Turkish Coast Guard Aviation

By: Carlo Kuit & Paul Kievit/ Bronco Aviation

Adnan Menderes International Airport at Izmir is the main hub for the Turkish Coast Guard (TCG/ Sahil Güvenlik Komutanlığı/ SGK) aviation operations. Opened in 2001 it functions are training, maintenance facility and being one of the four Mission Coordination Centers of the Coast Guard besides Ankara, Antalya and Samsun.

The TCG is a part of the Turkish Armed Forces and are responsible for controlling the maritime jurisdiction areas and coasts of Turkey and fighting all kind of illegal actions. The TCG is also the main Search and Rescue Coordination Authority in the Turkish Search and Rescue (SAR) Zone. During peace time, the TCG is under the command of the Turkish Interior Ministry. However, during emergency and war time it will be part of the Turkish Navy. The TCG is organized into four area commands: Black Sea, the Sea of Marmara and Adjacent Straits, the Aegean Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea and consists in total of around 5,500 personnel.

Until 1956 the General Command of Customs Guard was responsible for duties concerning the security of the maritime borders of Turkey. With Law No. 6815 the duties of prevention and pursuit of smuggling, protection and security of the borders, coasts and territorial waters were delegated to the General Command of the Turkish Gendarmerie under the Ministry of Internal Affairs. During that time the Gendarmerie Regional Sea Commands were founded in Samsun, İzmir and Mersin. In addition, the Maritime Branch was formed within the General Command of the Gendarmerie headquarters. Between 1957 and 1971 the Aegean Sea Region Command, Black Sea Region Command and lastly the Mediterranean Sea Region Command were formed.

As a consequence of the changes observed in the international security environment in 1960s, the geo-strategic location of Turkey, the length of its coasts, and the prerequisites of being a maritime nation, it soon became clear that the Turkey needed a new and more professional Coast Guard Command. Efforts on the establishment of the Coast Guard Command gained pace as of 1967 due to the absence of necessary law enforcement forces that could impose various bans set out by laws under the services of Ministries having duties over territorial waters. As a result of the efforts within this framework, the Coast Guard Command Law was adopted on July 9, 1982 and the Turkish Coast Guard Command was established. The Turkish Coast Guard Command started to operate effectively as of September 1, 1982.

The Turkish Coast Guard Command, which functioned as part of the Gendarmerie General Command until January 1, 1985, continued its activities as an armed law enforcement unit under the Ministry of Internal Affairs. “In 1993, the main sub-commands of Coast Guard Command were re-named as regional commands: Marmara and Straits Region Command, Black Sea Region Command, Mediterranean Region Command and the Aegean Sea Region Command. The Maritime Search and Rescue Coordination Center is located in Ankara and is responsible for coordination of operations and tasking the various regional commands” as Cdr. Murat Oglakci explains. He is responsible for the operations with the AB-412EP/SAR helicopters located at Izmir-Adnan Menderes International airport at the Aegean Coastline. “The Coast Guard control areas range from Hopa to Igneada, Marmara Denizi and the area from Enez to Cevlik. This is basically the whole part of the Turkish Search and Rescue region” as Cdr. Oglakci explains.

The history of the Turkish Coast Guard Air Command dates back to November 1992 when the Command was established at Topel Naval Air Station, 100km east of Istanbul. Shortly after the first aircraft were added to the inventory of which three AB206s and one Moulin MX-7. The latter was the first fixed wing aircraft for the Turkish Coast Guard. During July 1996 this MX-7 aircraft was withdrawn from use. In 1999 an Augusta A109 was added to the inventory and saw service till 2005 and is now preserved at the Izmir Coast Guard Air station. The AB206s were removed from service in December 1998. As of December 1999 a major relocation and modernization process was started for the aviation component of the Turkish Coast Guard. During 2001 new facilities were opened at the international airport of Izmir Adnan Menderes. This relocation process included the procurement of new Augusta AB412EPs of which fourteen are in use currently. As of 2013 three new CN235 MSA maritime patrol aircraft have been delivered as part of the ‘MELTEM II’ which has been till date the most prestigious programme for the TCG. A replacement program (Multi mission Helicopter Project) has started for the selection of a new helicopter type to improve of Coast Guard Air missions. A decision is pending with no fixed timelines set.

