Turkey is developing a mini attack submarine called the STM-500 to patrol its surrounding coastline and for export.
The STM-500 is 42 meters (138 feet) long, has a submerged displacement of 540 tons, and a maximum speed of 18 knots. The submarine can also dive up to 250 meters (820 feet) and has a cruising speed of five knots.
The submarine’s diesel engines allow it to travel up to 3,500 nautical miles, while its batteries alone can power the craft for up to 75 nautical miles. It can also be fitted with an air-independent propulsion system, extending the vessel’s range to 4,000 nautical miles.
The STM-500 can also be equipped with an optronic periscope, an electronic warfare support measures antenna, and various types of sonar, including cylindrical array, cylindrical transducer array, and own-noise array systems.
The sub can accommodate 18 crewmembers and a six-member special forces team, staying submerged for 30 days. It has four torpedo tubes and can carry eight cruise missiles.
According to a report by Asia Times, mini-submarines are highly effective in littoral operations because they have smaller magnetic and acoustic signatures, making them difficult to detect by enemy sonar.
Military commentator Kozan Selçuk Erkan explained to state broadcaster TRT Haber that the mini-submarine is a “powerful, high-range vehicle” that will be a “game-changer” like the country’s indigenous drones.
He stated that the small, state-of-the-art vessel would allow the military to conduct missions in places such as the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea, with their shallow, enclosed areas.
Erkan also noted that developing mini-submarines like the STM-500 could be more challenging than larger craft since many subsystems need to be built smaller.
However, he asserted that such a challenge is something that the country’s shipbuilding industry “can handle now.”
“I believe that national mini-submarines have the potential to be a different power multiplier just like [unmanned aerial vehicles],” he explained to Daily Sabah.
Potential for Export
Once developed and tested, Turkish officials believe the platform could attract the attention of countries that want cutting-edge underwater systems but lack the budget to procure US or Western-made equipment.
The Philippines is being eyed as a potential importer of the STM-500 since it has also been relying on alternative suppliers of NATO-standard equipment, such as Israel, South Korea, and Turkey.
The southeast Asian nation has reportedly received a proposal for an attack submarine designed to operate in extremely shallow water for coastal defense. Asia Times reported that the STM-500 might fulfill the Philippines’ requirements.