For a country which is bounded by three seas on its Northern, Western and Southern borders, Turkey has made a lot of investment in the last decade to advance its naval power with the purpose of ensuring full independent foreign policy.
It is a fundamental duty for the Turkish Naval Forces to defend the homeland against probable maritime threats. In that context, the existence of strong and capable naval power gains importance for Turkey day by day. For this reason, decreasing external dependency and having a maximum contribution from the domestic industry have been priorities of Turkey in recent years. The most recent developments in the maritime field can be considered a turning point in Turkish history. There are several important developments demonstrating the rise of Turkey’s naval power.
According to Turkey’s 11th Development Plan which covers a four-year period from 2019 to 2023, the defense industry is taking place among the priority development areas of Turkey. The plan also sets out the goals of 75% localization of defense products, while targeting the defense export to $10.2 billion by 2023. The fact is that with all completed and ongoing projects, the Turkish Naval Forces is developing into a remarkably powerful thanks to the Turkish Defense Industry. We will have a look at some of the Turkish Naval projects and their qualifications.
First Indigenous Warship Project: MİLGEM
The name MİLGEM is an acronym derived from the Turkish phrase “Milli Gemi” which means National Ship in English. As a Turkish National Warship Project, MİLGEM was initiated in 2000 by Turkish Naval Forces with the purpose of developing multipurpose corvettes and frigates. Within the scope of the Project, Turkey has aimed to use its maximal national sources, and thereby, reducing external dependence in the shipbuilding industry.
Turkey has built 4 Ada-Class corvettes so far within the scope of MİLGEM, namely the TCG Heybeliada (F-511), TCG Büyükada (F-512), TCG Burgazada (F-513) and TCG Kınalıada (F-514). Those corvettes have anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and high-seas patrol capabilities. TCG Heybeliada in 2011, TCG Büyükada in 2013, TCG Burgazada in 2018 and TCG Kınalıada in 2019 were launched and started to serving for the Turkish Navy.
As the continuation of the MİLGEM project, Turkey signed a contract with the Pakistan Navy for the acquisition of 4 Ada-Class Corvettes in 2018. On the other hand, for the second phase of MİLGEM, 4 İSTİF-Class Frigates are going to be built in the upcoming years, namely the TCG İstanbul (F-515), TCG İzmir (F-516), TCG İzmit (F-517) and lastly TCG İçel (F-518). The leading frigate TCG İstanbul already started building in 2017 and she is still under construction.
Turkey’s first light aircraft carrier: TCG Anadolu
The TCG Anadolu is a multi-purpose amphibious assault ship Project of Turkey which is also known as Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD). A consortium of Istanbul’s Sedef Shipyard and Spanish Navantia won the tender for the LHD project, and the construction of the TCG Anadolu was officially started in 2016 at Sedef Shipyard Tuzla İstanbul with a steel cutting ceremony. TCG Anadolu will have the same design with the Spanish Juan Carlos I multipurpose amphibious assault ship-aircraft carrier.
“Our naval forces will get the TCG Anadolu, Turkey’s largest domestically-built warship, at the end of 2020” said İsmail Demir, Chairman of Presidency of Defence Industries.
The TCG Anadolu was designed to be capable of carrying short take-off/vertical landing fighters (F-35B), helicopters including heavy lift, tactical lift, attack, reconnaissance and C2, and maritime support helicopters, UAVs, amphibious vehicles including tanks, armored amphibious assault vehicles as well as an Amphibious Marine Battalion. However, since Turkey was expelled from F-35 Programme, the Ship will enter the service with helicopters, UAVs and any other assault vehicles stated above.
Turkey’s New Type of Submarine Project
Turkey has planned to construct a fleet of six Reis-Class, new type 214, submarines equipped with Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) System. Turkey initiated the Project under a contract signed with German ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems in 2009. In this context, 6 Reis-Class submarines planned to be constructed in Gölcük Shipyard, Kocaeli. When infrastructure activities and preparations related to submarine construction completed, the construction of the first submarine, which is named as TCG Piri Reis, was started in 2015.
Those six submarines, namely TCG Piri Reis, TCG Hızır Reis, TCG Murat Reis, TCG Aydın Reis, TCG Seydiali Reis, and TCG Selman Reis, will be starting to service for Turkish Navy between 2022 and 2027. On the other hand, The submarines developed with the technology of Hydrogen Oil Cell, which provide the capability of enlarged submerged endurance for weeks. Reis-Class Submarines will have 1850 tons displacement and will be equipped with heavy torpedoes and Harpoon missiles. Taking into service of these submarines with silent navigation capability will substantially contribute to the Turkish Navy’s battle effectiveness.
Indigenous Submarine Project: MİLDEN
The name MİLDEN is an acronym derived from the Turkish phrase “Milli Denizaltı” which means National Submarine in English. As a result of significant improvements in the Turkish Defense Industry, the MİLDEN project has launched with the aiming of equipping Turkish Naval Forces with submarines produced with national means.
After the completion of the design activities for the Indigenous Submarine, the planning period for construction will begin. The first submarine is expected to be completed in the second half of the 2030s. Design and development of this submarine will benefit from the technology and information package obtained from Germany during the construction of Reis-Class Submarines (New Type 214)
When we consider its unique and as well as risky geopolitical position, Turkey is a country that has been following closely by all global powers. That’s why Turkey is making strategic decisions on its defense industry to protect self-interests of Turkey in the international area. Especially when we consider the developments in the defense industry, most of the people totally agree with the idea of Turkey has been a stronger naval power in recent years.