Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Turkish Submarine Accidents


Turkey has a long naval and maritime heritage, stretching back nearly 1,000 years and the Turkish Navy has operated submarines for nearly 70 years,

In fact, the Ottoman Empire purchased two early “Nordenfelt” submersibles in 1886. While neither performed up to the promises of the builder (promises that were probably beyond the capability of the technology of the day), they were able to fire torpedoes at target ships before being discarded as unsuitable.

The Ottoman Navy ordered its first submarines from France in 1914, but they were not delivered before World War I started and were pressed into French service. The only submarine to serve in the Ottoman Navy was TCG Mustecip Onbasi, a French submarine, captured in 1917 after running aground in the Dardanelles Straits.

Shortly after the founding of the modern Turkish Republic, the Turkish Navy sent officers across Europe to examine the state of art in submarine development. Submarines were ordered from a Dutch company and were commissioned on 09 June 1928. Additional submarines were order from the Dutch, Germans, and British during the 1930s.

At the start of World War II, a submarine that had been built for Turkey in Germany was seized by the German government and pressed into German service. Likewise, two submarines being built in Great Britain actually served as British submarines and one was sunk.

In 1948, as part of the Cold War, the United States became the sole supplier of submarines to the Turkish Navy, a position America would hold for 22 years. Four submarines, all World War II veterans, were transferred on 23 May 1948. In all, 23 American submarines saw service under the Turkish flag. The last former American submarine, TCG Pirireis (ex USS Tang (SS-563)) was decommissioned in 2004.

In the 1970s, Turkey began purchasing submarines from Germany, starting with the Type 209. In 1976, the keel for the first Turkish built submarine was laid in Golcuk, a German-designed Type 209. The most recent submarine, TCG Burakreis was commissioned on 15 February, 2006.


Over the last 90 years, the Turkish Navy has operated 48 submarines with only one wartime loss and two peacetime accidents. The wartime loss occurred when TCG Atilay struck a mine and sank during World War II.

Ironically, the only two peacetime accidents in the Turkish submarine fleet involved two different submarines with the same name.

On 04 April 1953, while on the surface, TCG Dumlupinar (ex USS Blower (SS-325)) was rammed on her starboard bow by the Swedish freighter M/V Naboland in the Dardanelles Straits and sank. 22 men survived the initial accident, but were unable to be rescued due to the heavy seas and swift currents. Only four of the five men on the bridge survived. The master of the Swedish ship was seized by Turkish authorities. 04 April is celebrated as Naval Martyrs day each year in Turkey.

In September, 1976 the new TCG Dumlupinar (S-339) (ex USS Caiman (SS-323) was struck on the starboard side, just abaft the sail by the Russian freighter Szik Vovilov. The collision also occurred in the Dardanelles Straits while the submarine was surfaced and the location of the collision was less than 30 miles from where the first accident occurred. Fortunately, the crew was able to run the submarine aground before she sank and remarkably, no one was injured. Despite the damage, the submarine was repaired and served for another 11 years.


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