On September 7, at the state shipyard Istanbul Naval Shipyard, the keel of the MILGEM project first corvette of the Ada (Island) type was laid for the Naval Forces of Ukraine.
From the side of Kyiv, the Commander of the Navy was present at the event, and from the side of Ankara—the Head of the company STM. Rear Admiral Oleksiy Neizhpapa, according to the ancient maritime tradition, laid commemorative coins in the first keel board, that, upon handing over, will be given to the captain of the ship.
A total of four corvettes in the series are planned, the lead ship should be handed over to Ukrainian shipbuilders by 2022, and they are already planning to complete it by 2024. In the meantime, according to Turkish sources, the advance payment was transferred for two Islands. The hull is transported to Ukraine without weapons (possibly engines)—this will help us avoid additional losses during re-export and increase the degree of localization within the country.
Since most of the components and equipment, in turn, are imported by Ankara in the West or produced under license.
- Guided missiles and helicopters from the United States.
- Gas turbine and diesel engines from Germany.
- Radio Detection and Ranging equipment is purchased from a Netherlands-based French company.
- Electronic warfare systems and shielding systems protecting surface ships from torpedoes—from the French and the British.
A definite perk of working with the Turks for Ukraine is the tried and tested series. Four ships have already been handed over for the Turkish national fleet, and a series of four ships is being produced for Pakistan. Both shipbuilders and mariners have already worked thousands of hours on these ships, and Ukraine will get a ready-made package solution. If the information on localization at the Ocean Shipyard is confirmed, this experience will be shared with our specialists.
What equipment will the submarine-hunting ship have?
Anti-ship weapon—"Boeing Harpoon" Block II, the penultimate modern iteration of missiles in service with the US Navy. 140 kg of warhead delivered at a distance of 280 km in the IIER modification, or 221 kg at a distance of 130 km. The missiles are capable of overleaping the electronic warfare systems interference and have good potential for modernization—the United States is developing items that can shift the target in flight, make run over the target from different courses and altitudes. A good buy, in the sense that it is always possible to get reserves from the US from arsenal in the event of a crisis. And not to worry that Europe will again begin to aggravate neutrality.
French-made air defense system MBDA VL MICA. Short-range system—maximum 9 km, radius is 20 km. It is not very effective in the case of massive air raids with anti-ship missiles—they will be able to hammer the ship without entering its affected area. But, for example, in order to install more long-range Chinese systems (75 km) on Pakistani ships, it was necessary to add 400 tons of displacement and 9 meters in length, essentially turning them into frigates.
This will greatly affect the price, and Ukraine is already to pay about a billion dollars for four ships. And modern air-based anti-ship missiles still fly farther than air defense on ships. Therefore, it is necessary to strike a compromise between aspirations and capabilities. Such complexes are in service with Oman, Malaysia, and the United Arab Emirates.
It should be noted that Paris is increasingly leaning towards defense cooperation with Ukraine. Because this is the first purchase of lethal weapons from France.
Next is the classic—76 mm Italian gun from OTO Melara. Radar SMART-S Mk.2, capable of tracking up to half a thousand targets at a distance of 250 km. Also Italian-French torpedo tubes MU90, caliber 324 mm. This is a third generation anti-submarine weapon, in the latest modifications capable of hitting targets at depths of up to 3 meters and intercepting enemy torpedoes.
The main armament of the MILGEM project is according to the profile, since the corvette is primarily anti-submarine, and only then—multipurpose. Laser warning, electronic warfare, and network-centric combat systems.
Many rightly criticize this purchase for the fact that the amount will be too high for the budget of Ukraine—7 billion UAH out of the 21 billion UAH of the defense order is a lot. But, on the other hand, the ship is unlikely to reach operational readiness until 2026 (sea trials, the lead ship in a series with weapons mounting, the first training year for the crew).
Thus, the amount will be extended over 5 years. By that time, Kyiv should already have the Island division ready, the first Mark boats should be handed over, as well as two British mine hunters and, possibly, the first British missile boats should be mastered.
Together with the Laguna cipher, the Naval Forces of Ukraine will have a full-fledged tactical group—minesweepers, reconnaissance ship, strike and patrol vessels with a sailing autonomy of up to 5 days and an anti-submarine ship capable of carrying guided weapons.
I will repeat the plans, since we have already seen the submarines and corvette promised in 2019. There will also be a certain challenge concerning the basing site: Ochakiv is not quite suitable because of the depths and proximity to the occupied Crimea, and the Practical Harbor in Odesa already resembles a barrel of herring.
Therefore, we need a base, air defense and missile defense for it, barracks and housing for the crew, and this is definitely billions of investments. What answers will be found to this challenge will largely determine the combat capability of this project for Ukraine.