On September 23, 2023, a ceremony was conducted at the Turkish Naval Shipyard in Istanbul (Istanbul Naval Shipyard) to transfer the first corvette, F 280 Babur, of the Turkish MILGEM project (PN MILGEM, Ada-class), to the Pakistani naval forces.
On July 5, 2018, the Pakistan Navy signed a contract with the Turkish project and design state company Savunma Teknolojileri Mühendislik ve Ticaret (STM) for the supply of four Turkish MILGEM project corvettes (Ada class) in a variant designated PN MILGEM to the Pakistani Navy. This agreement became the most significant export contract for the Turkish defence industry at that time. The official contract value was not disclosed, but Turkish media estimated it exceeded $2 billion. ASFAT, a corporation established in 2018 by the Turkish Ministry of National Defence as a government intermediary for exports of defence products, is the Turkish prime contractor for the delivery of corvettes. ASFAT signed an agreement in September 2018 with the Pakistani Ministry of Defence Production and the Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works Ltd. (KSEW, Karachi) to transmit technology for constructing two corvettes under this contract in Pakistan. In May 2017, STM and KSEW signed a preliminary agreement regarding the joint construction of these two corvettes in Karachi.
The Turkish project’s first large combat ship (with a complete displacement of 2400 tonnes, a length of 99.6 metres, and a width of 14.2 metres) is the MILGEM corvette (Milli Gemi – national ship). It is known that the project was developed with the participation of the Mykolaiv State Research and Design Centre for Shipbuilding (IPCK, Ukraine) for the Turkish Navy. The Turkish Navy originally intended to have 12 corvettes of this design, but ultimately, only four ships were authorised to be built. Four larger TF-100 frigates (Istanbul class) were authorised for continued construction under the MILGEM programme. The Turkish fleet’s flagship corvette, F 511 Heybeliada, was constructed at the Istanbul Naval Shipyard in January 2007 and commissioned in September 2011. The Turkish Navy received its second corvette, F 512 Büyükada, in September 2013, its third corvette, F 513 Burgazada, in November 2018, and its fourth corvette, F 514 Knala, in September 2019.
According to the agreement signed with Pakistan, the first two corvettes for the Pakistan Navy are being constructed with Turkish assistance at the Pakistani KSEW shipyard in Karachi, with delivery in 2024-2025. The first ship was to be constructed in 54 months (it was delivered in 62 and a half months), and the others were to be constructed in 60 months, 66 months, and 72 months, respectively.
The ceremony for the first steel cutting for the leading Pakistani corvette, F 280 Babur, was held on September 29, 2019, in Istanbul at the Istanbul Naval Shipyard. There was an official keel-laying ceremony for the lead corvette on June 4, 2020, and a launching ceremony on August 15, 2021.
The ceremony marking the beginning of construction of the second Ada-class corvette, F 282 Khaibar, under the PN MLGEM project for the Pakistan Navy took place on January 23, 2021, at the Istanbul Naval Shipyard, in the presence of Turkish President Erdogan once again. It coincided with commissioning the lead frigate, F 515 Istanbul, of the Turkish Navy’s national TF-100 project under the MLGEM programme. The official keel-laying ceremony for the second corvette, Khaibar, was conducted in Istanbul on May 1, 2021, and the ship was launched on November 25, 2022.
The ceremony for the first steel cutting for the construction of the first PN MILGEM project corvette, F 281 Badr, took place on June 9, 2020, at the KSEW shipyard in Karachi, Pakistan, and the official keel-laying ceremony took place on October 25, 2020. The vessel was christened on May 20, 2022. The first steel-cutting ceremony for the second corvette being constructed in Pakistan, the F 283 Tariq, occurred on June 15, 2021. The official keel-laying ceremony took place on November 20, 2021, and the launch is scheduled for August 2, 2023.
The Pakistani corvettes have a maximum length of 108.2 metres, a width of 14.8 metres, and a total displacement of 2,926 tonnes. The Pakistani corvettes are equipped with a 76mm Leonardo Super Rapid universal artillery system, two remotely controlled 25mm artillery systems Aselsan STOP, six launchers for long-range Harbah anti-ship missiles of Pakistani production (to be installed in Pakistan), and three 24mm torpedo launchers. The 16-cell vertical launch system is for the medium-range MBDA Albatros NG air defence missile system with CAMM-ER missiles (Pakistan became the launch customer for the Albatros NG system). The self-defence anti-aircraft artillery system is not yet known. Previously, renderings of the Pakistani corvettes featured the newly installed Aselsan Gökdeniz 35mm shipborne twin anti-aircraft gun system from Turkey. Nevertheless, neither of the two Corvettes made in Turkey had them installed. Certain sources indicate that the American 20mm Phalanx Mk 15 anti-aircraft artillery systems, which are presently being taken out of the British Type 21 frigates that the Pakistan Navy is retiring, might be fitted to the corvettes.
A contract was also inked in December 2020 to construct two corvettes of the Ada class under the MLGEM programme for the Ukrainian Navy. STM is the primary contractor. The official keel-laying ceremony for the F 211 “Hetman Ivan Mazepa” corvette took place on September 7, 2021, at the RMK Marine shipyard in Tuzla (southern outskirts of the Asian portion of Istanbul). Construction began on April 28, 2021, at the RMK Marine shipyard in Tuzla. The launch of the lead corvette for Ukraine occurred on October 2, 2022, and concurrently, the first steel-cutting ceremony for the second ship, which was subsequently officially laid down on August 18, 2023, took place.
According to the contract terms, the lead corvette was to be handed over to Ukraine for completion and outfitting at the end of 2022, with these works to be performed at the “Ocean” shipyard in Mykolaiv. Factory sea trials were scheduled to commence by the end of 2023, and the ship was to be delivered to the Ukrainian Navy by the end of 2024.
Like the first corvette, the second was to be completed and refitted in Ukraine. However, implementing these conditions has become untenable under the current wartime conditions, and both corvettes will be completed and delivered to the Ukrainian fleet in Turkey. According to the 2020 agreement, two additional corvettes were to be built under licence and with the assistance of STM in Ukraine at the “Ocean” shipyard, which signed a similar agreement in December 2020. However, this portion of the agreement is now immaterial.
The ceremony for transferring the lead corvette, Babur, to the Pakistan Navy was combined with commissioning of the first two patrol ships of the new Hisar type, R 1220 Akhisar and R 1220 Kochisar, at the Istanbul Naval Shipyard. The 10 Hisar-class patrol ships ordered by the Turkish Navy are fundamentally a simplified and cost-effective variant of the Ada-class corvettes developed under the MLGEM programme. The patrol vessels have a diesel-only power plant (unlike the diesel-gas turbine on the corvettes) and a slower cruising speed.
The Turkish ATMACA anti-ship missiles, an eight-cell vertical launch system for a Turkish short-range air defence missile system (probably from the Hisar family), a 35mm Gökdeniz anti-aircraft artillery system, a 76mm Leonardo Super Rapid universal artillery system, two small-calibre remotely controlled artillery systems, and 324mm torpedo launchers are among the formidable weapons that the Hisar-class ships will be equipped with.