Royal Saudi sailors have taken a liking to a Turkish robot warship

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The World Defense Show 2024 held in Riyadh brought an intriguing development to the forefront: the potential for the Royal Saudi Navy to adopt the MARLIN Unmanned Surface Vehicle [USV]. This advanced vessel is the result of a successful partnership between two Turkish entities, Aselsan and the Sefine Shipyard. 

Photo credit: AA

The exhibited model on the WDS 2024 featured a range of payload options, namely the inclusion of two Kuzgun anti-ship missile launchers—a feature revealed for the first time, triggering considerable curiosity. 

A representative from the NCMS disclosed that finalizing the deal will depend on the comprehensive requirements of the Royal Saudi Navy. “As soon as we receive specific directions from the Royal Saudi Navy, we can solidify our partnership with the Sefine Shipyard”, stated an official from NCMS at WDS 2024. 

Changes are possible

The same NCMS spokesperson suggested the possibility of the USV undergoing certain alterations to cater to the Royal Saudi Navy’s specific needs. Could this imply a name change for MARLIN in the future? Only time will reveal. 

The official magazine of the World Defense Show duly acknowledged the Aselsan-Sefine Shipyard collaboration, and eagerly announced the impending sea trials for MARLIN. 

The publication further described the model—equipped with four stern-mounted torpedo tubes and box launchers for small surface-to-air missiles—as a modular showcase that allows for seamless mission transition, whether for Mine Countermeasure [MCM] missions or Electronic Warfare [EW] drills. But, the box launchers are actually designed for TUBITAK SAGE’s Kuzgun anti-ship missiles.

Photo credit: Defense Here

600 hp power

NCMS revealed that the original MARLIN model is equipped with French diesel engines while its successor will feature Turkish technology with twin 600 HP engines—powerful enough to achieve a top speed of 45 knots. MARLIN, which is expected to undergo a few upgrades, is slated to start its sea trials in June. 

Regardless of whether it retains the name MARLIN or dons a new title, this formidable USV—with its Electronic Warfare [EW] capabilities and impressive weaponry—is poised to enhance the Royal Saudi Navy’s surveillance capabilities and offensive potential in the region.

Participation in exercises

You might want to know that the SEFİNE Shipyard and ASELSAN, both based in Turkey, recently showcased their cutting-edge MARLIN USV during a couple of NATO exercises in late September 2022.

This marked Turkey’s inaugural participation in the REPMUS NATO exercise using unmanned systems. Wait till you hear this: the USV executed the premier live-firing of the Kuzgun anti-ship missile in April 2023. 

Now, you might wonder, what makes MARLIN stand out? Well, according to SEFİNE and ASELSAN, it’s due to its distinct characteristics such as its size, payload, versatility in configuration, and most notably, its electronic warfare [EW] capabilities—argued to be an unprecedented feature in this domain.

During the NATO exercises, the MARLIN’s payload was deliberately designed for EW. There’s more: this 15-meter wonder provides off-board jammers to fleets, which can come in handy for surface warfare. 

About Marlin USV

You’ll be intrigued to learn that the MARLIN, as an autonomous USV, is tailored for high-speed navigation, sea-keeping, and exceptional maneuverability. Unsurprisingly, the company maintains discretion regarding the USV’s dimensions and endurance owing to privacy concerns. However, we are aware that the vessel can comfortably cruise at an optimal speed of 12 knots and can push the limit to reach a top speed of 36 knots.

In terms of size, the MARLIN isn’t petite, measuring approximately 15 meters with ample payload capacity. Designed to perform, the MARLIN— with its unique hull design, propulsion system, and supportive gadgets— can operate up to Sea State 4 and perform commendably in turbulent seas extending up to Sea State 5. 

Anti-surface warfare

But wait, there’s more. This marvel can be tailored for anti-surface warfare [ASUW] armed with guided missiles or for anti-submarine warfare [ASW] equipped with torpedoes. Depending on your operational needs, the MARLIN can adapt quite comfortably. 

SEFİNE assures us that the MARLIN’s remarkable adaptability allows it to be fitted for a variety of payloads [SSM, Torpedo, EW, Sonobuoy, SATCOM, LOS Communication, Underwater communication…] with ease. Furthermore, it can opt for either a monohull or trimaran hull design optimized to ensure extended operating time.

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