Originally published under the title "Turkey's Naval Ambitions Boosting Local Industry."
Turkish naval vessels recently produced by local shipyards include (clockwise from top left) two Ada-class corvettes, a landing ship, two logistical support ships, and a submarine rescue ship.
ANKARA — As Turkey, a peninsula in a volatile region, has in recent years thrived to push up its regional political clout, the Ankara government has taken a position to commission a wide range of vessels from local shipyards. "That became the boost [for the local industry] which we aimed at," said one senior procurement planner.
Only in the past year or so a total of six navy ships have been either delivered to the military command or launched. These are the Ada-class corvettes TCG Burgazada and TCG Kinaliada, landing ship TCG Bayraktar, logistical support ships TCG Yuzbasi Gungor Durmus and TCG Ustegmen Arif Ekmekci and rescue ship TCG Alemdar. In the past 15 years, Turkey has completed 14 military ship programs, according to Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. The number of Turkish shipyards has increased from 37 to 80 since 2003.
At a recent ceremony for the launch of the TCG Kinaliada on July 3, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, notoriously keen to develop Turkey's local arms industry, said that he was determined to follow plans for the local construction of an aircraft carrier. "We are determined to build an aircraft carrier," he said. "Turkey is one of the only 10 countries in the world that can design and build warships."
'We are determined to build an aircraft carrier,' says Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The ceremony also marked the start of a national frigate program that involves the construction of I-class vessels. These ships can carry longer-range weapons systems compared to the Ada-class corvettes and feature advanced command and control systems.
The local industry immediately expressed enthusiasm for the planned aircraft carrier program.
"We are willing to take on that ambition," said Orhan Gulcek, board chairman of Yalova Altinova Tersane Girisimcileri, an umbrella group of privately owned Turkish shipyards.
Gulcek said that Turkish shipyards are now capable of building almost all kinds of warships, including those that come close to an aircraft carrier. "The Ministry of Defense has in recent years supported all local programs which brought the industry to a point where it has become a major potential exporter," he said.
The "near aircraft carrier" Gulcek mentions is the TCG Anadolu being built by Turkish shipyards Sedef under license from Spain's Navantia. The vessel is a derivative of the Spanish ship Juan Carlos, a "light aircraft carrier."
Under the program, worth over $1 billion, Navantia will provide design, technology transfer, equipment and technical assistance to Sedef for the design and development of the TCG Anadolu. The ship will be built in Turkey and feature locally made command and control and combat systems.
The TCG Anadolu also will feature a fully equipped flight deck with the ski-jump ramp in front. It will be capable of operating up to 12 F-35Bs and 12 helicopters at a maximum range of 9,000 miles. Its flight deck and aviation hangar can accommodate either 12 medium-size helicopters or eight CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift helicopters. The ship will be delivered to the Turkish Navy in 2021.
Meanwhile, under a deal between the European Union and the International Organization for Migration, Damen, an international shipyard group, delivered on July 7 two SAR 1906 vessels to the Turkish Coast Guard. The two vessels — the first to be delivered in what is a six-vessel contract — will be mobilized in refugee and migrant rescue operations.
"All that is in line with Erdogan's ambitions to make Turkey a regional power not just in Turkish littoral waters but also away," said one London-based Turkey specialist. "Naval and armored land platforms have so far proven to be the best local products the Turkish industry was able to offer. Both businesses have strong growth prospects in a country where the end user is willing to buy more and a region to which they tend increasingly to export."
Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based political analyst and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.