...
RUS
Search
Publications

The ideology and actual practice of Turkey's naval development

photo:: author.today
02 November 2022

In the Sea of Aegean, the waters adjacent to Izmir, Turkey held this year International Exercise Efes-2022. Some 11,000 troops took part, including around 1,100 personnel from 37 countries. Apparently, most of those involved in the maneuvers were Turkish military contingent.

Erdoan's Triumph

Seaborne assault landing at the Doğanbey Firing Exercise Zone near Izmir was the culmination of the exercise. Dozens of amphibious boats and ships delivered special task units and marines ashore. USS Arlington (LPD-24) amphibious transport dock, which was positioned by the maneuver organizers in the center was the centerpiece of the operation. Numerous Turkish landing ships and boats, from which troops were disembarking, «flowed» along Arlington in two parallel columns. According to Command, 6th Fleet, to which Arlington is assigned, EFES-2022 Exercise intended «to improve force readiness, promote stability and prosperity in the region, and enhance interoperability between the United States, Turkey and other allied nations». But in fact, the maneuvers were to practice the capture of the Greek islands in the Sea of Aegean off the Anatolian coast of Turkey.

So how did it come that the United States sent its ship to an exercise where an invasion to the Greek islands was simulated? After all, Washington usually takes the side of Athens in the long-running Greek-Turkish dispute. Could it be that there was something on the banks of the Potomac that wasn't known or understood? No, they knew and they understood everything.

The matter is that NATO summit in Madrid was upcoming, where the membership of Sweden and Finland in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was to be considered, and Ankara agreed to give its consent only if a number of conditions were fulfilled. Those did not include obligatory participation in Efes-2022 exercises, but so as not to irritate the wayward partner, United States, followed by France and Italy accepted the invitation of Turkey. Meanwhile, Athens literally begged its NATO partners not to participate in these maneuvers.

The diplomatic skills of the President of the Republic of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, took the upper hand. «The EFES-2022 exercises have demonstrated to everyone what our nation is capable of», he said at the closure of the maneuvers. Greeces attempts to disrupt Turkeys Efes 2022 exercises have failed». And he added: «Almost none of the participants in the Efes-2022 exercises heeded the call of Greece to refuse to participate in them, including the United States». Therefore, the maneuvers were a success and even a triumph for Erdogan personally.

The Islands of Enmity

35 million years ago, when there were no Greeks or the Turks, the territory of the modern Sea of Aegean, which in Turkey is called the Adalar Denizi, was a land area called the Aegeid. 20,000 years ago, as a result of rising sea levels due to melting ice, as well as a tectonic disaster, the Aegeid collapsed and submerged. Only more than 2,400 islands remain on the surface the remnants of the former continent, most of which now belong to Greece. Many of these islands extend with a narrow chain along the coast of Asia Minor.

Some are visible with the naked eye from Turkish beaches. For example, the 12-square-kilometer island of Meis, over which the Hellenic flag is waving, is only two miles from the Turkish coast and more than 500 miles from mainland Greece. But Athens claims it includes 40,000 square kilometers of continental shelf and the corresponding exclusive economic zone.

The Greek-Turkish conflict traces back centuries. It is true that much of Asia Minor was once, in modern parlance, under the control of the Greeks. It suffices to recall Troy, the capture of which triggered the expansion of the Danites into the peninsula. But the invasion of the Ottomans ruined Greek Byzantium. After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, all of Asia Minor came under Turkish rule. Virtually all of the islands in the Aegean Sea were subordinated to Istanbul in one way or another.

Everything changed in 1918, when the Ottoman Empire fell. The Republic of Turkey received all of Anatolia, and Greece received the islands of the Aegean Sea.

According to the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, as well as the 1947 Paris Treaty, Greece is not allowed to station its Armed Forces on Lemnos, Samothrace and the islands in the eastern Aegean Sea. Only police stations are allowed there. However, under various excuses, e.g. to regulate the flow of refugees and to fight terrorists, Athens is still deploying infantry units there and is building airfields and naval bases. Naturally, this causes dissatisfaction and protests from Ankara.

Speaking of which, the current tide of the Greek-Turkish crisis was originally provoked by Athens when Greece staged a coup in Nicosia on July 15, 1974 to annex Cyprus to Greece. In response, Ankara landed its troops in the north of the predominantly Turkish-inhabited island and proclaimed the Republic of Northern Cyprus there.

Now the boundary of the territorial waters of the Greek islands by Anatolia is 6 miles. When the territorial waters of two states overlap, then median lines are agreed upon. Now Athens claims that, in accordance with the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, it will establish a 12-mile width of territorial waters around all its islands off the coast of Anatolia. In such a case, Greece's exclusive economic zone would extend over most of the waters and seabed of the Aegean Sea.

It goes without saying that Ankara would disagree with such an interpretation. The Turkish government considers Greece's claims groundless. They argue that since Turkey is not a signatory to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, it is not obliged to comply with its provisions. Moreover, Ankara believes that the Greek islands off the coast of Anatolia are within Turkey's exclusive economic zones. They are, as they put it, guests, not hosts.

This interpretation laid the foundation for the concept known as the «Blue Homeland» (Mavi vatan), which is gaining support not only among the political elite of the Republic of Turkey, but also among the wider general public.

Mavi vatan Turkey's naval dominance

The goal of the «Blue Homeland» concept is the dominance of Turkey in the Mediterranean Sea, the return of the commercial and maritime power that the Ottomans once enjoyed.

Modern Turkish politicians and media often attribute the ideology of the «Blue Homeland» to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the first president of the Republic of Turkey, who is considered to be the «father of the nation». «We are trapped on land», he said. So are the Russians. By blocking the straits, we have kept the Russians in the Black Sea and doomed Russia to collapse. Because we broke their ties with their allies. But we are also doomed to collapse for the same reason. Although we are near the shores of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, we are not able to move to any ocean. With ground forces without naval forces, we will never be able to defend our peninsula against naval forces that can deliver ground forces here». These words, of course, contain nothing about the «Blue Homeland», but they certainly do contain the right idea about the need to develop not only ground forces, but also the Navy.

Retired Rear Admiral Cem Gürdeniz is considered to be the main ideologist of Mavi vatan. Many Turkish media publish his articles, and TV and radio stations willingly give him airtime.

The history of this man is quite remarkable. He served on destroyers and frigates in the Turkish Navy. He then commanded Gaziantep frigate the former USS Clifton Sprague, Oliver Hazard Perry class and the 3rd Destroyer Division. Graduated from the Turkish Naval College and the Turkish Armed Forces College. He obtained his master's degree at the Naval Postgraduate School of the United States Navy. His work in Personality and Education Analysis has received an excellent grade. He was awarded a master's degree from the Free University of Brussels in International Politics. Cem Gürdeniz is fluent in English and French. That is to say, we can see a military intellectual who grew up based on Western values and traditions.

His military career also progressed successfully. He was promoted to Rear Admiral First Class in 2004 and to Full Rear Admiral in 2008. Cem Gürdeniz commanded the Landing and Mine Warfare Forces, the Strategic Planning and Political Liaison Departments of the Naval Staff.

But in 2011, he was discharged for his alleged involvement in the so-called «Operation Sledgehammer», which purported to organize a military coup in the country. Gürdeniz was arrested along with 365 other senior officers. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison. However, after the Constitutional Court found the circumstances of Operation Sledgehammer to be trumped up, the Rear Admiral was fully acquitted on June 9, 2015.

For the second time, Cem Gürdeniz was arrested in April 2021 as one of the main organizers of an open letter of 104 retired Turkish admirals regarding the preservation of the Montreux Convention regime in connection with the plans to build the Istanbul Channel. The authors called for an end to any discussion about the possibility of the country withdrawing from this international agreement. The retired «old whales» also emphasized the need to preserve the current Turkish Constitution amid President Erdogan's initiative to draft a new Basic Law of the country. But an Ankara court released all ten «instigators» of the open letter, including Gürdeniz.

Not a strategy, but a «supra-political space»

The Mavi vatan concept, however popular, is not a strategy, but rather a national idea, without a clearly defined framework. The adherents of the Blue Homeland differ in their assessment of its scope. For example, some believe that it only extends to the Aegean Sea, while others mention the entire Mediterranean Sea and its adjacent waters. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, an undisputed supporter and leader of neo-Ottomanism, often refers to the tenets of Mavi vatan, but does not usually refer to the Blue Homeland.

Cem Gürdeniz himself claims that the Blue Homeland is a «supra-political space» with the sole purpose of caring for the supreme interests of the Republic of Turkey.

According to Gürdeniz, «Turkey today is under siege, it is surrounded not only by the West, but also by Arab countries that act in cooperation with it. But the fact that Russia and Iran are in the East is a deterrent factor for Turkey's adversaries. If they were not there, the imperialist forces would have torn the country to pieces long ago, just as they did during the First World War».

The retired Rear Admiral constantly puts forward the thesis, if not of an alliance, then at least of a strong partnership between Ankara and Moscow, Tehran and Beijing. Without such a partnership, he believes, the implementation of the goals of the Blue Homeland is unthinkable. «The U.S. authorities are engaged in instigating, provoking Turkey to take steps against the Russian Federation, and it is impossible to understand the logic of the Turkish authorities to 'buy' this», he said in connection with the U.S.-Turkish naval exercises in the Black Sea early last year.

«Today, if Ataturk was alive, he would definitely be called a pro-Russian Eurasian», notes the main Mavi vatan ideologist. Because three days after Ataturk founded the Majlis on April 23, 1920, the first decision of parliament was an agreement for an alliance with Russia».

Cem Gürdeniz's position on Kiev's membership in the North Atlantic Alliance is quite illustrative: «If Ukraine becomes a NATO member, almost the entire Black Sea will be controlled by member countries of the Alliance, and all geopolitical interests of Turkey will be endangered».

«I am not saying that a multipolar world system is being created, it has already been created», emphasizes Gürdeniz. Russia is no longer afraid to use force in drawing its geopolitical red lines. All this leads to the fact that the Atlantic system, which is an alliance of trading states, is falling into disrepair in the face of the Asia-Pacific system, which is a system of security states.

A different interpretation

Naturally, such views do not always satisfy official Ankara. That is why they prefer to keep the Mavi vatan ideologist at a distance. They even found a more acceptable replacement, also in the person of Rear Admiral Cihad Yaycı, Chief of Staff of the Turkish Navy. At first he was not into theories, but took a strictly pragmatic position regarding the «Blue Homeland» in the Aegean and Black Seas, which completely met Erdogan's expectations.