Currently the backbone of the SGK Air Command is the AB-412EP of which fourteen are in use divided across Coast Guard stations Izmir, Antalya, Samsum and Istanbul. Furthermore there are heliports available on demand at Mersin and Amasra. “It is expected within 2-3 years a dedicated location will be built for the Coast Guard in the Istanbul area” according to Cdr. Oglakci.

The First two contracts (MARTI 1&2) for the initial delivery of the AB-412EP were signed during March 1998 and in the same year one additional contract was signed with Turkish companies Aselsan and Netas for the domestic production of the ASELFLIR 200, IFF, monitor, radio equipment and video and digital cameras. The other contracts (MARTI 3& 4) were signed on December 2004. “A new Multi mission Helicopter Project has been started to procure helicopters which have longer endurance and capacity than the AB412EP helicopters, we need a heavier type of helicopter to conduct our missions more effective.” according to Cdr. Oglakci.

“The AB412EPs (locally designated AB412SAR) are equipped with a number of modifications to allow for over sea operations. A glass cockpit with four displays , auto hovering function, more powerful engines, Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) system, night vision capabilities, cameras in both the hoist and cabin which allows crew and pilots to oversee the rescue operations have been installed. Furthermore a so-called ADELT (Automatically Deployable Emergency Locator Transmitter) has been installed recently to identify the potential crash area of an AB412” according to Lt. Junior Grade Electronic Engineer Baris Dündar at Izmir Coast Guard station.

The first two AB412EPs were delivered during June 2002. AB412EP TCSG-502 was used for initial pilot training, three Turkish Coast Guard instructors received their training in Vergiate, Italy by late 2002. Nowadays new Coast Guard pilots receive their initial pilot training at the Army Aviation training school located at Army Air Base Güvercinlik near Ankara. “We have been following the same training path as the Army students” according to one of the new junior Coast Guard pilots, Hakan Kuru, who transferred just six months before. “We train for 51 weeks with 100 hours of flying on the AB206 and about 80 hours on the UH-1H”. After graduation the new junior pilots will be added to the training squadron at Izmir. Cdr. Oglakci adds “The transfer to operate with the AB412EP will take around six months and Cdr. Oglakci continues “The first phase of the transfer is Visual Flight Recover (VFR) flying which is concluded with a formal check ride. The next phase will be Instrument Flying (IFR) and operating with night vision goggles (NVG). In total the students fly around 50 hours to complete the conversion” concludes the Commander. After the conversion the new pilots will operate as co-pilot for a period of 2-3 years. When they pass a formal check ride the pilot can be graduated to 3rd grade pilot. To become a 1st grade pilot it will take minimum 1000 flying hours. “The basic flying compared with the UH-1H does not differ a lot, but the new pilots will have to learn to utilize the glass cockpits and learn all equipment, especially mission equipments, which we utilizing on our daily operations and learn laws”. Each year around three to seven new pilots are being added to the Coast Guard“. Besides a helicopter squadron and fixed wing aircraft squadron a dedicated standardization training squadron is available for training our new pilots. They will not be involved in real-life rescue operations till they have completed their transition period” concludes Cdr. Oglakci.

At Izmir Coast Guard station maintenance is being executed for all the helicopters as being the main hub for aviation operations. “After each 100 flying hours we have an extensive check of the AB412s” according Lt. Junior Grade Electronic Engineer Baris Dündar. “We can perform all periodic inspections here at Izmir. We have all facilities and knowledge. After 2500 hours the helicopters’ dynamic components are send to Army’s 5th Main Maintenance Center for depot level controls and/or overhaul.”

