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Deployment of ULAQ KAMA in Naval Operations

Meteksan discusses the background, development, and capabilities of its ULAQ KAMA Expendable Unmanned Surface Vessel Feature Article by Meteksan Defense
Deployment of ULAQ KAMA in Naval Operations
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ULAQ KAMA is the Expendable Unmanned Surface Vehicle (XUSV) developed by Meteksan Defense Industry Inc. and Ares Shipyard Inc.

The ULAQ KAMA is an autonomous, semi-autonomous, or remotely controlled platform equipped with explosives to detonate on impact, offering high-speed, long-range capabilities, agility, and a low-profile silhouette.

Below Meteksan examines naval operational uses of a platform/weapon like ULAQ KAMA from the perspective of naval professionals:

Technological Trends

Technological progress has evolved from enhancing human muscle power to automation-based systems, which amplify human perception and decision-making. Automation, the capacity of machines to perform tasks without human control, finds broad use in both military and civilian sectors.

In security applications, technology advancements improve human perception and decision-making. Nowadays, however, innovations often mature in non-military fields before adapting to military contexts, and military influence on technology development is waning.

One of the areas where this trend is most evident is the development of Unmanned Systems. With technological advancements, unmanned systems equipped with AI supported capabilities are emerging to execute more complex tasks. The technological maturity achieved and expected in Unmanned Systems makes widespread military applications inevitable.

Another factor supporting the trend of the proliferation of Unmanned Systems is the transition of critical technologies that were previously monopolized by manufacturers becoming accessible to many states and non-state actors. Consequently, these technologies find extensive military and civilian applications and create an untapped market that supports their further advancements.

Defense Planning Overview

Defense planning describes the systematic approaches used by governments and military to shape national defense strategies, policies, resource allocation, and capabilities. This entails structured methods for various defense aspects. This article provides a concise overview, focusing on the creation, sustenance, and modernization of forces to meet security needs. Key factors impacting defense planning include:

  • Current and future threats and risks.
  • Existing and future forces’ status.
  • Force utilization concepts and doctrines.
  • Characteristics of potential operational environments.
  • Resource allocation and priorities.
  • Projected technological advancements and military applications.
  • Incorporation of past lessons for new capabilities.

These factors interact cyclically, forming a cohesive defense planning strategy for informed security decisions.

ULAQ KAMA Specifications

Operational Planning Approach

Defense planning and operational planning are complementary processes that are carried out together to ensure effective utilization of military resources and the achievement of national security objectives. Essentially, operational planning focuses on the effective and efficient use of existing capabilities to create the desired kinetic effects on operational objectives with the aim of achieving strategic goals.

While the foundational principles of operational planning stay constant, the approach and objectives may vary depending on the specific operational domain. For example, in maritime operations, a strategic objective such as destroying or weakening the enemy’s military and economic power at sea can be established. Planners of maritime operations identify operational centers of gravity that will enable them to achieve this strategic objective, determine operational and tactical tasks aimed at affecting these centers of gravity, synchronize them, and ensure their coordination.

In this context, maritime elements may conduct tasks like ensuring sea control, denying the adversary the use of the sea, controlling and protecting Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC), conducting power projection, ensuring maritime security, controlling choke points etc.

In the execution of these tasks, the courses of action, which generally include the following options, are formulated and implemented through the operational planning process:

  • Establishing qualitative and quantitative superiority in the operational area to deter the adversary from pursuing the intentions that led to the crisis; and if deterrence proves ineffective, utilizing this superiority to render the adversary ineffective.
  • Maintaining continuous maritime situational awareness in the operational area to ensure the freedom of movement for own forces (mobility) and to prevent the adversary/potential adversary to do so (counter mobility).
  • Executing the mission while minimizing risks to own forces.
  • Engaging the adversary while staying beyond the reach of their sensors and weapons.
  • Possessing both agility and firepower advantages/options to create surprise effects.
  • Maximizing the advantages offered by the geography and implementing options to mitigate disadvantages,
  • Preventing the adversary from exploiting geographical advantages and capitalizing on their disadvantages.
  • Ensuring uninterrupted use of naval bases during operations and protecting the forces berthing there.