The situation in the Aegean Sea was once again exacerbated by the discovery of rich oil and gas fields in the continental shelf of this area. «Greece and its longtime partner, the Greek Cypriot-educated government of South Cyprus, tried to force the so-called Seville Map on Turkey», Cihad Yaycı said. The Seville Map was prepared by the University of Seville in the early 2000s with the support of the European Union. Its purpose is to show the maritime areas under the jurisdiction of European Union member states, including the so-called maritime area of Southern Cyprus and Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean. Judging by the Seville Map, Greece and South Cyprus have the intention of locking Turkey, the country with the longest coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean of 2,280 km, into the Gulf of Antalya. Their main goal is to erode, in violation of all principles of international and maritime law, the rights of other coastal states, including the rights of Turkey, to the maritime space under its jurisdiction.

At the same time, Cihad Yaycı is a fierce supporter of the North Atlantic Alliance, because «Turkey not only has the second largest army in NATO, but also has contributed greatly to the implementation of the main goals of the Alliance since joining it in 1952». At the same time, «Russia benefits from having a friend like Turkey as a member of NATO» because «Turkey is a stabilizing element and contributes to the balance of power in the region».

And this is how he views the implementation of the Mavi vatan concept: «Turkey seeks to enhance the capabilities of its naval forces to be present in operationally important areas of the world's oceans. Turkey is taking specific steps to achieve this goal. A number of shipbuilding programs have been initiated, providing for the design and construction of several types of warships by the Turkish shipbuilding industry. And it does not stop there, huge efforts are being made to develop the national scientific and technical base. The possession of a long-range ocean-going fleet will be the crown of this long process that Turkey is eagerly making every effort to realize».

This position is much closer to Erdoan, however, in May 2020 the president dismissed the chief of the Naval Staff. The reason for this is not known. Yaycı himself believes he was the victim of a conspiracy. Some sources claim that his influence on the head of state displeased Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar. The latter is alleged to have arranged for the dismissal of Rear Admiral, who is now heading the Center for Maritime and Global Strategy at Bahceehir University and lectures at Ankara University.

Adopting foreign experience

Long before the proclamation of the Mavi vatan concept, the Turkish navy headed for the shores of the «Blue Motherland», knowing nothing of its appearance in the future. Immediately after the Republic of Turkey joined the North Atlantic Alliance, the U.S. literally flooded the country with second hand World War II ships. Among them were 23 quite sturdy destroyers of Gleaves, Fletcher, Gearing and Allen M. Sumner types, as well as 23 diesel-electric submarines of Balao, Tench and Tang types. Some of them were modernized and were up to the requirements of the 50's and early 70's maritime warfare. All this armada was oriented to counter the Soviet fleet.

But as the Soviet Navy was reinforced with the newest ships, submarines, and boats with powerful missile weapons, the U.S. secondhand Navy was turning into floating scrap. In addition, the obsolete American-built large ships and submarines were not up to the conditions of armed combat in the Aegean Sea, where conflict situations were already emerging. Ankara decided to build combat vessels in national shipyards, which was perceived without enthusiasm in Washington and many other NATO capitals.

The Berk frigate, built at the Golcuk Naval Shipyard in Istanbul and commissioned on July 12, 1972, was the first large warship after the establishment of the Republic of Turkey. This project was based on the American Claud Jones frigate. It had a total displacement of 1,950 tons, length 95.2 m, width 12.1 m, draft 5.7 m. Four Fiat diesel engines could propel the ship at 25 knots, the cruising range reached 10,000 miles at 9 knots. Armament included two twin 76-mm automatic guns, two three-tube 324-mm anti-submarine torpedo tubes and two Hedgehog anti-submarine depth-charge mortars. It had a helipad in the aft area to accommodate a helicopter, but without a hangar.

The Berk frigate had a chance to take part in combat operations in 1974. It supported an amphibious landing in Cyprus with artillery fire.

Another frigate Peyk was built under this project, on which the series ended. And not only because the ships were not very successful, since the original was not perfect (the U.S. had built only four Claud Jones frigates for its Navy, which they got rid of by transferring them in 1973-1974 for the Indonesian Navy). As can be seen from the performance of the Berk frigates, they were not good enough to oppose ships of the Soviet Navy, but were best suited for patrol and anti-submarine service in the Aegean Sea, which greatly dissatisfied the United States.

Ankara's attempts to build larger, more modern warships based on military and technical cooperation with the United States were unsuccessful. Washington hard-sold eight Knox type frigates to Turkey in the early 1990s, which by then were already being withdrawn from the U.S. Navy.

Meanwhile, Turkey was establishing naval cooperation with Germany. It turned out to be more fruitful. First, eight 160-ton Kartal-type missile boats were ordered to Lurssen on the basis of previously built Zobel torpedo boats. Each of these missile boats was armed with four Norwegian-made Penguin anti-ship missiles with a range of up to 35 km and 120-kg warheads, two 533-mm torpedo launchers and two 40-mm automatic guns. Again it is clear from the performance characteristics of this type of boats that they were not very suitable for opposing Soviet naval ships, but they were almost perfectly suited for operations in the coastal waters of the Aegean Sea.

Since the Greek Navy's missile boats started to be equipped with more powerful Exocet anti-ship missile with 165-kilogram warheads and a range of 40-kilometers, the Turkish Navy also decided to «upgrade the caliber» of its missile boats. The Israeli Reshef missile boats were used as a prototype. Lurssen designed Dogan missile boat with a total displacement of 434 tons and speed of 38 knots. They are armed with two quad-mounted launchers of the American Harpoon anti-ship missile (in peacetime boats of this type are usually armed with only two missiles), a 76-mm OTO Melara automatic gun, a 35-mm automatic gun and two 7.62-mm machine guns. Only one boat of this type was built in Germany; the other nine, including two missile boats of the improved Yıldız type, were built at the Taskizak shipyard in Istanbul.

The basic combat units of the boat fleet of the Republic of Turkey today are nine missile boats of Kilic type with a total displacement of 550 tons and speed of 40 knots. They were designed by Lurssen as well and are actually small missile boats, if Russian classification is applied. In Germany, where the lead ship was built, they are referred to as corvettes. Unlike Dogan type boats, they are equipped with more advanced means of detection, target designation and combat control, although the armament of Kilic type boats is similar to its predecessors: two quad-mounted Harpoon anti-surface ship missile, 76-mm OTO Melara gun, 40-mm OTO Melara automatic gun and two 7.62-mm machine guns.

The Kilic and Dogan type missile boats form the backbone of the Turkish Navy in the Aegean Sea island area. They serve as patrol ships, gunboats and strike units.

In 1987-1989 the Turkish navy got four Yavuz type frigates of the German MEKO 200TN project. The first two were built in Germany and the other two in Turkish shipyards.

The Yavuz type frigates have a gross displacement of 2,919 tons, 115.5 m length, 14.2 m width, 4.1 m draft, max speed of 27 knots, and range of 4,100 miles at 18 knots. Their armament includes two Harpoon quad-mounted anti-ship missile launchers, Sea Sparrow Air Defense Missile System, 127 mm Mk 45 Mod 1 gun, three Sea Zenith 25 mm quad-mounted guns, two three-tube 324 mm antisubmarine torpedo launchers, AB 212ASW hangar based helicopter. The frigates are equipped with a variety of air, surface and underwater target detection and battlefield management systems. They are equipped with jamming launchers and electronic countermeasures devices. These ships with crews of 180 men were, for their time, highly advanced combat units and could operate both off their coasts and in the far offshore zone.

The Yavuz type frigates were followed by four MEKO 200TN II-A/B Barbaros type frigates. Their total displacement increased to 3,350 tons, their length, width and speed also increased to 32 knots. Two ships, Salihreis and Kemalreis, were equipped with vertical Mk 41 launchers for 32 ESSM short- and medium-range SAMs. Again, two ships were built in Germany and two in Turkey.

Obviously, Ankara wanted to proceed by increasing the extent of localization in the country's naval shipbuilding industry. But Washington intervened and handed the Turkish Navy eight decommissioned frigates of the Oliver Hazard Perry type (Turkey refers to them as the Gabya type). They are designed for operations in the far seas and oceans. These ships are morally and physically obsolete. But in order to save money Turkish authorities accepted them. However, the Turkish seriously upgraded the mentioned ships. The latest GENESIS (Gemi Entegre Savas Idare Sistemi) combat integrated control and information systems produced in Turkey by Havelsan were installed on them, and four of the ships were equipped with vertical Mk 41 launchers carrying eight ESSM SAMs.

Gabya-type frigates had an active role during the Libyan conflict in the operation to support the armed formations of Tripoli in 2020-2021. They escorted convoys with weapons and equipment and carried out air defense of coastal areas.

Not only surface, but also submarine shipbuilding was developing fruitfully with the West Germany. In 1972, the Howaldtswerke (HDW) shipyard in Kiel started building 209/1200 diesel-electric submarines for the Turkish Navy. The underwater displacement of these submarines with crews of 33 personnel, the lead of which was named Atilay, 1185 tons, the maximum underwater speed 22 knots, the maximum diving depth 500 m, operational range 7800 miles. Armament includes eight bow-mounted 533 mm torpedo tubes that can fire not only torpedoes but also Sub Harpoon anti-ship missile. The total ordnance is 14 missiles. Three boats of this type were built by HDW in Kiel and another three from German components at the Turkish Golcuk Naval Shipyard on the coast of the Sea of Marmara.

Eight more advanced submarines of the German Project 209/1400 Preveze type with a submerged displacement of 1,390 tons were subsequently assembled at the same shipyard. The range was increased to 11,000 miles at eight knots. Electronic equipment was upgraded.

Fourteen Atilay and Preveze type diesel-electric submarines now make up the submarine force of the Republic of Turkey. They can operate equally well in the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea, the deep sea and coastal areas.

The National Ship

Having accumulated experience in operating foreign-built warships and having mastered the technology of their assembly by foreign designs, the Turkish authorities began to emphasize the development of national warship construction. Especially after the United States and other NATO countries started to periodically impose various kinds of sanctions against Ankara in the field of military and technical cooperation. This was also stimulated not only by the rapid development of the shipbuilding industry in the country, but also by the general progress of national defense industry enterprises.

