Turkey in talks to purchase UK's Type 23 frigates
The sources said Turkey is in need of frigates that have air defence capabilities as it will soon retire its G-class frigates that are over 40 years old.
The British Royal Navy is operating 12 Type 23 frigates that were originally designed for anti-submarine warfare during the Cold War against the USSR, beginning in 1987. The ships are equipped with a vertical-launch Seawolf point missile defence system and Boeing Harpoon anti-ship missile.
The purchase came as a surprise to many as Turkey has been in the process of producing its locally-designed Istanbul-class frigates that are being developed under MILGEM national warship program as an anti-submarine corvette with vertical launch capabilities.
Turkey aims to produce four Istanbul-class frigates and so far has only delivered one, which will join the Turkish Navy this year.
The sources said that Ankara needs to assemble a naval force that consists of multiple frigates to accompany its aircraft carrier and amphibious assault ship TCG Anadolu, which will also be delivered to the Turkish Navy later this year.
“You would have to get one frigate for the front, and the sides, at least three of them are needed for sure,” one of the sources said. “We need a quick solution, a gap filler until our national programs catch up with our own ships.”
The British type 23’s are larger than Turkey’s Istanbul-class frigates and they have more range in the open sea.
The sources said the negotiations on the purchase of the ships are still underway and they cannot put a final price tag, but they said the estimated cost for each ship would be around $25-30m.
“Once they are delivered, the upgrades and the modernisation of command and control systems would take at least 18 months to two years,” the source added.
A spokesperson for the British defence ministry told MEE that “no decision has yet been taken on the future disposal or sale of Type 23 frigates.”
The Royal Navy sold three Type 23 Frigates to Chile in 2005 for £135 million ($ 170m).
Later the Chilean navy awarded a contract to Lockheed Martin in 2017 to modernise the ships with a set of equipment including a combat management system, for a $600m contract, according to Jane’s Weekly.
Turkey and the UK have close defence relations due to their Nato partnership, but there is also industrial cooperation as well. UK engine maker Rolls-Royce and its local partner Kale are expected to supply an engine for Ankara's first indigenous fighter jet, the TF-X.
Britain-based BAE Systems is also closely collaborating with Turkish Aerospace Industries in the development of the jet, including its stealth technology.