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Turkey Table of Contents


Air Force

The Turkish air force is the youngest of the three branches of the armed services. Founded in 1911, it saw action in the Balkan Wars and World War I, as well as the War of Independence. The first Turkish pilots were trained in France. The air force has a high priority in Turkey's strategic planning because control of the air would be indispensable for successful defense against a ground attack by well-equipped forces. Moreover, reinforcement and supply of Turkish ground forces by Turkey's NATO allies would not be feasible without control of the air. The air force role in interdicting an invasion force would be to provide close support of ground troops in tactical defensive actions and to airlift troops and supplies. Upon declaration of a NATO reinforced alert, the Turkish air force would be committed to action as part of NATO's Sixth Allied Tactical Air Force (SIXATAF) headquartered at Izmir.

In late 1994, the air force was staffed by about 56,800 officers and enlisted personnel. It is organized around two basic combat elements operating east and west of the thirty-fifth meridian of longitude. The First Tactical Air Force has its headquarters at Eskisehir Air Base in western Turkey. It defends the Turkish straits and provides air cover in the First Army's area of operations. The Second Tactical Air Force, commanded from its headquarters at Diyarbakir in eastern Turkey, is charged with defending the Third Army and part of the Second Army. Separate air training and logistics commands with their own aircraft squadrons are headquartered at Ankara. The air transport units are assigned directly to specific air force commands. Air force headquarters is located at Ankara; the air force commander in 1994 was General Halis Burhan.

The air force in late 1994 was organized tactically into fourteen fighter-ground attack squadrons, six fighter squadrons, four transport squadrons, two reconnaissance squadrons, one antisubmarine warfare squadron, and three training squadrons. The fighter-ground attack squadrons and three of the four transport squadrons are assigned to NATO. There are eight surface-to-air missile (SAM) squadrons. In 1994 six of the SAM squadrons were equipped with 128 obsolete United States Nike-Hercules missiles; the remaining two were supplied with twenty-four Rapier SAMs of British manufacture. Many Turkish bases and large cities are within range of Russian, Chinese, and North Korean missile systems possessed by Syria and Iran. Iraq supposedly has relinquished its longer-range missiles but still may have some Scud-Bs from North Korea. Turkish officers acknowledge their limited ability to defend against these threats.

In the mid-1990s, Turkey was phasing in advanced F-16 fighter aircraft produced domestically under a cooperative program with the General Dynamics and General Electric corporations. An initial shipment of 160 aircraft was to be supplemented with a second package of eighty aircraft. The F-16s were to replace a combat fleet of obsolete F-5s and F-104s; the force also included somewhat more up-to-date F-4Es (see table 14, Appendix A).

In 1994 the air force's fixed-wing transport squadrons consisted of United States-manufactured C-130E Hercules and German C-160D Transall medium transports and CN-235 light transports. Fifty-two CN-235s coproduced with a Spanish manufacturer have replaced the United States-manufactured C-47s for troop-transport and cargo missions.

Upon completion of the four-year air force academy program, air force pilots are trained for two to two-and-a-half years on a variety of United States propeller and jet training aircraft. The Italian SF-260 coproduced in Turkey is being introduced as an advanced combat trainer. Nonflying officers are trained by the Air Technical Schools Command. NCOs are also trained in twelve- to eighteen-month programs in administrative and technical skills at specialized institutions of this command.

Upgrading of the air force flight inventory is expected to include acquisition from the United States of two surplus KC-135A tanker aircraft--scaled back from seven for financial reasons--that would permit air refueling and thus dramatically increase the range of fighter aircraft. The air force also hopes to receive airborne early warning aircraft and airborne command and control aircraft. The planned transfer of fifty surplus United States A-10 attack aircraft for close support of ground troops was canceled because Turkey's tight foreign-exchange situation did not permit acquisition of the needed reconditioning and support equipment. Ankara considers the acquisition of United States Patriot missiles essential to reducing Turkey's vulnerability to conventional air and missile attack, but in early 1995 such an acquisition did not appear imminent.


