Новые известия(en)
Underwater threat to Crimea: why new Turkish submarines are dangerous
9 July, 18:13
Army
Underwater threat to Crimea: why new Turkish submarines are dangerous
Construction of low-noise submarines with anaerobic propulsion system at Turkish shipyards could seriously complicate the situation in the Black Sea for Russia

Victor Kuzovkov

After the recent aggravation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, in which Turkey played, without exaggeration, a key role, many countries of the world began to revise the possibilities and prospects of military-technical cooperation with this country. In particular, some manufacturers of military equipment banned the supply of military and dual-purpose components and assemblies to Ankara, which were actively used by Turkey in the production of nominally its military equipment. In particular, Bayraktar drone engines manufactured by the Austrian company Rotax were banned. That, in turn, is a subsidiary of the Canadian company "Bombardier". Optical stations and guidance devices are manufactured in Canada, and this state quite quickly, even during the active phase of the conflict, banned the supply of its technologies, units and military and dual-use components to Turkey.

A little later, but also very quickly, European countries joined the boycott of Turkish manufacturers of military equipment. Moreover, some key projects of the Turkish military-industrial complex were under threat, including, for example, the ATAK-2 attack helicopter and the promising fifth-generation fighter TF-X (Turkish Fighter Experimental). In both cases, the development of such an important unit as the engine was in question, because the Turkish industry is not yet able to develop even a helicopter engine with suitable characteristics, not to mention the jet "heart" of the most modern fighter. It got to the point that the Turks solved the problem of the helicopter engine with the help of Ukraine, having agreed on the supply of helicopter engines from the Zaporozhye Motor Sich enterprise. But with engines for fighters, everything is very bad - the British, represented by the recognized leader of the industry, Rolls-Royce, refused to cooperate, there are no other applicants to share technologies yet, and it is very likely that the most ambitious project of the Turkish military-industrial complex, if not dead, then ended up in a long coma.

Germany also quite strongly supported this boycott. Although here it is necessary to clarify - Berlin in some way stood at the beginning of this process, having refused to cooperate with Turkey in the creation and joint production of weapons back in 2019, after Ankara launched a ground invasion of Syria, in the territories occupied by the Kurds. Then this was not a final break, and Berlin linked the continuation of cooperation with the need to end the military operation against the Kurds in Syria. But here you need to understand that the Turks have not taken on any long-term obligations to cease fire in the region and refrain from action against the Kurdish militia. And, strictly speaking, Berlin simply had no formal reason to end the boycott. And then there's Karabakh ...

However, there is in this story the "sacred cow" of German-Turkish cooperation, which they do not want to "put under the knife" of boycotts and sanctions. Moreover, it is all the more surprising that the project in question is very wary, to say the least, perceived by some other states, members of NATO and the EU, for example, Greece, Italy and Cyprus.

We are talking about a project of joint construction at Turkish shipyards of low-noise submarines with an anaerobic power plant "Type 214TN". This project is a variant of the submarine of the German project "Type 214", modified to meet the requirements of Ankara. And he, in turn, is the export version of the "Type 212" project, which in its initial form, due to secrecy considerations, is not exported to "unreliable" countries.

The contract for the construction of six submarines of this project in Turkey was signed back in 2009. More precisely, it was actually a development and construction contract, since the series planned to make the most of units and assemblies created or produced in Turkey. Considering that the Turks wanted to localize their production as fully as possible, the project underwent quite serious changes even at the development stage. Therefore, the laying of the first boat of the "Type 214TN" project (the letters "TN" in the name mean, just, "Turkish Navy", that is, the Turkish Navy) took place only in 2015.

The first boat of this series, which received its own name "Piri Reis", was launched in March this year. Further, starting in 2022, it is planned to hand over one submarine annually, so that no later than 2027, the entire series will become part of the Turkish Navy. According to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, one of the tasks of these boats will be "to establish rights in the Mediterranean, Syria and Libya." And this is very alarming for all of Turkey's neighbors in the Mediterranean basin, since an explosive mixture of Turkish historical phantom pains, great-power ambitions and increasingly significant opportunities may sooner or later lead to a conflict, the scale of which is still difficult to imagine.