In 2004, the Istanbul Naval Shipyard established the MILGEM (short for Milli Gemi «National Ship») design bureau to design corvette, frigate and destroyer class ships, coordinate work with related military-industrial enterprises and oversee the construction of combat units. And the emphasis was made on the predominant use of domestic resources, components and weapons. On May 23, 2007, a contract was signed to build the first two Ada type corvettes and construction of the lead ship of the series, Heybeliada, began even earlier July 26, 2005.

The Ada («island» in Turkish) type corvettes with a gross displacement of approximately 2,400 tons, 99.5 m length, 14.4 m width and 3.9 m draft are similar in design to the Russian Project 20380 stealth corvettes. The ships are equipped with a combined diesel-gas turbine power plant (one General Electric LM2500 gas turbine and two MTU 16V595TE90 diesels) in a CODAG arrangement with a total power output of 31.64 MW (42430 hp), enabling a maximum 30-knot speed. There are also four auxiliary 789-hp diesel generators for intra-ship needs. Sailing range is 3500 miles at 15 knots. Sea endurance 21 days. Crew is 93 personnel (including aircraft group), but can be increased up to 106 personnel in wartime.

The Ada type corvettes built for the Turkish Navy are armed with two quad-mounted launchers for American Harpoon anti-ship missiles, which are placed behind shields in the central part of the superstructure between the integrated foremast and the smoke funnel. They will now be replaced by the Turkish-made Atmaca (Hawk) anti-ship missiles with a maximum range of 280-360 km (effective range over 200 km). The Atmaca missiles are capable of striking targets not only at sea but also on shore. Air defense/antimissile defenses are represented by a 21-round launcher of the American RAM Block I short-range air defense system, designed primarily to destroy enemy air assault weapons, including low-flying ones, at ranges of up to 10 km with the RIM-116 supersonic missile. The installation is located on the roof of the helicopter hangar.

The RAM can be complemented by the Italian Oto Melara Super Rapid 76mm automatic gun, which is produced under license in Turkey. Its rate of fire is 120 rounds per minute. Firing range is 16 km (effective range is 8 km, and against air targets 4 km). The corvettes are also armed with two 12.7 mm Aselsan STAMP machine guns remotely controlled by laser and opto-electronic guidance systems.

To fight submarines two American Mk 324-mm three-tube torpedo launchers are used, designed to fire Mk 46 torpedoes, certainly also American-made. For antisubmarine warfare purposes the American SH-60 Seahawk helicopter is also used; a hangar and an aft takeoff and landing area are provided. The ships are equipped with two speedboats of the rigid-inflatable type designed with the purpose to bring reconnaissance and sabotage groups ashore and take them away, to inspect suspicious ships and to conduct rescue missions.

Despite the abundance of American and German components and armament, the corvettes widely use nationally developed items. Among them are combat information and control systems GENESIS by Havelsan, successfully tested on the Gabya-type frigates, hydroacoustic stations developed by Turkey's Scientific and Technological Research Council with hydroacoustic system fairings by STM ONUK-BG Defense Systems made of nanoreinforced polymer fiber, high-precision electronic mapping integrated navigation systems ECPINS supplied by OSI Geospatial, and a number of other systems and units.

Originally eight Ada-type corvettes were planned to be transferred to the Navy, but only four ships joined the Navy. Another one, Ufuk, was built in a corvette hull, but as a training and reconnaissance ship.

Turkish corvettes have attracted interest from foreign customers. In August last year, Babur, the lead corvette among the four ordered by the Pakistani Navy, was launched at the Istanbul Naval Shipyard. Two will be built in Turkey and two will be built at Pakistan's Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works. They will differ in their equipment and armament from the «classic» Ada type corvettes. For example, the Pakistani ships are armed with six Harbah anti-ship missiles and 16 Albatross NG missiles made by the West European MBDA concern.

The Indonesian and Malaysian Navies are considering the Ada type corvettes, and on December 14, 2020, Kiev signed documents on the purchase of four corvettes of this type by Ukraine in Turkey. The lead ship, which under the contract should cost Ukraine 265 million euros ($318.11 million) excluding the cost of weapons, is under construction at Istanbul Naval Shipyard, and the other three were supposed to be constructed from Turkish components at the Nikolaev shipyard Okean. But in the current situation Russia is conducting a special military operation this is hardly possible. Okean shipyard, where the Ukrainian Armed Forces' armored vehicles were repaired and weapons supplied by the West to Ukraine were stored, was simply bomb-destroyed.

From corvettes to frigates and aircraft carriers

After the election of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in August 2014, the MILGEM program accelerated significantly. The leader of the Republic of Turkey generally pays a lot of attention to the development of the Navy and national naval shipbuilding. And not just declaratively, but in practice, including the promotion of projects of Turkish warships for export. He usually attends such events as the laying, launching and handing over of large warships to the Navy.

Shortly before Turkey completed the construction of the Ada series corvettes, Istanbul Naval Shipyard on July 3, 2017 hosted the laying of the Istanbul frigate the TF-100 lead type, or as it is also called MILGEM-G. Essentially, it is an enlarged version of the Ada-type corvette. It displaces around 3000 tons, is 113.2 meters long and 14.4 meters wide, with a 4.05 meter draft. The power plant is also combined under the CODAG arrangement. Maximum cruising speed is 29 knots, operating range 6,570 miles at 14 knots. 

The ship is to be equipped with modern detection, battlefield management, and electronic countermeasures systems, mainly domestically produced. It was reported that the Atmaca anti-ship missiles on the frigate would be doubled, i.e. up to 16 missiles. In addition, the frigate is supposed to carry a Turkish-made MDAS vertical multipurpose launcher that will primarily carry short-, medium- and long-range Hisar («Fortress») missiles developed domestically.

Istanbul was expected to enter service in the Turkish Navy by the end of 2020. But it was not launched until January 21, 2021. The delay is apparently due to the fact that the frigate must be equipped with at least 75% of systems with the «Made in Turkey» mark, and some of them are not fully ready. The situation became more complicated after the U.S. imposed sanctions against the Turkish Arms Procurement Authority over Ankara's purchase of the Russian S-400 Triumf air defense system. Now some of the components for the frigate, which previously were supposed to be purchased from the United States, have to be manufactured at Turkish enterprises. And this takes time.

In this regard, one cannot ignore Turkey's close ties in the field of military and technical cooperation with Ukraine. In exchange for supplying Kiev with ready-made weapons, such as Bayraktar TB2 UAVs, Ankara undoubtedly wished to acquire Ukrainian engine-building technologies. This applies not only to aircraft and missile engineering, but also to the shipbuilding industry. The gas-turbine units of the Nikolaev company Zorya-Mashproekt could become a replacement for the American General Electric LM2500 GTUs.

Apparently to speed up the construction of the other three Istanbul type frigates planned for construction, in January of this year a tender was announced among Turkish private shipbuilding companies. One of the main requirements is a higher assembly rate than at the state-owned Istanbul Naval Shipyard.

Despite the problems encountered during the implementation of the MILGEM program, the design of the TF 2000 project destroyer continues in Turkey. Today its specifications are as follows: displacement 8500 tons, length 166 m, width 21,5 m, draft 5,4 m, the crew will include 130-150 personnel thanks to introduction of automated equipment. The power plant is diesel-gas turbine under the CODOG arrangement which includes two gas turbine units and two diesels. The maximum speed is 28 knots.

Its armament is expected to include two MILDAS modules with 64 vertical-launch Hisar-U SAMs, yet unnamed anti-submarine missile and developing Gezgin long-range cruise missiles, 16 Atmaca SAMs, 127mm gun, small-caliber armament, 324mm anti-submarine torpedoes, S-70B Seahawk helicopter with hangar space and unmanned aerial vehicle. In architecture, the TF 2000 project destroyers, of which eight are to be built, resemble Spanish F110 frigates, of which Bonifaz was launched this year at the Navantia shipyard.

As is easy to see, the promising Turkish destroyer will be a formidable warship.

Turkish authorities are taking care of the construction of not only new large warships, but also small ones. According to Ismail Demir, head of the Turkish Defense Industry Authority, the Turkish company STM will soon start assembling FAC 55 high-speed attack ships of its own design at its shipyards. Reminiscent of the stealth-type Swedish corvettes Visby, they will have a displacement of 535 tons, length 62.67 m, width 9.84 m and reach a maximum speed of 55 knots through a gas turbine power plant and three water-jet propulsors. At a speed of 50 knots the ship is able to cover 750 miles and at 20 knots 1000 miles. Sea endurance is seven days. Crew consists of 34 personnel.

The FAC 55 is armed with two Harpoon or Atmaca quad-mounted launchers, which will be concealed in the aft superstructure in travel position, and a 76-mm Oto Melara Super Rapid artillery system. The rear section of the «attack ship» will carry a RAM short-range SAM launcher or a 35-mm Aselsan multiple-barreled anti-aircraft gun. In the central part of the superstructure there are two remote-controlled 12.7 mm Aselsan STAMP machine guns.

As Turkish officials emphasize, the FAC 55 ships are designed to protect the country's interests in coastal waters with their high maneuverability and powerful weapons. They will replace the Dogan missile boats in the Navy.

The rapid evolution of electronics and artificial intelligence has enabled Turkey to create not only globally recognized reconnaissance and strike UAVs, but also their maritime counterparts. Last spring, the SIDA unmanned surface vehicle (USV) based on the ULAQ unified platform was presented. Its displacement is 6 tons and payload is 2 tons. The armament of the USV consists of 70-mm CIRIT guided missiles and L-UMTAS laser guided long-range anti-tank missile system. Both types of ammunition are capable of engaging targets at ranges of up to 8 km.

In May this year, the Turkish shipbuilding company Dearsan conducted firing tests of the new SALVO unmanned attack boat in the waters of the Sea of Marmara. The CIRIT laser guided missile successfully hit a moving target. This was followed by the firing of a 12.7 mm Aselsan remote-controlled machine gun. The target was successfully hit as well.

The SALVO USV is 14.79 m long, 3.83 m wide, and has a draft of 0.75 m. Depending on the type of diesel engine, the unmanned boat can reach a speed of 45 to 60 knots. Depending on the mission, the platform is armed with surface-to-air and surface-to-surface guided missiles, as well as a 12.7 mm stabilized machine gun system. The USV can be used for reconnaissance and patrol missions. The SALVO can be easily transported by vehicle to the shore and then controlled from a mobile command post. The USV can also be deployed on landing ships, frigates, corvettes and minesweepers as additional means of defense.

