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Turkey made a big investment in improving its naval defenses in the last decade, increasing the number of warships and military vessels and relying on homegrown technology. Now Ankara is turning to the development of unmanned systems in the naval arena.

Recently, Turkey has unveiled the concept of its first armed unmanned surface vessel, the ULAQ. Two leading Turkish defense companies, Ares Shipyard and Meteksan Defense, partnered to build the vessel. The platform is made from advanced composites, can reach a 400-kilometer range and travel up to 65 kph.

The vessel is equipped with day and night vision capabilities as well as encrypted communication infrastructure, which can be operated from mobile vehicles and headquarters or from sea platforms such as aircraft carriers or frigates. That infrastructure can be used for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, surface warfare, asymmetric warfare, escort and strategic infrastructure protection missions.

ULAQ’s missile systems are inclusive of four cells of Cirit and two of L-UMTAS, manufactured by Turkey’s state-controlled missile-maker Roketsan. Firing tests are planned for the first quarter of 2021, according to defensenews.com.

Along with the missile systems, the ULAQ will be equipped with different variations of communication and intelligence technology, like jamming and electronic warfare systems, to cover diverse operational needs. The vessel will be able to carry out joint operations with complementary drones.

Its builders said the ULAQ is not only remotely controlled but also an autonomous vehicle that hosts artificial intelligence. 

The design for the prototype was finalized in August, the companies said, and structural construction was recently completed, with the first vessel to enter Mediterranean waters in December following its outfitting.