Corvettes earn their keep in modern navies of the world by exhibiting compactness in dimension, supplying appropriate firepower and showcasing considerable agility to contend with the ever-changing threats encountered on the high seas today. Corvettes are generally larger in size than their coastal patrol craft cousins and smaller than the typical frigate type vessels (though recently corvettes have blurred the line between corvette/frigate territory). They can serve in a myriad of roles (recognized as "multi-mission") and are often armed to counter air, surface and underwater threats through cannon, missile and torpedo armament. These vessel types are also provided with deep water capabilities that allow them to operate relatively far from friendly shores while featuring a draught shallow enough for "littoral zone" (near shore) operation.
For the Turkish Navy, the Ada-class has risen to fulfill the corvette role. The class was born from the MILGEN ("Milli Gemi" = "National Ship") initiative seeking to produce a modern surface warship for the Turkish Navy. Featuring all-modern facilities, systems and armament, the TCG Heybeliada (F-511) became the lead ship of the class in 2011 when the vessel was commissioned. Construction on the ship began on January 22nd, 2007 with two of the class being completed (as of 2013), three laid down and a full eight intended to stock the Ada-class in all (four frigates will also join the MILGEM project in time). The TCG Heybeliada earned her namesake from Heybeliada Island, home to the Turkish Naval High School and all vessels of the class will follow suit by being handed names after Turkish island holds. The TCG Heybeliada was constructed at the Istanbul Naval Shipyard by shipbuilder RMK Marine and officially launched for sea trials on September 27th, 2008, formally commissioned on September 27th, 2011. The second ship of the class is the TCG Buyukada (F-512) launched in 2011 with a planned commission date in August of 2013.
The Turkish Navy originally intended to license-produce the A-100 corvette based on a German Blohm & Voss design. However, the partnership and Turkish requirements were eventually altered with the Turks electing to pursue a locally-defined corvette/frigate initiative in an effort to have the nation become more self-sufficient militarily (similar endeavors have occurred in aircraft, artillery and UAV design). As a result, the new corvette would rely largely on local industry and engineering prowess to produce the required surface fighting ship - the end result becoming the TCG Heybeliada and her planned sisters.
The Heybeliada utilizes largely accepted "stealth" concepts concerning modern ship design - mainly the use of special coatings and enclosed structures and sides. Many hand rails and crevices detailed in ship designs prior are largely limited to help promote a cleaner profile and present a smaller radar signature. The exhaust funnel is wholly enclosed and kept low to the superstructure to further diminish radar returns while also representing a shallower side profile along the horizon. The mast is also enclosed and is home to the available systems and processing centers utilized by the vessel. The forecastle is well tapered at the bow and home to a single Italian 76mm OTO-Breda deck gun with an unobstructed firing arc ahead and to the sides. The bridge is positioned well-forward in the superstructure and is capped byt he aforementioned mast assembly. Beyond the bridge, heading aft, is the smoke funnel found at midships and aft of this is the full-service hangar which can house a single medium-type transport helicopter as well as support Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) as required. UAVs serve these type of warships by providing over-sea reconnaissance measures in addition to onboard systems. The naval helicopter of choice is the American-made Sikorsky S-70B "Seahawk" series, a multi-mission platform stocking several naval forces around the world since the mid-1980s. Aircraft are recovered/launched through a conventional flight deck at the stern (limited to rotary-wing aircraft). The sides of the vessel feature boat launches for Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boat (RHIB) craft useful in quick interception of enemy vessels (including pirate craft) or aiding in the recovery of persons (downed aviators, stranded civilians or similar). In addition to the 76mm deck armament, the TCG Heybeliada sports (or can be outfitted with) a bevy of weapons to suit the mission role. This includes 8 x Harpoon anti-ship missiles, 2 x 324mm Mk 32 triple-launch torpedo tubes (Mk 46 torpedoes), 21 x RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missiles (RAMs), Mk 41 Vertical Launch Systems (VLSs) and 2 x 12.7mm Aselsan STAMP (STAbilized Machine gun Platform). The STAMP system utilized laser/Infrared/Television tracking for more precise engagement, either through an automated setting or through manual acquisition/fire. A traversing missile launcher is fitted over the hangar door.
Beyond her conventional armament means, the TCG Heybeliada is also fielded with highly-capable sensor equipment and processing suites for her various tracking and engagement facilities. This includes SATellite COMmunications (SATCOM), Global Position System (GPS), protected communications data links, the SMART-S Mk 2 search radar and the G-MSYS (GENESIS) Combat Management System (CMS) - the latter used to control much of the onboard systems through one multi-processing suite. X-Band and a fire control radar are also standard fixtures and fitted to the mast. The vessel crew can call upon the ARES-2N for encrypted SIGnals INTelligence (SIGINT) and use various jammers and decoys to head off any potential, or active, launch threat from the air, from the surface or from below.
The Heybeliada displaces at approximately 2,500 tons and features a bow-to-stern length of 99.5 meters, a beam of 14 meters and a draught of 3.9 meters. Propulsion is obtained through a COmbined Diesel And Gas (CODAG) arrangement made up of 1 x gas turbine and 2 x diesel engines driving 2 x shafts outputting 40,200 horsepower. This supplies the vessel with an optimal speed of 30 knots in ideal conditions (about 15 knots during normal cruise) and an operational range of 3,500 nautical miles (approximately 4,000 miles). The vessel can remain on station for up to ten days without resupply and this can then be bolstered to twenty-one days through regular resupply/refueling measures at-sea. Her full crew complement (including air wing) is listed at 93 personnel while the ship boasts living space for up to 106 persons under war time / humanitarian conditions.