Turkey pays special attention to the construction of assault landing ship (ALSs) and boats. The most numerous of them are ALSs of the 140 (23 units) and 150 (8 units) series. The latter have displacement of 1,150 tons, length of almost 80 m and reach 18-knot speed. Their open holds accommodate tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery and personnel. The range at 10 knots 1600 miles. That is to say, these relatively small landing ships are ideal for the rapid delivery of the first wave of marines to the islands in the eastern Aegean, which was demonstrated in the Efes-2022 exercise.

In addition to relatively small landing ships, the Turkish Navy has the world's largest Bayraktar class large landing craft, which was built at Anadolu Shipyard in 2014-2018. Its total displacement is 7,254 tons, its length is 138.75 m, width is 19.6 m, and its draft in the bow is less than two meters, which allows for the landing of equipment from the board on beaches. Four diesel engines enable a maximum 18-knot speed. The transported amphibious cargo is 486 troops. The large landing craft has fore and aft ramps for loading amphibious troops and vehicles, including tanks. There are docking chambers for four floating LCVP armored personnel carriers that deliver the troops when the large landing craft is far from the coast. Behind the superstructure is an area to accommodate a heavy helicopter. Accommodation for the crew of 176 people and marines is quite comfortable. Hospital facilities are provided for the wounded. The Bayraktar type large landing craft can also serve as mine layer. Two more ships of this type are planned for the Turkish Navy.

The largest ship ever in the Turkish Navy will be Anadolu (Turkish for the Anatolian Peninsula) amphibious assault ship, built at Sedef Shipbuilding and currently undergoing field trials. It is based on the very successful Juan Carlos I amphibious assault ship designed by Spanish company Navantia, which has already been used to build one ship for the Spanish Navy and two for the Australian Navy. With a total displacement of 27000 tons, 232 m long and 32 m wide, it is not only able to carry 29 main battle tanks and several hundreds of marines, as well as their landing craft (helicopters and amphibious assault boats, including hovercraft) to a range of 9000 miles, but also serve as a light aircraft carrier. For this purpose it was planned to buy in the USA the newest supersonic STOVL aircraft F-35B Lightning II. As a standard, Anadolu was to carry 10 F-35B fighters and 12 helicopters.

But in revenge for Ankara's purchase of a regimental set of S-400 SAMs from Russia, Washington refused to supply Turkey with these aircrafts. Turkey had to resort to other solutions. Instead of combat aircraft, amphibious assault ships will carry attack UAVs, the development of which is undoubtedly a Turkish achievement. The Baykar Makina company has developed the supersonic Bayraktar Kizilelma UAV. It has a takeoff weight of 6,000 kg, a payload of over 1,500 kg and a flight altitude of 12,000 m. The UAV was launched in production this year and tests will begin next year. It is not yet known when this UAV will be able to take off from the amphibious assault ship and land on its deck.

Submarine Emphasis

At the turn of the 2010s, Turkey began to lag behind Greece in modern submarines. In addition to seven 209/1100 and 209/1200 class submarines, one of which, Okeanos, underwent deep modernization and was equipped with an air-independent power plant that allowed it to remain submerged for long time, four submarines powered with HDW developed air-independent propulsion power plant of type 214 were constructed for the Hellenic Navy.

Ankara also decided to acquire such submarines. But it was not very successful. The first contract was signed in 2009. But Turkey decided to introduce to the submarines a large number of electronic systems of national production, which had to be «tailored» to the submarines, which were designated as 214TN (Project 214 of the Turkish Navy). Germany had to face numerous claims from Athens, demanding that the deal be terminated. The final contract was signed in 2016 with a delivery date of the lead submarine in 2020. All six conventional submarines are under construction at the Golcuk shipyard, the same shipyard where the 209 type diesel-electric submarines were assembled

The project 214TN Piri Reis lead submarine was floated off in March 2021. It is still under construction. The submarine, named after the famous navigator, cartographer and admiral of the Ottoman Empire Piri Reis (1465-1553), is 1860 t of underwater displacement, 65m in length and 6.3m in width. It is powered by a Siemens anaerobic, i.e. air-independent 240 kW propulsion system, two MTU 16V-396 diesel engines with a combined output of 3.96 MW, and a Siemens Permasyn electric motor with 2.85 MW output. Maximum submarine speed is 20 knots. The operating range is 12,000 miles, and the speed when using air-independent propulsion power plant is 2-6 knots, but the conventional submarine is able not to surface for up to three weeks to recharge the accumulator batteries. Operating depth is 250 m, and the limit is 400 m. Armament includes eight bow-mounted 533-mm torpedo tubes. In addition to U.S. and German-made heavy torpedoes Mk48 Mod 6AT and DM2A4, the ordnance payload includes four Sub Harpoon anti-ship missiles. In the future it is planned to replace them with domestic torpedoes Akya and Atmaca anti-ship missiles. The crew is forty personnel.

Due to the delay in the 214TN program, the German concern ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, which merged with HDW, paid compensation to Turkey. However, it was purely symbolic in the amount of about 2 million euros. The designation of the project was changed. Now it is called 214TR, i.e. the project 214 of the Turkish Republic.

Hizir Reis, the second type 214TR submarine, was floated off on May 23 of this year. It was named after Hayreddin Barbarossa (1475-1546), a pirate and naval commander who became ruler of Algeria and later admiral of the Ottoman Empire. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attended the event. In a speech, he said that "Turkey will start building MILDEN («National Submarine») type submarines in 2025 at Golcuk Shipyard. We are planning to introduce the first such submarine into service in five to six years after construction begins.

At the end of August 2022, the Golcuk shipyard hosted the first official presentation of the advanced MILDEN submarine. Judging by the photos of the presented model, it will not be much different from the 214TR conventional submarine. However, its displacement is increased up to 2,700 tons and the length is more than 80 m. The submarine will be equipped with an air-independent power plant.

Now Turkey has commenced construction of the STM500 small diesel-electric submarine designed by Savunma Teknolojileri Muhendislik (STM), the same company that designed the FAC 55 fast attack craft. «We are embarking on the process of building the STM500 submarine entirely designed by Turkish engineers», Ismail Demir, head of Turkey's Defense Industry Agency, noted on his Twitter account in this regard. He called the event historic, stressing that the submarine was designed for reconnaissance, surveillance, special forces and tactical underwater missions in both the shallow and open seas. According to the head of the Turkish Defense Industry, the submarine will be equipped with state-of-the-art control and weaponry systems.

The submerged displacement of STM500 will be 540 tons, its length 42 m, width 8,5 m, cruising underwater speed 5 knots, and maximum surface speed 18 knots. The submarine with a crew of 18 will be able to submerge up to 250 meters; its operating range is 3500 miles, sea endurance 30 days. The STM500 is to be equipped with an up-to-date hydroacoustic system, optronic periscope, electronic warfare antenna and automated combat control system. It will be armed with eight heavy 533 mm torpedoes and four anti-ship missiles. The boat will accommodate six special forces troops.

Project STM500 submarines are best suited for operations in the Black Sea and especially the Aegean Sea. They are also export-oriented. Their sales market can be very significant. In the future, boats of this type will be equipped with anaerobic plants, which will make it possible to considerably increase the submarine range.

It is worth noting that the construction of the new generation submarines is linked to the creation of support vessels for their operations. When Piri Reis was just getting ready to be laid, submarine rescue vessel Alemdar with a displacement of 4,200 tons was floated off at the Istanbul Naval Shipyard. The ship is innovative and equipped with the most advanced hardware. It carries remotely operated submersible vessels, rigid deep-sea diving suits with atmospheric pressure, winches and cranes with grippers and other means for conducting underwater operations. Several lateral thrusting propellers and a retractable propeller column enable precise positioning even in wave disturbance, which is critical in rescue operations. The vessel can provide life support to the crew of a submarine in distress at depths of up to 600m. In the bow and on the superstructure there are helicopter platforms for rapid evacuation of survivors.

Isın and Akın rescue ships, each having displacement of 2,400 tons, were also upgraded and retrofitted with modern equipment. Now they will also be able to take part in rescuing submariners in difficult conditions.

Conflict is possible at any time

The Turkish Navy operates patrol and minesweeping vessels that meet modern requirements. The country has a well-developed Coast Guard fleet with a large number of fast craft, which in wartime are able to act as patrol, reconnaissance, counter-sabotage and also serve as a means to deliver combat divers to the coast and bases of the enemy. The Coast Guard has four Guven-type patrol boats with a total displacement of 1,700 tons, 22-knot speed, armed with 40mm automatic guns and carrying helicopters in their hangars, and capable of performing the functions of corvettes. Relying on the strength of its Navy and Coast Guard, Ankara feels fairly confident in building its relations with its neighbors. But even in this respect not everything is simple.

The attention of the world' s media is now focused on the events in Ukraine and around Taiwan. That is why other «warm-up points» are often omitted. These include the eastern part of the Aegean Sea. Meanwhile, conflict can break out there at any moment. «Isn't placing weapons in front of our noses a threat to our country? Doesn't that entitle us to self-defense?» Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told the Greek English-language media Keep Talking in early August. He demanded the immediate demilitarization of islands in the eastern Aegean Sea. Otherwise he threatened to retaliate vigorously.

Turkey, compared to Greece, has considerable Armed Forces, including naval forces, and the seizure of islands in the eastern Mediterranean Sea is not a big problem for Ankara. But what next?

Now an informal anti-Turkish coalition has formed in the eastern Mediterranean consisting of Greece, Cyprus, Egypt and Israel. We have already mentioned Greece. From a military point of view, Cyprus cannot pose any threat to Ankara. But Egypt, with the support of Italy, France and the United States, is constantly building up its Army, Navy and Air Force. Cairo considers Libya a domain of its influence and is very unhappy about Turkish entry there.

For urgent reinforcement of the Egyptian Navy, Italy handed over to Cairo two state-of-the-art FREMM type frigates. France sold two amphibious assault helicopter ship and several corvettes, and the United States sold missile boats. Four diesel-electric submarines were built in Germany for the Egyptian Navy, and missile frigates are now under construction.

Israel, which is developing offshore oil and gas fields in waters claimed by Turkey, has a relatively small but very powerful Armed Forces. It has six conventional submarines carrying Popeye Turbo cruise missiles with nuclear warheads.

So the informal coalition has something to challenge Turkey. And Ankara takes this into account, so far limiting itself to harsh words to potential adversaries.