The matter is aggravated by the fact that Turkey's neighbors, namely Greece and Italy, are well aware of the capabilities of submarines of this type, since they are armed with either close analogs or their immediate predecessors, the Type 209 and Type 212 diesel-electric submarines of the same German construction. In general, it should be noted that boats of this family are very widespread in the world, literally from Argentina to South Korea. Among other things, this is due to the excellent combat and operational characteristics of these submarines. And although more than half a century has passed from the first Type 209 diesel-electric submarines to the most modern boats of the Type 212/214 project, this does not in any way call into question the most advanced versions of German diesel submarines.

Without going deeply into the performance characteristics of Type 214TN boats, we will nevertheless note some of their features. This is a diesel-electric submarine, quite typical in size and displacement, adapted, first of all, for covert operations in the near sea zone, anti-submarine patrolling and operations on enemy sea lanes. The combined air-independent propulsion system allows these boats to be under water for a long time, while maintaining the ability to actively move and maneuver. The hull of the boat is made of low-magnetic (sometimes called simply "non-magnetic") steel, which makes it difficult to detect it both by surface ships' instruments and by magnetic mine fuses.

Also, the boats of this project are distinguished by very low noise. It is known that in a submerged position, at low speed, they emit sounds weaker than the background noise of the sea. This, coupled with perfect sonar instruments and modern torpedo armament, makes boats of this type very formidable opponents. Also, Type 214TN boats can act as a minelayer, secretly placing bottom and any other sea mines on enemy communications. And this, taking into account the peculiarities of the proposed theater of hostilities, is a very serious factor that can affect the course of hostilities both at sea and on land. Just imagine that such a boat mined the approaches to Suez or Gibraltar, or "littered" with mines somewhere near Sevastopol?

It is known, however, that the German-Turkish contract does not imply the transfer of secret technologies used in the boats of this project to Turkey. For example, engines, a power plant based on proton-exchange fuel cells, and the body itself from the aforementioned low-magnetic steel are produced in Germany, transported to Turkey and assembled on site into a single whole either in the form of ready-made units or in the form of ready-to-assemble units. ...

But in any case, it is obvious that there are enough technologies, to put it mildly, of critical importance in this project, and Germany has enough reasons to think about further cooperation with Turkey under this contract. Yes, it is quite large, in total we are talking about two billion dollars, but it is obvious that for such an economic giant as the Federal Republic of Germany, its gap would not become any noticeable problem.

And nevertheless, cooperation continues, despite neither Syria with the Kurds, nor Karabakh with the Armenians. Maybe we are talking about some kind of myopia of the German leadership?

Theoretically, this cannot be ruled out. But it is much more reasonable to assume that Berlin is not missing anything, but in this case it has certain political and military motives for continuing cooperation. And if so, then we must sadly state that the only such motive may be the containment of Russia. Yes, this is the super task of the West, for the sake of which it will easily close its eyes to the inhumanity towards the Kurds, and to the liberties in Libya, and to the direct participation of the Turkish military in the Karabakh events.

Whether we like it or not, Turkey is a natural barrier holding back Moscow's possible southern expansion. And for all the disagreements between Ankara and London, Washington, Berlin and other European and world capitals, they are still in no hurry to erase it from the slender ranks of fighters against Russian geopolitical ambitions. The naval component of the Turkish forces plays a special place in this case, and it seems that the West is not going to forget about it yet.

Probably, we also should not forget that, despite all attempts to drive a wedge between Ankara and its Western partners, Turkey will forever remain, if not our enemy, then at least a very suspicious neighbor, ready for confrontation with Moscow at any moment. And we should probably focus our efforts not on embroiling Erdogan with the British lion, but on further strengthening the southern direction of our defense.

Yes, it's not as elegant as the Kremlin strategists would like. But still it will be more reliable. And we probably don't need more.

Only in the light of the fact that a new generation of Russian diesel-electric submarines has not been able to bring to mind for a decade, and Turkish submariners, in which case, will be resisted by good, but not advanced "Varshavyanka" for a long time, so far it does not seem that we are seriously thinking about the symmetric response.