turkey.

On completion of the port visits, the fleet hosted a “Distinguished Visitors Day”. This had a gathering of officials from different military arenas like Turkey’s Defense Ministry, military command echelon, as well as military attaches from 25 countries. According to officials, the turnout of the attaches was a “first”. On the same day, the Navy’s TB2 Bayraktar drone hit a target at sea with the MAM-L guided munition. This was for the first time as well, where a decommissioned auxiliary ship floating at sea was struck. No interview was given on the matter. However, the Turkish military is keeping the lessons learned from drills confidential.

However, the ministry’s official Twitter account says that this year’s iteration was remarkable compared to the previous versions as nongovernmental organizations such as Kızılay took part in this.

This year Naval Warfare Center Command managed the exercise. It was responsible for acting as the exercise control centre. This was established by NATO exercise planning processes which were adopted by the Turkish Navy.

Even though the event was not part of the training, Turkey’s first indigenous unmanned combat surface vessel, ULAQ, conducted its first live-fire trial during the training. ULAQ was launched in January and completed sea trials in April. It was launched by defence companies Ares Shipyard and Meteksan Defence.

During the live-fire trials, it launched a laser-guided Cirit missile twice. The first one involved telemetry, and the second used a real warhead, which hit its target in the Eastern Mediterranean. This was conducted as the last phase of acceptance tests for the Navy. From a mobile coastal control station, the ULAQ was controlled and illuminated the target with a laser designator before firing.

As per Turkey’s top defence procurement official, Ismail Demir, “We have reached an indigenousness rate of up to 70 per cent in our projects, and we will increase this even more. The days have come where we began to see similar products to the game-changing UAVs: now inland vehicles, surface vessels and submarine forms. We are aware that combat environments with integrated unmanned systems await us, and therefore we continue our work accordingly.”