16+
4 office, XXIVd premise , 5 floor, 2 Novodmitrovskaya Str., 2 bldg., Moscow, Russia 127015.
Savyolovsky Business Center, Davis Tower
Ph. +7 (495) 767-81-36
Ph./Fax: +7 (495) 783-68-27
E-mail: info@caspian.institute
Legal footer
All the rights for the materials published on this website reside with the Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies. Reprint of materials and their use in any form including in digital media is permissible strictly subject to exclusive reference to CISS.
2022, Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies
top
Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies
Publications

The ideology and actual practice of Turkey's naval development

photo:: author.today
2 2022

In the Sea of Aegean, the waters adjacent to Izmir, Turkey held this year International Exercise Efes-2022. Some 11,000 troops took part, including around 1,100 personnel from 37 countries. Apparently, most of those involved in the maneuvers were Turkish military contingent.

Erdoan's Triumph

Seaborne assault landing at the Doğanbey Firing Exercise Zone near Izmir was the culmination of the exercise. Dozens of amphibious boats and ships delivered special task units and marines ashore. USS Arlington (LPD-24) amphibious transport dock, which was positioned by the maneuver organizers in the center was the centerpiece of the operation. Numerous Turkish landing ships and boats, from which troops were disembarking, «flowed» along Arlington in two parallel columns. According to Command, 6th Fleet, to which Arlington is assigned, EFES-2022 Exercise intended «to improve force readiness, promote stability and prosperity in the region, and enhance interoperability between the United States, Turkey and other allied nations». But in fact, the maneuvers were to practice the capture of the Greek islands in the Sea of Aegean off the Anatolian coast of Turkey.

So how did it come that the United States sent its ship to an exercise where an invasion to the Greek islands was simulated? After all, Washington usually takes the side of Athens in the long-running Greek-Turkish dispute. Could it be that there was something on the banks of the Potomac that wasn't known or understood? No, they knew and they understood everything.

The matter is that NATO summit in Madrid was upcoming, where the membership of Sweden and Finland in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was to be considered, and Ankara agreed to give its consent only if a number of conditions were fulfilled. Those did not include obligatory participation in Efes-2022 exercises, but so as not to irritate the wayward partner, United States, followed by France and Italy accepted the invitation of Turkey. Meanwhile, Athens literally begged its NATO partners not to participate in these maneuvers.

The diplomatic skills of the President of the Republic of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, took the upper hand. «The EFES-2022 exercises have demonstrated to everyone what our nation is capable of», he said at the closure of the maneuvers. Greeces attempts to disrupt Turkeys Efes 2022 exercises have failed». And he added: «Almost none of the participants in the Efes-2022 exercises heeded the call of Greece to refuse to participate in them, including the United States». Therefore, the maneuvers were a success and even a triumph for Erdogan personally.

The Islands of Enmity

35 million years ago, when there were no Greeks or the Turks, the territory of the modern Sea of Aegean, which in Turkey is called the Adalar Denizi, was a land area called the Aegeid. 20,000 years ago, as a result of rising sea levels due to melting ice, as well as a tectonic disaster, the Aegeid collapsed and submerged. Only more than 2,400 islands remain on the surface the remnants of the former continent, most of which now belong to Greece. Many of these islands extend with a narrow chain along the coast of Asia Minor.

Some are visible with the naked eye from Turkish beaches. For example, the 12-square-kilometer island of Meis, over which the Hellenic flag is waving, is only two miles from the Turkish coast and more than 500 miles from mainland Greece. But Athens claims it includes 40,000 square kilometers of continental shelf and the corresponding exclusive economic zone.

The Greek-Turkish conflict traces back centuries. It is true that much of Asia Minor was once, in modern parlance, under the control of the Greeks. It suffices to recall Troy, the capture of which triggered the expansion of the Danites into the peninsula. But the invasion of the Ottomans ruined Greek Byzantium. After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, all of Asia Minor came under Turkish rule. Virtually all of the islands in the Aegean Sea were subordinated to Istanbul in one way or another.

Everything changed in 1918, when the Ottoman Empire fell. The Republic of Turkey received all of Anatolia, and Greece received the islands of the Aegean Sea.

According to the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, as well as the 1947 Paris Treaty, Greece is not allowed to station its Armed Forces on Lemnos, Samothrace and the islands in the eastern Aegean Sea. Only police stations are allowed there. However, under various excuses, e.g. to regulate the flow of refugees and to fight terrorists, Athens is still deploying infantry units there and is building airfields and naval bases. Naturally, this causes dissatisfaction and protests from Ankara.

Speaking of which, the current tide of the Greek-Turkish crisis was originally provoked by Athens when Greece staged a coup in Nicosia on July 15, 1974 to annex Cyprus to Greece. In response, Ankara landed its troops in the north of the predominantly Turkish-inhabited island and proclaimed the Republic of Northern Cyprus there.

Now the boundary of the territorial waters of the Greek islands by Anatolia is 6 miles. When the territorial waters of two states overlap, then median lines are agreed upon. Now Athens claims that, in accordance with the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, it will establish a 12-mile width of territorial waters around all its islands off the coast of Anatolia. In such a case, Greece's exclusive economic zone would extend over most of the waters and seabed of the Aegean Sea.

It goes without saying that Ankara would disagree with such an interpretation. The Turkish government considers Greece's claims groundless. They argue that since Turkey is not a signatory to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, it is not obliged to comply with its provisions. Moreover, Ankara believes that the Greek islands off the coast of Anatolia are within Turkey's exclusive economic zones. They are, as they put it, guests, not hosts.

This interpretation laid the foundation for the concept known as the «Blue Homeland» (Mavi vatan), which is gaining support not only among the political elite of the Republic of Turkey, but also among the wider general public.

Mavi vatan Turkey's naval dominance

The goal of the «Blue Homeland» concept is the dominance of Turkey in the Mediterranean Sea, the return of the commercial and maritime power that the Ottomans once enjoyed.

Modern Turkish politicians and media often attribute the ideology of the «Blue Homeland» to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the first president of the Republic of Turkey, who is considered to be the «father of the nation». «We are trapped on land», he said. So are the Russians. By blocking the straits, we have kept the Russians in the Black Sea and doomed Russia to collapse. Because we broke their ties with their allies. But we are also doomed to collapse for the same reason. Although we are near the shores of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, we are not able to move to any ocean. With ground forces without naval forces, we will never be able to defend our peninsula against naval forces that can deliver ground forces here». These words, of course, contain nothing about the «Blue Homeland», but they certainly do contain the right idea about the need to develop not only ground forces, but also the Navy.

Retired Rear Admiral Cem Gürdeniz is considered to be the main ideologist of Mavi vatan. Many Turkish media publish his articles, and TV and radio stations willingly give him airtime.

The history of this man is quite remarkable. He served on destroyers and frigates in the Turkish Navy. He then commanded Gaziantep frigate the former USS Clifton Sprague, Oliver Hazard Perry class and the 3rd Destroyer Division. Graduated from the Turkish Naval College and the Turkish Armed Forces College. He obtained his master's degree at the Naval Postgraduate School of the United States Navy. His work in Personality and Education Analysis has received an excellent grade. He was awarded a master's degree from the Free University of Brussels in International Politics. Cem Gürdeniz is fluent in English and French. That is to say, we can see a military intellectual who grew up based on Western values and traditions.

His military career also progressed successfully. He was promoted to Rear Admiral First Class in 2004 and to Full Rear Admiral in 2008. Cem Gürdeniz commanded the Landing and Mine Warfare Forces, the Strategic Planning and Political Liaison Departments of the Naval Staff.

But in 2011, he was discharged for his alleged involvement in the so-called «Operation Sledgehammer», which purported to organize a military coup in the country. Gürdeniz was arrested along with 365 other senior officers. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison. However, after the Constitutional Court found the circumstances of Operation Sledgehammer to be trumped up, the Rear Admiral was fully acquitted on June 9, 2015.

For the second time, Cem Gürdeniz was arrested in April 2021 as one of the main organizers of an open letter of 104 retired Turkish admirals regarding the preservation of the Montreux Convention regime in connection with the plans to build the Istanbul Channel. The authors called for an end to any discussion about the possibility of the country withdrawing from this international agreement. The retired «old whales» also emphasized the need to preserve the current Turkish Constitution amid President Erdogan's initiative to draft a new Basic Law of the country. But an Ankara court released all ten «instigators» of the open letter, including Gürdeniz.

Not a strategy, but a «supra-political space»

The Mavi vatan concept, however popular, is not a strategy, but rather a national idea, without a clearly defined framework. The adherents of the Blue Homeland differ in their assessment of its scope. For example, some believe that it only extends to the Aegean Sea, while others mention the entire Mediterranean Sea and its adjacent waters. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, an undisputed supporter and leader of neo-Ottomanism, often refers to the tenets of Mavi vatan, but does not usually refer to the Blue Homeland.

Cem Gürdeniz himself claims that the Blue Homeland is a «supra-political space» with the sole purpose of caring for the supreme interests of the Republic of Turkey.

According to Gürdeniz, «Turkey today is under siege, it is surrounded not only by the West, but also by Arab countries that act in cooperation with it. But the fact that Russia and Iran are in the East is a deterrent factor for Turkey's adversaries. If they were not there, the imperialist forces would have torn the country to pieces long ago, just as they did during the First World War».

The retired Rear Admiral constantly puts forward the thesis, if not of an alliance, then at least of a strong partnership between Ankara and Moscow, Tehran and Beijing. Without such a partnership, he believes, the implementation of the goals of the Blue Homeland is unthinkable. «The U.S. authorities are engaged in instigating, provoking Turkey to take steps against the Russian Federation, and it is impossible to understand the logic of the Turkish authorities to 'buy' this», he said in connection with the U.S.-Turkish naval exercises in the Black Sea early last year.

«Today, if Ataturk was alive, he would definitely be called a pro-Russian Eurasian», notes the main Mavi vatan ideologist. Because three days after Ataturk founded the Majlis on April 23, 1920, the first decision of parliament was an agreement for an alliance with Russia».

Cem Gürdeniz's position on Kiev's membership in the North Atlantic Alliance is quite illustrative: «If Ukraine becomes a NATO member, almost the entire Black Sea will be controlled by member countries of the Alliance, and all geopolitical interests of Turkey will be endangered».

«I am not saying that a multipolar world system is being created, it has already been created», emphasizes Gürdeniz. Russia is no longer afraid to use force in drawing its geopolitical red lines. All this leads to the fact that the Atlantic system, which is an alliance of trading states, is falling into disrepair in the face of the Asia-Pacific system, which is a system of security states.