Use of ULAQ KAMA in Naval Operations

After this conceptual overview, we return to the use of ULAQ KAMA in naval operations. Examining the potential use of a platform like ULAQ KAMA from the perspective of defense planners and operational planners can provide in-depth insights and understanding of their evaluation process. Illustrated in general terms below is a theoretical assessment process between two senior defenses planning and operational planning officers serving in a high-level naval headquarters:

Imagine you’re a naval operations planner. Your defense planning colleague presents a USV with following capabilities:

  • Rapid, affordable production.
  • 200+ NM range, speeds over 50 knots.
  • Minimal chance of detection due to design (small RCS, ultra-low IR).
  • Operable in narrow waters, harbors, open seas even in GNSS-denied conditions.
  • Precisely delivers 200 kg explosive payload at target’s waterline upon impact.
  • Solo or swarm attacks.
  • Anticipates and counters target evasion.
  • Agile against defensive fire.
  • Deploys from coast or small vessel like a tugboat.
  • Lingers in an area until detection of a suitable target.
  • Discriminates between targets.
  • Safely returns or self-destructs to avoid collateral damage.
  • Operates autonomously, semi-autonomously, or remotely with humans in or on the loop.

Your colleague seeks your evaluation regarding whether such an USV can be utilized effectively in naval operations. The notion of employing manned or unmanned vessels for “suicide attacks” to neutralize warships or high-value targets is not novel.

A brief history of such tactics include:

Deployment of ULAQ KAMA in Naval Operations fig 3

Figure 2

  • In the past, during the era of wooden ships, Fire Ships were employed to create panic or disrupt enemy formations (Figure 2). These fire ships were often old, low on ammunition, or purpose-built inexpensive vessels.
  • During World War II: The British destroyer HMS CAMPBELTOWN was sent to the dry docks in Saint-Nazaire, France, loaded with explosives (Figure 3). Other examples were used by the Italian Navy and the Japanese Navy as well. The Italians utilized speedboats known as MTM (Modified Tourist Motorboat – Figure 4), which were loaded with explosives to launch attacks on anchored ships. The Italian Navy produced a total of 20 MTM boats for such operations. The Japanese Shinyo boats, similar to the Italian boats, they produced a total of 6197 of these boats and employed them in the Philippines and Japanese waters to inflict damage on US Navy ships.

  • Even though they are not loaded with explosives and are operated by humans, Iranian speed boats (Figures 7 and 8), with their high-speed capabilities of up to 55 knots, maneuverability, difficulty in detection, and the potential use of swarm tactics deserve to be mentioned in this context.

However, these examples have somewhat diminished their asymmetric edge against modern warships. Nevertheless, countries in conflict do effectively employ kamikaze USVs (Figure 7, Figure 8, Figure 9), constructed with basic resources:

It is clear from action taken in recent conflicts that the apparently aged notion of “suicide attacks” has been revitalized and is once again becoming asymmetrical, reaching a level of technological maturity.

Back as the Naval Operations Planner, you find yourself considering potential defense measures against this looming threat. Initial options on your list include strict aerial and naval patrols in the vicinity of naval bases, the implementation of continuous defensive protocols, the positioning of buoys and net-like barriers at port entrances and around ships and the utilization of all surveillance measures and maintaining a state of heightened readiness on the ships underway.

Nonetheless, you are acutely aware that these necessary measures are accompanied by associated costs. You recognize the potential imposition of stress and demands on the personnel involved. It is theorized that it would take years and vast amounts of funding to develop countermeasures against such weapons.Deployment of ULAQ KAMA in Naval Operations

As you revisit your Defense Planner colleague’s query, it becomes evident that the boat in question boasts highly advanced features. When you seek more information from your colleague, you learn that the mentioned boat is the ULAQ KAMA, developed in collaboration between Meteksan Defense Inc. and Ares Shipyards Inc. You understand that the ULAQ KAMA represents a technological realization of conceptual ideas in the field of “Armed Un-manned Surface Vehicles (USVs)”. It is a weapon system you haven’t used before – however, you can already foresee that it may provide you with many options and flexibility in naval operations.

