Meltem-III: Turkey’s New ATR-72 Maritime Patrol Planes
In July 2005, Turkey’s SSM defence procurement authority signed a contract to meet its Meltem III requirement for 10 maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft. It ordered a dedicated version of the ATR 72-500 regional transport turboprop, called the ATR 72 ASW. Almost 8 years later, Turkey hasn’t taken delivery of any planes. They’ve has had more luck with the Meltem I/II program, which has begun fielding smaller CN-235 MPAs.
In 2013, Turkey finally dealt with its Meltem III contract, and signed a revised agreement. They’ll buy fewer ATR-72s, split that buy between utility and maritime patrol versions, and change the base airframe.
The modified ATR-72-500 ASW aircraft was expected to have a maximum take-off weight of 22,500 kg/ 49,600 pounds, and loiter for 6 hours at 370 km/ 200 nm from its base. Turkey’s shift to the ATR-72-600 model should improve payload and hot weather performance thanks to uprated PW127M engines, while avionics and monitoring electronics improve pilot workload and maintenance costs.
The ATR-72s will come in 2 types. The 2 Turkish Maritime Utility Aircraft (ATR-72 TMUA) will be used for personnel and cargo transport, and the ATR-72-600′s features will offer substantial improvements over the original baseline. ATR-72-600 TMUA planes add new radios and IFF (Identification Friend or Foe system). Their reconfigurable cabin area can be readied for cargo, or passengers, or equipped with tactical tables and communications equipment.
The 1st TMUA was delivered in July 2013, and the other was delivered in August 2013.
The 6 Turkish Maritime Patrol Aircraft will be full maritime patrol planes with anti-submarine features and weapons. Typical TMPA missions include vessel search and identification; economic exclusive zone patrol (fishing, off-shore platforms); drug, smuggling and piracy control; search and rescue (SAR); disaster surveillance; maritime patrol roles; and Anti-Submarine Warfare.
The TMPAs use the same Thales AMASCOS maritime patrol mission system found in Turkey’s CN-235 MPAs. On the ATR-72s, AMASCOS integrates an array of sensors that include a surveillance turret, Thales’ Ocean Master search radar, an ESM radar/transmitter locator, a Magnetic Anomaly Detector to find submarines, and transmissions from launched sonobuoys. A number of these sensors come from Turkish firms (esp. TAI, but also Havelsan, Aselsan and Milsoft), and involve additional integration. AMASCOS also manages an array of communication links, including Link 16.
TMPA weapons include lightweight torpedoes, and Turkey will be using Raytheon’s new Mk54. Other weapons could be added in future. For rescue missions, a fuselage door can be opened in flight to drop supplies or rescue equipment, and 2 observer stations toward the rear offer large bubble windows, to give crew members a better view.
Almost 8 years after the original contract was signed, the partners hadn’t publicly committed to delivery dates for the TMPAs. In mid-2013, Alenia finally made a public commitment to initial delivery in February 2017, with all 6 TMPAs delivered by the end of 2018.
Contracts and Key Events
Note that ATR is a 50-50 partnership between Finmeccania subsidiary Alenia Aeronautica and EADS. Turkish engineers will participate in the program in Italy, providing the basis for joint in-service support for the aircraft.
July 24/13: 1st delivery. Alenia Aermacchi officially delivers the 1st Turkish ATR72-600, a TMUA model, to the Turkish Navy. The Turkish Navy is ready to receive it, as their initial cadre of flying instructors have just completed their training on the new aircraft at Alenia Aermacchi’s center in Caselle, Italy.
Alenia also commits to delivery windows for the full TMPA planes. The 1st TMPA will be delivered to the Turkish Navy on February 2017, and deliveries will be complete by the end of 2018. Alenia.
May 8/13: New agreement. This buy is certainly taking a very long time. Turkey’s SSM procurement agency signs a revised agreement with Alenia Aermacchi. They’ve amended the contract for 10 ATR-72-500 ASW planes to use the in-production ATR-72-600 instead, and dropped it to 8 planes: 2 TMUA Utility models for personnel and cargo, and 6 TMPA armed maritime patrol models.
The 2 TMUAs are currently being modified from the previous ATR-72-500 model at Alenia Aermacchi’s plant in Naples-Capodichino. They’re scheduled for delivery in June and July 2013.
The 6 “Meltem III” TMPAs will have Alenia Aermacchi responsible for the design and development, and production of the basic aircraft. Thales will act as lead systems integrator for the ATR-72-600′s new avionics suite. TMPA militarization work will be performed by Turkey’s TAI, to Alenia’s specifications, and the 1st ATR-72-600 arrived at TAI’s Akinci plant in April 2013. Alenia Aermacchi.
Meltem-III revised: just 8 planes now
July 19/12: Thales announces that they’ve completed delivery of 7 of 10 maritime patrol systems, for integration on ATR 72 aircraft in service with the Turkish Navy under the Meltem III program.
Thales is also the prime contractor for the Meltem II programme, which calls for 6 maritime patrol aircraft for the Turkish Navy and 3 maritime surveillance aircraft for the Turkish Coast Guard, all based on modified EADS CASA CN-235s. they have now delivered 4 “initial standard maritime patrol aircraft”, which entered service between February – June 2012.
All 19 mission systems (9 on CN-235s, 10 on ATR-72s) are based on Thales’s AMASCOS solution (Airborne MAritime Situation & Control System), with some substitutions of Turkish sensors and components.
October 2009: The MELTEM-III program holds its Critical Design Review. Source.
Feb 13/09: In the wake of L’Espresso’s article “Cose turche all’Alenia” (Alenia involved in shady dealings in Turkey), Finmeccanica issues a release [PDF] that clarifies a number of details.
First, the total cost with all missions systems and sensors will be EUR 260 million, not EUR 360 million in the L’Esspresso report. The EUR 180 million stated in the company’s original release appears to involve the base ATR-72 airframes only, leaving EUR 80 million for the various mission systems.
All airframe production and design are taking place in Italy. The Turkish production line is handling the structural modifications involved in installing the aircraft’s systems and sensors, which the firm claims amounts to less than 5% of the total contract.
Feb 14/08: TAI Arrival. The first ATR72-500 aircraft arrives at TAI. TAI works as Alenia’s local sub-contractor, carrying out all modifications from the base airframe to the ATR-72 MPA configuration. Their work share includes design of the system installation and structural integration, Kit-A and tools manufacturing, procurement of material and support equipment, structural modification, assembly, Ground Flight Support and Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) activities. TAI | Aviation Week.
July 21/05: Finmeccanica announces [PDF format] a $219 million/ EUR 180 million deal with Turkey for 10 ATR 72 ASW (Anti Submarine Warfare) aircraft, with deliveries expected to start in 2010.
Additional Readings & Sources
- Turkish SSM – Maritime Patrol and Surveillance Aircraft (MELTEM-3)
- TAI – MELTEM III (ATR-72)
- ATR – ATR-600 Series. The base aircraft was changed from the ATR-72-500.
- ATR – ATR-72 Derivatives
- Thales – AMASCOS mission control system
- Thales – Ocean Master radar
- Flight International (July 6/05) – Tactical Italian