An important skill for all Coast Guard aviators is the ability to perform night flying operations. For this purpose an infrared camera system, developed by Aselsan, is available which records all images in flight. The camera can turn 360 degrees. The FLIR operator and cabin crew can follow on screens the imagery from the pilots screens to get full situational awareness. Each Coast Guard pilots has his own personal night vision goggle set. The effective range for rescue operations for the AB412EP is about 90 nautical miles with a wind limit of 35 nautical miles per hour which concludes 15-20 minutes on scene. In case of emergency the response time is 30-90 minutes for both day and night operations across Turkey. The Coast Guard Command Center in Ankara is responsible for dispatching assets to perform a search and rescue operations. Currently the Turkish Coast Guard is heavily involved in the rescue and tracking of illegal immigrants who are trying to get out of Turkey, especially the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean Sea is an often used route by immigrants. Other tasks performed by the Coast Guard are Search and Rescue, anti-terrorist operations, pollution control, border control and homeland security.

Besides the helicopter operations the Turkish Coast Guard has started to operate the CN235-MSA (Maritime Surveillance Aircraft) fixed wing aircraft as of 2013. The procurement and development of this MSA aircraft dates back to 1998 when the initial contracts were signed. The first two aircraft (TCSG-551 and TCSG-552) were delivered in 2001, while the third (TCSG-553) was delivered in January 2003 as part of ‘MELTEM I’. The Turkish Navy (Türk Deniz Kuvvetleri) ordered six CN-235s as part of the same order. ‘MELTEM’ is till date the most ambitious maritime surveillance and patrol programme conducted in Europe over the last decade. For ‘MELTEM II’ which started in September 2002, Thales has modified the three CN235-MSAs for Exclusive Economic Zone surveillance missions by the Turkish Coast Guard and six CN235s in anti-surface and Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) configuration for the Turkish Navy. Aselsan, as subcontractor, was awarded the contract to develop a Tactical Command System (TCS), Tactical Command and Control Information System (TCCIS), Ground Control Station (including an education system), System Integration Test Bench and Mission Systems. The MSA version is now equipped with radar, Aselflir 200, Ocean Master 400 radar, Side Looking Airborne Radar (SLAR) including the integration of the AMASCOS (Airborne Maritime Situation & Control System) developed by Thales. Furthermore Video and Digital Cameras were added.

To support SAR tasks smoke markers (Mk.25 mod2) and Aerolite 6 Life Rafts have been installed. “The CN235-MSA is able to deploy life rafts for about 100 persons in one drop” according to one of the CN235 pilots. The crew of the MSA consists of two pilots, two observers, two operators and one flight technician. The radar has a range of 200NM and is able to track 200 contacts simultaneously. The Aselflir 200 has a capacity of 20NM (nautical miles). The SLAR installed is capable of detecting sea pollution up to 20NM when operating at 15.000 feet. The new installed UV-IR scanner can detect sea pollution through infrared and ultraviolet radiation. Current pilots have been trained to operate the CN235-MSA. The pilots have to fly about 15 missions to adapt to the MSA version according to one of the former Turkish navy pilots. He continues “We had representatives from Thales for two years at Izmir which are former French Navy pilots to teach us how to operate the MSA. “ We are very satisfied with the new aircraft, we are now able to detect much more pollution incidents”. On average pilots have been flying around 175 hours a year mainly focusing on training. “The amount of flying hours increases each year due to the demand” according to a crew member. “Currently we are focusing on training our Senso’s (Sensor Operators). As we had to start from almost scratch with the new MSA aircraft we are also developing documentation and building our unit. We have 75% of our pilots operational with focus on operators now” the MSA crew member continues. “We are highly interested to cooperate with other countries as we feel there is much to learn for us, however we are still in training modus”.

The first Coast Guard CN235-MSA was test flown in December 2012 followed by a formal acceptance ceremony held at Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) facilities on January 28, 2013. The CN235 gives the Coast Guard aircraft additional capabilities and a wider reach of operations area and allows for new missions to support the Turkish Coast Guard.


The following article was published in Krylya Rodiny 7-8/2015 in Russian translation