A different interpretation

Naturally, such views do not always satisfy official Ankara. That is why they prefer to keep the Mavi vatan ideologist at a distance. They even found a more acceptable replacement, also in the person of Rear Admiral Cihad Yaycı, Chief of Staff of the Turkish Navy. At first he was not into theories, but took a strictly pragmatic position regarding the «Blue Homeland» in the Aegean and Black Seas, which completely met Erdogan's expectations.

The situation in the Aegean Sea was once again exacerbated by the discovery of rich oil and gas fields in the continental shelf of this area. «Greece and its longtime partner, the Greek Cypriot-educated government of South Cyprus, tried to force the so-called Seville Map on Turkey», Cihad Yaycı said. The Seville Map was prepared by the University of Seville in the early 2000s with the support of the European Union. Its purpose is to show the maritime areas under the jurisdiction of European Union member states, including the so-called maritime area of Southern Cyprus and Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean. Judging by the Seville Map, Greece and South Cyprus have the intention of locking Turkey, the country with the longest coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean of 2,280 km, into the Gulf of Antalya. Their main goal is to erode, in violation of all principles of international and maritime law, the rights of other coastal states, including the rights of Turkey, to the maritime space under its jurisdiction.

At the same time, Cihad Yaycı is a fierce supporter of the North Atlantic Alliance, because «Turkey not only has the second largest army in NATO, but also has contributed greatly to the implementation of the main goals of the Alliance since joining it in 1952». At the same time, «Russia benefits from having a friend like Turkey as a member of NATO» because «Turkey is a stabilizing element and contributes to the balance of power in the region».

And this is how he views the implementation of the Mavi vatan concept: «Turkey seeks to enhance the capabilities of its naval forces to be present in operationally important areas of the world's oceans. Turkey is taking specific steps to achieve this goal. A number of shipbuilding programs have been initiated, providing for the design and construction of several types of warships by the Turkish shipbuilding industry. And it does not stop there, huge efforts are being made to develop the national scientific and technical base. The possession of a long-range ocean-going fleet will be the crown of this long process that Turkey is eagerly making every effort to realize».

This position is much closer to Erdoan, however, in May 2020 the president dismissed the chief of the Naval Staff. The reason for this is not known. Yaycı himself believes he was the victim of a conspiracy. Some sources claim that his influence on the head of state displeased Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar. The latter is alleged to have arranged for the dismissal of Rear Admiral, who is now heading the Center for Maritime and Global Strategy at Bahceehir University and lectures at Ankara University.

Adopting foreign experience

Long before the proclamation of the Mavi vatan concept, the Turkish navy headed for the shores of the «Blue Motherland», knowing nothing of its appearance in the future. Immediately after the Republic of Turkey joined the North Atlantic Alliance, the U.S. literally flooded the country with second hand World War II ships. Among them were 23 quite sturdy destroyers of Gleaves, Fletcher, Gearing and Allen M. Sumner types, as well as 23 diesel-electric submarines of Balao, Tench and Tang types. Some of them were modernized and were up to the requirements of the 50's and early 70's maritime warfare. All this armada was oriented to counter the Soviet fleet.

But as the Soviet Navy was reinforced with the newest ships, submarines, and boats with powerful missile weapons, the U.S. secondhand Navy was turning into floating scrap. In addition, the obsolete American-built large ships and submarines were not up to the conditions of armed combat in the Aegean Sea, where conflict situations were already emerging. Ankara decided to build combat vessels in national shipyards, which was perceived without enthusiasm in Washington and many other NATO capitals.

The Berk frigate, built at the Golcuk Naval Shipyard in Istanbul and commissioned on July 12, 1972, was the first large warship after the establishment of the Republic of Turkey. This project was based on the American Claud Jones frigate. It had a total displacement of 1,950 tons, length 95.2 m, width 12.1 m, draft 5.7 m. Four Fiat diesel engines could propel the ship at 25 knots, the cruising range reached 10,000 miles at 9 knots. Armament included two twin 76-mm automatic guns, two three-tube 324-mm anti-submarine torpedo tubes and two Hedgehog anti-submarine depth-charge mortars. It had a helipad in the aft area to accommodate a helicopter, but without a hangar.

The Berk frigate had a chance to take part in combat operations in 1974. It supported an amphibious landing in Cyprus with artillery fire.

Another frigate Peyk was built under this project, on which the series ended. And not only because the ships were not very successful, since the original was not perfect (the U.S. had built only four Claud Jones frigates for its Navy, which they got rid of by transferring them in 1973-1974 for the Indonesian Navy). As can be seen from the performance of the Berk frigates, they were not good enough to oppose ships of the Soviet Navy, but were best suited for patrol and anti-submarine service in the Aegean Sea, which greatly dissatisfied the United States.

Ankara's attempts to build larger, more modern warships based on military and technical cooperation with the United States were unsuccessful. Washington hard-sold eight Knox type frigates to Turkey in the early 1990s, which by then were already being withdrawn from the U.S. Navy.

Meanwhile, Turkey was establishing naval cooperation with Germany. It turned out to be more fruitful. First, eight 160-ton Kartal-type missile boats were ordered to Lurssen on the basis of previously built Zobel torpedo boats. Each of these missile boats was armed with four Norwegian-made Penguin anti-ship missiles with a range of up to 35 km and 120-kg warheads, two 533-mm torpedo launchers and two 40-mm automatic guns. Again it is clear from the performance characteristics of this type of boats that they were not very suitable for opposing Soviet naval ships, but they were almost perfectly suited for operations in the coastal waters of the Aegean Sea.

Since the Greek Navy's missile boats started to be equipped with more powerful Exocet anti-ship missile with 165-kilogram warheads and a range of 40-kilometers, the Turkish Navy also decided to «upgrade the caliber» of its missile boats. The Israeli Reshef missile boats were used as a prototype. Lurssen designed Dogan missile boat with a total displacement of 434 tons and speed of 38 knots. They are armed with two quad-mounted launchers of the American Harpoon anti-ship missile (in peacetime boats of this type are usually armed with only two missiles), a 76-mm OTO Melara automatic gun, a 35-mm automatic gun and two 7.62-mm machine guns. Only one boat of this type was built in Germany; the other nine, including two missile boats of the improved Yıldız type, were built at the Taskizak shipyard in Istanbul.

The basic combat units of the boat fleet of the Republic of Turkey today are nine missile boats of Kilic type with a total displacement of 550 tons and speed of 40 knots. They were designed by Lurssen as well and are actually small missile boats, if Russian classification is applied. In Germany, where the lead ship was built, they are referred to as corvettes. Unlike Dogan type boats, they are equipped with more advanced means of detection, target designation and combat control, although the armament of Kilic type boats is similar to its predecessors: two quad-mounted Harpoon anti-surface ship missile, 76-mm OTO Melara gun, 40-mm OTO Melara automatic gun and two 7.62-mm machine guns.

The Kilic and Dogan type missile boats form the backbone of the Turkish Navy in the Aegean Sea island area. They serve as patrol ships, gunboats and strike units.

In 1987-1989 the Turkish navy got four Yavuz type frigates of the German MEKO 200TN project. The first two were built in Germany and the other two in Turkish shipyards.

The Yavuz type frigates have a gross displacement of 2,919 tons, 115.5 m length, 14.2 m width, 4.1 m draft, max speed of 27 knots, and range of 4,100 miles at 18 knots. Their armament includes two Harpoon quad-mounted anti-ship missile launchers, Sea Sparrow Air Defense Missile System, 127 mm Mk 45 Mod 1 gun, three Sea Zenith 25 mm quad-mounted guns, two three-tube 324 mm antisubmarine torpedo launchers, AB 212ASW hangar based helicopter. The frigates are equipped with a variety of air, surface and underwater target detection and battlefield management systems. They are equipped with jamming launchers and electronic countermeasures devices. These ships with crews of 180 men were, for their time, highly advanced combat units and could operate both off their coasts and in the far offshore zone.

The Yavuz type frigates were followed by four MEKO 200TN II-A/B Barbaros type frigates. Their total displacement increased to 3,350 tons, their length, width and speed also increased to 32 knots. Two ships, Salihreis and Kemalreis, were equipped with vertical Mk 41 launchers for 32 ESSM short- and medium-range SAMs. Again, two ships were built in Germany and two in Turkey.

Obviously, Ankara wanted to proceed by increasing the extent of localization in the country's naval shipbuilding industry. But Washington intervened and handed the Turkish Navy eight decommissioned frigates of the Oliver Hazard Perry type (Turkey refers to them as the Gabya type). They are designed for operations in the far seas and oceans. These ships are morally and physically obsolete. But in order to save money Turkish authorities accepted them. However, the Turkish seriously upgraded the mentioned ships. The latest GENESIS (Gemi Entegre Savas Idare Sistemi) combat integrated control and information systems produced in Turkey by Havelsan were installed on them, and four of the ships were equipped with vertical Mk 41 launchers carrying eight ESSM SAMs.

Gabya-type frigates had an active role during the Libyan conflict in the operation to support the armed formations of Tripoli in 2020-2021. They escorted convoys with weapons and equipment and carried out air defense of coastal areas.

Not only surface, but also submarine shipbuilding was developing fruitfully with the West Germany. In 1972, the Howaldtswerke (HDW) shipyard in Kiel started building 209/1200 diesel-electric submarines for the Turkish Navy. The underwater displacement of these submarines with crews of 33 personnel, the lead of which was named Atilay, 1185 tons, the maximum underwater speed 22 knots, the maximum diving depth 500 m, operational range 7800 miles. Armament includes eight bow-mounted 533 mm torpedo tubes that can fire not only torpedoes but also Sub Harpoon anti-ship missile. The total ordnance is 14 missiles. Three boats of this type were built by HDW in Kiel and another three from German components at the Turkish Golcuk Naval Shipyard on the coast of the Sea of Marmara.

Eight more advanced submarines of the German Project 209/1400 Preveze type with a submerged displacement of 1,390 tons were subsequently assembled at the same shipyard. The range was increased to 11,000 miles at eight knots. Electronic equipment was upgraded.

Fourteen Atilay and Preveze type diesel-electric submarines now make up the submarine force of the Republic of Turkey. They can operate equally well in the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea, the deep sea and coastal areas.

The National Ship

Having accumulated experience in operating foreign-built warships and having mastered the technology of their assembly by foreign designs, the Turkish authorities began to emphasize the development of national warship construction. Especially after the United States and other NATO countries started to periodically impose various kinds of sanctions against Ankara in the field of military and technical cooperation. This was also stimulated not only by the rapid development of the shipbuilding industry in the country, but also by the general progress of national defense industry enterprises.