Firstly, you compare ULAQ KAMA to sea mines. Sea mines, being cost-effective and easily accessible weapons, can serve operational objectives during wartime by restricting, delaying or channeling enemy movements. However, sea mines are constrained to narrow areas and remain fixed after deployment. They also come with the risk of restricting your own movements and their limitation in target discrimination.

ULAQ KAMA, on the other hand, seems to be addressing these limitations, with its mobility and target discrimination capabilities. It can offer you a broader and more flexible means of achieving some of the operational effects expected from sea mines, and furthermore these effects could complement the anticipated outcomes of mine warfare.

When it comes to submarines, which still maintain their effectiveness in modern times and evoke concerns in potential adversaries, you think they perform a similar role. By limiting the adversary’s movements in open waters, submarines play a crucial role in controlling access to certain areas.

However, you also recognize that submarine operations require time for deployment, and their vulnerability to counter-detection constitutes a dilemma between survivability and effectiveness. The adversary may choose a course of action that renders your submarines without targets or apply persistent anti-submarine efforts to prevent them using their weapons. In this context, you consider employing ULAQ KAMA in the theater could potentially reduce the pressure on friendly submarines and contribute to the overall operations.

Deployment of ULAQ KAMA in Naval Operations

Figure 11

You realize that ULAQ KAMA shares more similarities with old-school torpedo attack boats. You recall examples like the German Jaguar Class (Figure 11), where torpedo boats, with their low radar cross-sections, high speeds, and maneuverability, could approach surface targets undetected until they were within range to launch a deadly heavy torpedo attack. Based on your experiences, you believe that ULAQ KAMA’s much smaller size would likely result in much better stealth capabilities. You estimate that a surface vessel might not be able to detect ULAQ KAMA at distances greater than 4000 yards even in the best conditions. ULAQ KAMA can cover this distance in 4 minutes or even less leaving the target very little time to defend itself.

A potential adversary, aware of your possession of a weapon like ULAQ KAMA, will either refrain from venturing into the sea or compromise its own stealth by taking countermeasures to eliminate this detection asymmetry. Moreover, ULAQ KAMA operates without any personnel on board. This means you can conduct anti-surface operations in areas under adversary control without putting your personnel at risk. Besides these features, you find a close resemblance between the tactics of torpedo boats and ULAQ KAMA’s swarm attack capability.

Your comparison with anti-ship missiles (ASM) reveals other important considerations. ASMs are high-speed, long-range, fire-and-forget weapons. They have high probability of acquiring and hitting their intended targets. However, their high cost and limited inventory often require careful management and employment. To maximize their effectiveness, you must take advantage of their over the horizon ranges, ensuring the own firing platform remains undetected and protected from potential counterattacks. On the other hand, surface ships equipped with soft and hard kill defense systems are increasingly proficient at detecting and countering ASMs. The accuracy and effectiveness of ASM engagements heavily depend on having updated and accurate target information, necessitating proper target identification and localization. This process introduces risks, especially when using platforms acting as target reporting units.

As you review the features of ULAQ KAMA, you begin to understand its potential to complement your primary anti-surface warfare (ASuW) weapon, the over-the-horizon ASMs. ULAQ KAMA’s small size (with a superstructure height of 60 cm), high speed, and maneuverability characteristics, which are asymmetrical to the detection and defensive systems of the adversary, make it a compelling candidate for an ASuW weapon.

