ANKARA, Turkey — The Turkish Navy received its largest vessel on April 10 during a ceremony attended by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and top military brass.
The amphibious assault ship TCG Anadolu is Turkey's first landing platform dock. Erdoğan said the military will deploy heavy helicopters, drones and light-attack aircraft from the vessel.
Its fully loaded displacement is 27,436 tons, and it measures 231 meters (758 feet) in length, 32 meters in width and 58 meters in height.
The ship's primary purpose is to serve as a platform from which the TB-3 armed drone and the Kizilelma combat UAV can launch. Both aircraft were developed and built by the privately owned Turkish drone-maker Baykar.
Erdoğan said that the TCG Anadolu would also help with military and humanitarian operations around the world.
Also on Monday, the president attended the welding ceremony of the three MILGEM corvettes commissioned by the defense procurement office SSB. The MILGEM project is focused on providing patrol and anti-submarine warfare capabilities at sea.
Turkey officially began constructing its first landing platform dock in 2016 when Erdoğan was already talking about production plans for an aircraft carrier and a nuclear-powered vessel. He has also previously expressed hope that the program for landing platform docks would be the first step toward producing the "most elite" aircraft carrier.
In 2013, Turkey announced it selected the local shipyard Sedef for its LPD program. The company partnered with Spain's Navantia.
The TCG Anadolu can carry a battalion-sized unit of 1,200 personnel, eight utility helicopters and three drones. It also can transport 150 vehicles, including battle tanks.
The original delivery time was five and a half years after Turkey kicked off the effort — by the end of 2021 — meaning the schedule fell behind by two years.
Turkey intended to fly its future F-35 fighter jets from the ship, but the U.S. removed the country from the multinational Joint Strike Fighter program after Ankara acquired Russian-made S-400 air defense systems.
Turkey has since switched its primary aerial asset on the TCG Anadolu from the F-35 to the Kizilelma.
The vessel cost Ankara more than $1 billion, although officials have declined to reveal the exact price. Turkey will be the third operator of this ship type, after Spain and Australia.
Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based political analyst and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.