In 2004, the Istanbul Naval Shipyard established the MILGEM (short for Milli Gemi «National Ship») design bureau to design corvette, frigate and destroyer class ships, coordinate work with related military-industrial enterprises and oversee the construction of combat units. And the emphasis was made on the predominant use of domestic resources, components and weapons. On May 23, 2007, a contract was signed to build the first two Ada type corvettes and construction of the lead ship of the series, Heybeliada, began even earlier July 26, 2005.

The Ada («island» in Turkish) type corvettes with a gross displacement of approximately 2,400 tons, 99.5 m length, 14.4 m width and 3.9 m draft are similar in design to the Russian Project 20380 stealth corvettes. The ships are equipped with a combined diesel-gas turbine power plant (one General Electric LM2500 gas turbine and two MTU 16V595TE90 diesels) in a CODAG arrangement with a total power output of 31.64 MW (42430 hp), enabling a maximum 30-knot speed. There are also four auxiliary 789-hp diesel generators for intra-ship needs. Sailing range is 3500 miles at 15 knots. Sea endurance 21 days. Crew is 93 personnel (including aircraft group), but can be increased up to 106 personnel in wartime.

The Ada type corvettes built for the Turkish Navy are armed with two quad-mounted launchers for American Harpoon anti-ship missiles, which are placed behind shields in the central part of the superstructure between the integrated foremast and the smoke funnel. They will now be replaced by the Turkish-made Atmaca (Hawk) anti-ship missiles with a maximum range of 280-360 km (effective range over 200 km). The Atmaca missiles are capable of striking targets not only at sea but also on shore. Air defense/antimissile defenses are represented by a 21-round launcher of the American RAM Block I short-range air defense system, designed primarily to destroy enemy air assault weapons, including low-flying ones, at ranges of up to 10 km with the RIM-116 supersonic missile. The installation is located on the roof of the helicopter hangar.

The RAM can be complemented by the Italian Oto Melara Super Rapid 76mm automatic gun, which is produced under license in Turkey. Its rate of fire is 120 rounds per minute. Firing range is 16 km (effective range is 8 km, and against air targets 4 km). The corvettes are also armed with two 12.7 mm Aselsan STAMP machine guns remotely controlled by laser and opto-electronic guidance systems.

To fight submarines two American Mk 324-mm three-tube torpedo launchers are used, designed to fire Mk 46 torpedoes, certainly also American-made. For antisubmarine warfare purposes the American SH-60 Seahawk helicopter is also used; a hangar and an aft takeoff and landing area are provided. The ships are equipped with two speedboats of the rigid-inflatable type designed with the purpose to bring reconnaissance and sabotage groups ashore and take them away, to inspect suspicious ships and to conduct rescue missions.

Despite the abundance of American and German components and armament, the corvettes widely use nationally developed items. Among them are combat information and control systems GENESIS by Havelsan, successfully tested on the Gabya-type frigates, hydroacoustic stations developed by Turkey's Scientific and Technological Research Council with hydroacoustic system fairings by STM ONUK-BG Defense Systems made of nanoreinforced polymer fiber, high-precision electronic mapping integrated navigation systems ECPINS supplied by OSI Geospatial, and a number of other systems and units.

Originally eight Ada-type corvettes were planned to be transferred to the Navy, but only four ships joined the Navy. Another one, Ufuk, was built in a corvette hull, but as a training and reconnaissance ship.

Turkish corvettes have attracted interest from foreign customers. In August last year, Babur, the lead corvette among the four ordered by the Pakistani Navy, was launched at the Istanbul Naval Shipyard. Two will be built in Turkey and two will be built at Pakistan's Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works. They will differ in their equipment and armament from the «classic» Ada type corvettes. For example, the Pakistani ships are armed with six Harbah anti-ship missiles and 16 Albatross NG missiles made by the West European MBDA concern.

The Indonesian and Malaysian Navies are considering the Ada type corvettes, and on December 14, 2020, Kiev signed documents on the purchase of four corvettes of this type by Ukraine in Turkey. The lead ship, which under the contract should cost Ukraine 265 million euros ($318.11 million) excluding the cost of weapons, is under construction at Istanbul Naval Shipyard, and the other three were supposed to be constructed from Turkish components at the Nikolaev shipyard Okean. But in the current situation Russia is conducting a special military operation this is hardly possible. Okean shipyard, where the Ukrainian Armed Forces' armored vehicles were repaired and weapons supplied by the West to Ukraine were stored, was simply bomb-destroyed.

From corvettes to frigates and aircraft carriers

After the election of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in August 2014, the MILGEM program accelerated significantly. The leader of the Republic of Turkey generally pays a lot of attention to the development of the Navy and national naval shipbuilding. And not just declaratively, but in practice, including the promotion of projects of Turkish warships for export. He usually attends such events as the laying, launching and handing over of large warships to the Navy.

Shortly before Turkey completed the construction of the Ada series corvettes, Istanbul Naval Shipyard on July 3, 2017 hosted the laying of the Istanbul frigate the TF-100 lead type, or as it is also called MILGEM-G. Essentially, it is an enlarged version of the Ada-type corvette. It displaces around 3000 tons, is 113.2 meters long and 14.4 meters wide, with a 4.05 meter draft. The power plant is also combined under the CODAG arrangement. Maximum cruising speed is 29 knots, operating range 6,570 miles at 14 knots. 

The ship is to be equipped with modern detection, battlefield management, and electronic countermeasures systems, mainly domestically produced. It was reported that the Atmaca anti-ship missiles on the frigate would be doubled, i.e. up to 16 missiles. In addition, the frigate is supposed to carry a Turkish-made MDAS vertical multipurpose launcher that will primarily carry short-, medium- and long-range Hisar («Fortress») missiles developed domestically.

Istanbul was expected to enter service in the Turkish Navy by the end of 2020. But it was not launched until January 21, 2021. The delay is apparently due to the fact that the frigate must be equipped with at least 75% of systems with the «Made in Turkey» mark, and some of them are not fully ready. The situation became more complicated after the U.S. imposed sanctions against the Turkish Arms Procurement Authority over Ankara's purchase of the Russian S-400 Triumf air defense system. Now some of the components for the frigate, which previously were supposed to be purchased from the United States, have to be manufactured at Turkish enterprises. And this takes time.

In this regard, one cannot ignore Turkey's close ties in the field of military and technical cooperation with Ukraine. In exchange for supplying Kiev with ready-made weapons, such as Bayraktar TB2 UAVs, Ankara undoubtedly wished to acquire Ukrainian engine-building technologies. This applies not only to aircraft and missile engineering, but also to the shipbuilding industry. The gas-turbine units of the Nikolaev company Zorya-Mashproekt could become a replacement for the American General Electric LM2500 GTUs.

Apparently to speed up the construction of the other three Istanbul type frigates planned for construction, in January of this year a tender was announced among Turkish private shipbuilding companies. One of the main requirements is a higher assembly rate than at the state-owned Istanbul Naval Shipyard.

Despite the problems encountered during the implementation of the MILGEM program, the design of the TF 2000 project destroyer continues in Turkey. Today its specifications are as follows: displacement 8500 tons, length 166 m, width 21,5 m, draft 5,4 m, the crew will include 130-150 personnel thanks to introduction of automated equipment. The power plant is diesel-gas turbine under the CODOG arrangement which includes two gas turbine units and two diesels. The maximum speed is 28 knots.

Its armament is expected to include two MILDAS modules with 64 vertical-launch Hisar-U SAMs, yet unnamed anti-submarine missile and developing Gezgin long-range cruise missiles, 16 Atmaca SAMs, 127mm gun, small-caliber armament, 324mm anti-submarine torpedoes, S-70B Seahawk helicopter with hangar space and unmanned aerial vehicle. In architecture, the TF 2000 project destroyers, of which eight are to be built, resemble Spanish F110 frigates, of which Bonifaz was launched this year at the Navantia shipyard.

As is easy to see, the promising Turkish destroyer will be a formidable warship.

Turkish authorities are taking care of the construction of not only new large warships, but also small ones. According to Ismail Demir, head of the Turkish Defense Industry Authority, the Turkish company STM will soon start assembling FAC 55 high-speed attack ships of its own design at its shipyards. Reminiscent of the stealth-type Swedish corvettes Visby, they will have a displacement of 535 tons, length 62.67 m, width 9.84 m and reach a maximum speed of 55 knots through a gas turbine power plant and three water-jet propulsors. At a speed of 50 knots the ship is able to cover 750 miles and at 20 knots 1000 miles. Sea endurance is seven days. Crew consists of 34 personnel.

The FAC 55 is armed with two Harpoon or Atmaca quad-mounted launchers, which will be concealed in the aft superstructure in travel position, and a 76-mm Oto Melara Super Rapid artillery system. The rear section of the «attack ship» will carry a RAM short-range SAM launcher or a 35-mm Aselsan multiple-barreled anti-aircraft gun. In the central part of the superstructure there are two remote-controlled 12.7 mm Aselsan STAMP machine guns.

As Turkish officials emphasize, the FAC 55 ships are designed to protect the country's interests in coastal waters with their high maneuverability and powerful weapons. They will replace the Dogan missile boats in the Navy.

The rapid evolution of electronics and artificial intelligence has enabled Turkey to create not only globally recognized reconnaissance and strike UAVs, but also their maritime counterparts. Last spring, the SIDA unmanned surface vehicle (USV) based on the ULAQ unified platform was presented. Its displacement is 6 tons and payload is 2 tons. The armament of the USV consists of 70-mm CIRIT guided missiles and L-UMTAS laser guided long-range anti-tank missile system. Both types of ammunition are capable of engaging targets at ranges of up to 8 km.

In May this year, the Turkish shipbuilding company Dearsan conducted firing tests of the new SALVO unmanned attack boat in the waters of the Sea of Marmara. The CIRIT laser guided missile successfully hit a moving target. This was followed by the firing of a 12.7 mm Aselsan remote-controlled machine gun. The target was successfully hit as well.

The SALVO USV is 14.79 m long, 3.83 m wide, and has a draft of 0.75 m. Depending on the type of diesel engine, the unmanned boat can reach a speed of 45 to 60 knots. Depending on the mission, the platform is armed with surface-to-air and surface-to-surface guided missiles, as well as a 12.7 mm stabilized machine gun system. The USV can be used for reconnaissance and patrol missions. The SALVO can be easily transported by vehicle to the shore and then controlled from a mobile command post. The USV can also be deployed on landing ships, frigates, corvettes and minesweepers as additional means of defense.

