Recently commissioned into service with the Turkish Navy, the first of the Istanbul-class guided missile frigates, TCG Istanbul (F-515), has conducted its inaugural missile test firing from its MIDLAS vertical launch system (VLS).

Built by Turkish shipbuilder STM, the TCG Istanbul, having conducted sea acceptance tests, fired the HISAR-D RF missile which also saw put the ship’s ADVENT combat management system, developed by Havelsan, through its paces.

The landmark has been talked-up by Turkish officials as it has seen the firing of a Turkish missile – manufactured by Rocketsan) – from indigenously designed and sourced VLS and CMS systems.

The contract for the construction of the TCG Istanbul – the first ship in the MiLGEM i-class frigate project under Phase 2 of the MiLGEM Ada-class corvette programme – was signed in April 2019 between STM and Türkiye’s Defence Industry Agency (SSB). The vessel was launched in January 2021 and put to sea for the first time in June 2023 for trials.

The Istanbul class, also known as the istif or i-class frigates displace around 2,400 tonnes, around 30% more than the Ada-class corvettes, and slightly longer at 113m, compared to the Ada’s 100m.

According to manufacturer STM, Istanbul-class frigates are able to perform the full spectrum of naval combat operations, with anti-submarine, anti-surface, and anti-air warfare capabilities.

The TCG Istanbul frigate will be joined by a further seven i/istif-class warships in the coming years. Credit: STM

Indigenisation of defence equipment has been a key focus for the Istif-class, with TCG Istanbul featuring, as well as its VLS, CMS, and missile systems, Turkish-origin Cenk-S AESA radar and Gökdeniz Close-In Air Weapon System (CWIS) from Aselsan.

However, some marine equipment is being sourced from overseas suppliers, with General Electric Marine signing a deal in 2023 to supply its LM2500 gas turbines to be fitted into later vessels in the istif class.

A ceremony was held for the first sheet metal cutting of the three additional i-class frigates (TCG Izmir, TCG Icel, and TCG Izmit) took place in April 2023, in the presence of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. 

The intention is to complete the construction of the three frigates within 36 months and to deliver them to the Turkish Navy, states STM, with the vessel’s to be built concurrently.

Türkiye’s MiLGEM frigate fleet renewal programme

Türkiye’s MiLGEM programme is overseeing the development of a series of surface warships classes for the Turkish Navy, with a contract signed in April 2023 for a further three i-class frigates to the same design of TCG Istanbul.

In January 2024, the Defence Industry Executive Committee (SSİK), decided to extend the MiLGEM project with the construction of four further i-class frigates (numbered 9–12), increasing the number to be built in programme to eight vessels.

Türkiye is also building a series of Ada-class corvettes for Pakistan, in a deal dating from 2018 at the early stages of the MiLGEM programme.