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Battle stations

 Ship & Boat International eNews: November/December 2020                                                                                                       



ARES Shipyard and Meteksan Defence are primed to launch the prototype of a new series of armed USVs developed for the Turkish Naval Forces. Scheduled for launch in December, the 11m loa newbuild will demonstrate the capabilities of the crew-free ULAQ series, which is intended to carry out joint operations with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). As well as being operable by remote control, artificial intelligence has been factored into the vessel’s design to make possible autonomous operations.


Managing five boatbuilding facilities within Turkey’s Antalya Free Zone, ARES Shipyard specialises in aluminium and composite vessel construction, typically focusing on commercial and military projects. Meanwhile, Ankara-based Meteksan Defence produces radars, communications systems and surveillance/early warning systems. 


The design was finalised in August and construction of the prototype completed in early Q4. After outfitting, the vessel will be deployed in Mediterranean waters, to undertake tasks including: surveillance, intelligence and recon; mine counter measures; surface and anti-submarine warfare; escort duties; strategic infrastructure protection; and firefighting / search and rescue (SAR) missions. 


ARES Shipyard tells Ship & Boat International: “The ULAQ can be controlled from both a mothership, such as a frigate or aircraft carrier, and a shore control station [SCS]. The ULAQ can be remotely controlled by these stations, or, while cruising autonomously, it can be monitored by the same sites.” Currently, the encrypted link has a range of 200km between operator and vehicle. In the event of an emergency, personnel can board and directly control the ULAQ by opening up a hatch at the vessel’s fore and accessing console devices inside.


The ULAQ measures 11m in length and is designed for operability in sea state 5 and survivability in sea state 6. It has a speed of slightly over 35knots and a range of 400km. “The hullform is that of a high-speed boat,” the builder adds. “For the first vessels in the ULAQ series, a high-performance diesel engine and a stern drive propeller system were [selected]. Different propulsion systems can be used for larger platforms in future projects. It is planned to use electrical propulsion systems in order to provide quieter navigation capability, especially in boats produced for intelligence purposes.”


Turkish missile manufacturer Roketsan has equipped the first ULAQ model with its 70mm laser-guided Cirit missile system, as well as its L-UMTAS long-range air-to-surface anti-tank missile system. Initial firing tests are planned in Q1 2021.