Turkey pays special attention to the construction of assault landing ship (ALSs) and boats. The most numerous of them are ALSs of the 140 (23 units) and 150 (8 units) series. The latter have displacement of 1,150 tons, length of almost 80 m and reach 18-knot speed. Their open holds accommodate tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery and personnel. The range at 10 knots 1600 miles. That is to say, these relatively small landing ships are ideal for the rapid delivery of the first wave of marines to the islands in the eastern Aegean, which was demonstrated in the Efes-2022 exercise.

In addition to relatively small landing ships, the Turkish Navy has the world's largest Bayraktar class large landing craft, which was built at Anadolu Shipyard in 2014-2018. Its total displacement is 7,254 tons, its length is 138.75 m, width is 19.6 m, and its draft in the bow is less than two meters, which allows for the landing of equipment from the board on beaches. Four diesel engines enable a maximum 18-knot speed. The transported amphibious cargo is 486 troops. The large landing craft has fore and aft ramps for loading amphibious troops and vehicles, including tanks. There are docking chambers for four floating LCVP armored personnel carriers that deliver the troops when the large landing craft is far from the coast. Behind the superstructure is an area to accommodate a heavy helicopter. Accommodation for the crew of 176 people and marines is quite comfortable. Hospital facilities are provided for the wounded. The Bayraktar type large landing craft can also serve as mine layer. Two more ships of this type are planned for the Turkish Navy.

The largest ship ever in the Turkish Navy will be Anadolu (Turkish for the Anatolian Peninsula) amphibious assault ship, built at Sedef Shipbuilding and currently undergoing field trials. It is based on the very successful Juan Carlos I amphibious assault ship designed by Spanish company Navantia, which has already been used to build one ship for the Spanish Navy and two for the Australian Navy. With a total displacement of 27000 tons, 232 m long and 32 m wide, it is not only able to carry 29 main battle tanks and several hundreds of marines, as well as their landing craft (helicopters and amphibious assault boats, including hovercraft) to a range of 9000 miles, but also serve as a light aircraft carrier. For this purpose it was planned to buy in the USA the newest supersonic STOVL aircraft F-35B Lightning II. As a standard, Anadolu was to carry 10 F-35B fighters and 12 helicopters.

But in revenge for Ankara's purchase of a regimental set of S-400 SAMs from Russia, Washington refused to supply Turkey with these aircrafts. Turkey had to resort to other solutions. Instead of combat aircraft, amphibious assault ships will carry attack UAVs, the development of which is undoubtedly a Turkish achievement. The Baykar Makina company has developed the supersonic Bayraktar Kizilelma UAV. It has a takeoff weight of 6,000 kg, a payload of over 1,500 kg and a flight altitude of 12,000 m. The UAV was launched in production this year and tests will begin next year. It is not yet known when this UAV will be able to take off from the amphibious assault ship and land on its deck.

Submarine Emphasis

At the turn of the 2010s, Turkey began to lag behind Greece in modern submarines. In addition to seven 209/1100 and 209/1200 class submarines, one of which, Okeanos, underwent deep modernization and was equipped with an air-independent power plant that allowed it to remain submerged for long time, four submarines powered with HDW developed air-independent propulsion power plant of type 214 were constructed for the Hellenic Navy.

Ankara also decided to acquire such submarines. But it was not very successful. The first contract was signed in 2009. But Turkey decided to introduce to the submarines a large number of electronic systems of national production, which had to be «tailored» to the submarines, which were designated as 214TN (Project 214 of the Turkish Navy). Germany had to face numerous claims from Athens, demanding that the deal be terminated. The final contract was signed in 2016 with a delivery date of the lead submarine in 2020. All six conventional submarines are under construction at the Golcuk shipyard, the same shipyard where the 209 type diesel-electric submarines were assembled

The project 214TN Piri Reis lead submarine was floated off in March 2021. It is still under construction. The submarine, named after the famous navigator, cartographer and admiral of the Ottoman Empire Piri Reis (1465-1553), is 1860 t of underwater displacement, 65m in length and 6.3m in width. It is powered by a Siemens anaerobic, i.e. air-independent 240 kW propulsion system, two MTU 16V-396 diesel engines with a combined output of 3.96 MW, and a Siemens Permasyn electric motor with 2.85 MW output. Maximum submarine speed is 20 knots. The operating range is 12,000 miles, and the speed when using air-independent propulsion power plant is 2-6 knots, but the conventional submarine is able not to surface for up to three weeks to recharge the accumulator batteries. Operating depth is 250 m, and the limit is 400 m. Armament includes eight bow-mounted 533-mm torpedo tubes. In addition to U.S. and German-made heavy torpedoes Mk48 Mod 6AT and DM2A4, the ordnance payload includes four Sub Harpoon anti-ship missiles. In the future it is planned to replace them with domestic torpedoes Akya and Atmaca anti-ship missiles. The crew is forty personnel.

Due to the delay in the 214TN program, the German concern ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, which merged with HDW, paid compensation to Turkey. However, it was purely symbolic in the amount of about 2 million euros. The designation of the project was changed. Now it is called 214TR, i.e. the project 214 of the Turkish Republic.

Hizir Reis, the second type 214TR submarine, was floated off on May 23 of this year. It was named after Hayreddin Barbarossa (1475-1546), a pirate and naval commander who became ruler of Algeria and later admiral of the Ottoman Empire. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attended the event. In a speech, he said that "Turkey will start building MILDEN («National Submarine») type submarines in 2025 at Golcuk Shipyard. We are planning to introduce the first such submarine into service in five to six years after construction begins.

At the end of August 2022, the Golcuk shipyard hosted the first official presentation of the advanced MILDEN submarine. Judging by the photos of the presented model, it will not be much different from the 214TR conventional submarine. However, its displacement is increased up to 2,700 tons and the length is more than 80 m. The submarine will be equipped with an air-independent power plant.

Now Turkey has commenced construction of the STM500 small diesel-electric submarine designed by Savunma Teknolojileri Muhendislik (STM), the same company that designed the FAC 55 fast attack craft. «We are embarking on the process of building the STM500 submarine entirely designed by Turkish engineers», Ismail Demir, head of Turkey's Defense Industry Agency, noted on his Twitter account in this regard. He called the event historic, stressing that the submarine was designed for reconnaissance, surveillance, special forces and tactical underwater missions in both the shallow and open seas. According to the head of the Turkish Defense Industry, the submarine will be equipped with state-of-the-art control and weaponry systems.

The submerged displacement of STM500 will be 540 tons, its length 42 m, width 8,5 m, cruising underwater speed 5 knots, and maximum surface speed 18 knots. The submarine with a crew of 18 will be able to submerge up to 250 meters; its operating range is 3500 miles, sea endurance 30 days. The STM500 is to be equipped with an up-to-date hydroacoustic system, optronic periscope, electronic warfare antenna and automated combat control system. It will be armed with eight heavy 533 mm torpedoes and four anti-ship missiles. The boat will accommodate six special forces troops.

Project STM500 submarines are best suited for operations in the Black Sea and especially the Aegean Sea. They are also export-oriented. Their sales market can be very significant. In the future, boats of this type will be equipped with anaerobic plants, which will make it possible to considerably increase the submarine range.

It is worth noting that the construction of the new generation submarines is linked to the creation of support vessels for their operations. When Piri Reis was just getting ready to be laid, submarine rescue vessel Alemdar with a displacement of 4,200 tons was floated off at the Istanbul Naval Shipyard. The ship is innovative and equipped with the most advanced hardware. It carries remotely operated submersible vessels, rigid deep-sea diving suits with atmospheric pressure, winches and cranes with grippers and other means for conducting underwater operations. Several lateral thrusting propellers and a retractable propeller column enable precise positioning even in wave disturbance, which is critical in rescue operations. The vessel can provide life support to the crew of a submarine in distress at depths of up to 600m. In the bow and on the superstructure there are helicopter platforms for rapid evacuation of survivors.

Isın and Akın rescue ships, each having displacement of 2,400 tons, were also upgraded and retrofitted with modern equipment. Now they will also be able to take part in rescuing submariners in difficult conditions.

Conflict is possible at any time

The Turkish Navy operates patrol and minesweeping vessels that meet modern requirements. The country has a well-developed Coast Guard fleet with a large number of fast craft, which in wartime are able to act as patrol, reconnaissance, counter-sabotage and also serve as a means to deliver combat divers to the coast and bases of the enemy. The Coast Guard has four Guven-type patrol boats with a total displacement of 1,700 tons, 22-knot speed, armed with 40mm automatic guns and carrying helicopters in their hangars, and capable of performing the functions of corvettes. Relying on the strength of its Navy and Coast Guard, Ankara feels fairly confident in building its relations with its neighbors. But even in this respect not everything is simple.

The attention of the world' s media is now focused on the events in Ukraine and around Taiwan. That is why other «warm-up points» are often omitted. These include the eastern part of the Aegean Sea. Meanwhile, conflict can break out there at any moment. «Isn't placing weapons in front of our noses a threat to our country? Doesn't that entitle us to self-defense?» Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told the Greek English-language media Keep Talking in early August. He demanded the immediate demilitarization of islands in the eastern Aegean Sea. Otherwise he threatened to retaliate vigorously.

Turkey, compared to Greece, has considerable Armed Forces, including naval forces, and the seizure of islands in the eastern Mediterranean Sea is not a big problem for Ankara. But what next?

Now an informal anti-Turkish coalition has formed in the eastern Mediterranean consisting of Greece, Cyprus, Egypt and Israel. We have already mentioned Greece. From a military point of view, Cyprus cannot pose any threat to Ankara. But Egypt, with the support of Italy, France and the United States, is constantly building up its Army, Navy and Air Force. Cairo considers Libya a domain of its influence and is very unhappy about Turkish entry there.

For urgent reinforcement of the Egyptian Navy, Italy handed over to Cairo two state-of-the-art FREMM type frigates. France sold two amphibious assault helicopter ship and several corvettes, and the United States sold missile boats. Four diesel-electric submarines were built in Germany for the Egyptian Navy, and missile frigates are now under construction.

Israel, which is developing offshore oil and gas fields in waters claimed by Turkey, has a relatively small but very powerful Armed Forces. It has six conventional submarines carrying Popeye Turbo cruise missiles with nuclear warheads.

So the informal coalition has something to challenge Turkey. And Ankara takes this into account, so far limiting itself to harsh words to potential adversaries.