You predict that ULAQ KAMA can be used independently, but using it in a swarm of 3-4 boats against certain targets will increase the likelihood of success. This swarm feature resembles attacking air defense capable targets with salvos of 3-4 ASMs. This salvo sizes can quickly deplete your ASM inventory. ULAQ KAMA, on the other hand, with its low cost and ability to be produced in large numbers quickly, may offer a solution for conserving some of your ASMs. You contemplate a tactical idea where you can stage a coordinated attack on an adversary’s surface unit with ULAQ KAMAs, forcing it to defend itself using close-in weapon systems in surface mode. By doing so, their loaded ammunition may decrease, and during the time taken for reloading, your ASM engagements may have a higher chance of success.

In ASM engagements an undetected neutral contact near your actual target may mislead an ASM’s seeker. ULAQ KAMA, with advanced sensors and artificial intelligence, autonomously or remotely performs target discrimination, reducing collateral damage risks. This feature’s utility also extends to launching attacks on enemy surface units in locations like bays or ports, where ASMs prove ineffective. Additionally, ULAQ KAMA precisely reports detected target positions, functioning as a target reporting unit for ASMs.

Your Defense Planner colleague’s question is taking shape. Naval operations aim for sea control and maritime superiority, enabling unrestricted naval deployment while constraining the adversary. Reflecting on recent events, you see ULAQ KAMA as a counter-mobility weapon. With its satellite communication system and AI support, it can be employed over considerable distances, spanning up to 200 NM. In synergy with your existing capabilities, it may support your Anti-Area-Access Denial (A2AD) strategies. You also anticipate ULAQ KAMA’s counter-detection asymmetry will be particularly advantageous for launching surprise attacks, especially in littoral waters. ULAQ KAMA will certainly put adversaries into operational dilemmas.

You are intrigued by ULAQ KAMA’s ability to withstand defensive fires initiated by the adversary upon detection. Its small size and exceptional maneuverability will make it a challenging a target. Delving into its detailed specifications, you have uncovered supplementary features that augment its survivability. Notably, its onboard explosive payload remains inert, ensuring it will not detonate upon bullet impact. Critical components of the boat are safeguarded by additional ballistic covers, fortifying its protection. Furthermore, the boat’s robust high-capacity bilge pumps will guarantee its buoyancy and stability in the event of hull damage.

In conclusion, your answer to your Defense Planner colleague’s query about employing ULAQ KAMA in naval operations would lean towards a “YES.” When integrated with your existing capabilities, ULAQ KAMA will become an exceptional ASuW capability.

Deployment of ULAQ KAMA in Naval Operations

The above evaluation represents a very simplified depiction of the intricate Defense and Operational Planning process. The acquisition of a new weapon system involves stages such as concept studies, detailed operational analysis and learning from field experiments to ensure efficient resource utilization. The combined expertise of METEKSAN Defense Inc. and ARES Shipyard Inc., coupled with design excellence, cost-effectiveness and the promised potential, positions ULAQ KAMA advantageously within the assessments of naval defense and operational planners.

The above evaluation is indeed a highly simplified version of a real Defense and Operational Planning process. The process of acquiring a weapon system involves stages such as concept studies, detailed analysis of operational requirements based on the concepts, and reviewing operational requirements and application doctrines revealed by the lessons learned from field experiments and applications.

Soldiers rightfully approach a new capability (sensor, weapon, platform, etc.) with many concerns and doubts. In the decision-making process, the high procurement and sustainment costs of weapon systems, along with the lessons learned from numerous historical mistakes leading to irreversible negative consequences, drive the desire to use limited resources most effectively. Therefore, during the process of incorporating a new capability into the inventory, long-term and multifaceted analyses are conducted, and, most importantly, the envisaged operational environment in which these capabilities will be used is imagined, almost as if the battle is being lived in the minds of planners.

Indeed, ULAQ KAMA will undoubtedly undergo such a challenging process and tests. During this process, factors that will give ULAQ KAMA an advantage include METEKSAN Defense Inc. and ARES Shipyard Inc.’s pioneering position in the field of USVs, ULAQ KAMA’s design excellence, low cost, and the potential it promises to offer.

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