On October 3, the RMK Marine shipyard in Istanbul (Turkey) launched a first corvette destined for Ukraine and cut the first sheet of a second unit. The ceremonies took place in the presence of the wife of President Volodymyr Zelensky as well as his Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikovet.

The seed of this program, whose construction began in July 2021, takes the name of Hetman Ivan Mazepa, famous Cossack (1639-1709) and hero of the Ukrainian nation. Ordered under an agreement concluded in October 2020 by kyiv and Istanbul, these two buildings are a variant of the Ada model, four of which were delivered between 2011 and 2019 to the Turkish Navy. These units, 99 meters long and 14.4 meters wide and weighing more than 2,000 tons, can reach a speed of 29 knots and carry substantial armament including 8 anti-ship missiles (American Harpoon or Turkish Atmaca), a surface-to-air RAM system, a 76 mm turret, light artillery and four torpedo tubes. Turkish corvettes also have a platform and a hangar for a helicopter.

Based on this, Turkey offers different versions for export to Ukraine. Four units were thus ordered in 2018 by Pakistan, two being produced in Istanbul and the other two in technology transfer in Karachi. The first, launched in August 2020 by RKM Marine, is being completed afloat for delivery to the Pakistani Navy in 2023. The armament of these corvettes is different from that of their Turkish cousins, with in particular a surface- air with 16 vertical launch cells.

The same will apply to the Ukrainian units, whose equipment details have not yet been fully made public. We know, however, that they should normally be equipped with a VL Mica system from MBDA. Anti-ship missiles meanwhile are to be Harpoons, at least initially, with the Ukrainian Navy considering other options eventually, including a shipborne version of the domestically built Neptune missile, which rose to fame by causing the loss of the Russian cruiser Moskva last April.

Initially, the agreement between Istanbul and kyiv provided that the two corvettes, after being launched, would be towed to Ukraine for completion. Which is no longer possible due to the war with Russia. The modalities of the completion of the ships have not been specified. In the meantime, the armament of the hull should continue at RMK. The subject is obviously sensitive because of the conflict and the special relations that Turkey has with Moscow.

Istanbul therefore continues to play the balancing act between NATO and Russia. The war did not lead to the suspension of the construction of Ukrainian corvettes. The launch of the first unit, which took place in the presence of the Turkish Defense Minister, did not, however, receive much media coverage in Turkey for obvious diplomatic reasons. The Ukrainians, however, did not hesitate, Oleksii Reznikovet even declaring on his Twitter account that « with buildings like this, our Black and Azov seas will be safe ». And the Ukrainian Minister of Defense to specify, like a snub to Moscow, that these corvettes would have as a base port Sevastopol, the large port of Crimea, invaded in 2014 by the Russians and that the Ukrainians want to recover.

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