Numbering 54,000 individuals in late 1994, nearly 70 percent conscripts, the navy is responsible for defending the country against seaborne attack in time of war, for safeguarding the Turkish straits at all times, and for patrol and coastal protection along the extensive coastline that borders about two-thirds of the nation. The navy has an assigned NATO role in which it is responsible to the alliance's commander of NAVSOUTH in Naples. The commander of Turkish naval forces serves concurrently as commander, North-East Mediterranean (COMEDNOREAST), under NAVSOUTH. The Turkish navy shares in NAVSOUTH's mission of protecting a line of communications through the Mediterranean and the Black Sea and conducting antisubmarine operations in the event of a general war.

Turkish strategists feel that the creation of new countries in the Black Sea area, following the end of the Cold War, has imposed new missions on the navy. They point out that, whereas there were previously four littoral states on the Black Sea, since the breakup of the Soviet Union there are seven--Bulgaria, Georgia, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine. Russia retains the major share of the former Soviet Black Sea fleet, but Ukraine claims a number of vessels and base facilities. Because Turkey considers the Central Asian republics likely to make heavy use of the Black Sea for foreign trade, the maintenance of open sea-lanes is expected to become more important. Turkey foresees a greater flow of oil from the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Russia via pipelines to terminals at Iskenderun in the eastern Mediterranean, imposing additional requirements on the navy to ensure the safety of ports and sea-lanes in an increasingly strategic area.

The navy has three operational commands: the Northern Sea Area Command, based at Istanbul; the Fleet Command at Gölcük; and the Southern Sea Area Command at Izmir. The Fleet Command, the largest of the naval components, consists of specialized elements: the war fleet, the submarine fleet, the mine fleet, and the landing units. The zonal commands are the Black Sea (headquartered at Eregli), the Aegean (headquartered at Izmir), two straits commands (headquartered at Istanbul and Çanakkale), and the Mediterranean (headquartered at Mersin). The commander in chief of the Turkish navy in early 1995 was Admiral Vural Bayazit.

The Naval Training Command is based at Karamürsel on the southern coast of the Sea of Marmara. The naval academy near Istanbul is colocated with the Naval Lyceum, a four-year secondary school. Graduates of the lyceum and other high schools who are accepted as midshipmen at the naval academy are promoted to subensign after the four-year program, and then are assigned to sea duty for two probationary years before being commissioned in the regular navy. Entrance to the lyceum is highly competitive; only a small percentage of applicants pass the qualifying examinations.

The Petty Officers School at Istanbul receives applicants at age twelve for four years of secondary and naval preparatory instruction. Graduates are then admitted as petty officer candidates and, after four years of specialist training, are designated career petty officers at the entry grade. Conscripts assigned to the navy receive about four months of basic training and are then assigned to sea or shore duties for the balance of their required service.

The navy's inventory of ships is well maintained, and its officers and crews are considered to possess high levels of professionalism and readiness. Turkey participates in NATO exercises in its region and frequently takes part in national exercises of other NATO members. Its relations with other Black Sea naval powers are good. Mutual high-level naval visits have been exchanged with Russia, and negotiations have been opened on agreements to prevent incidents on and over the high seas with both Russia and Ukraine. Turkey conducted joint mine and search-and-rescue exercises with Bulgaria in 1993.

The main categories of Turkish fighting ships are destroyers, frigates, submarines, and fast-attack craft (see table 15, Appendix A). Most of the older ships are of United States origin. More modern units have been supplied by Germany or constructed in Turkish shipyards with German technical assistance and components. The largest vessels are United States destroyers, most of them launched at the close of World War II. They are considered obsolete and incapable of operating with other NATO ships in battle-group formations. One of the destroyers, the Muavenet , was hit by two Sea Sparrow surface-to-surface missiles (SSMs) launched accidentally by a United States warship during exercises in 1992. The Turkish captain and four other personnel were killed and a number injured. The destroyer subsequently was scrapped. In 1993 and 1994, eight newer Knox-class frigates were transferred to Turkey by the United States.

In 1994 four MEKO-200 class frigates of German design were in the inventory, and an additional four modernized MEKO-200 frigates are to be delivered between 1995 and 1998. Construction is split, with the first four frigates having been built in Germany and four being built at the naval shipyard at Gölcük, with German equipment packages. The vessels are armed with five-inch guns, Harpoon SSMs, and Sea Sparrow SAMs.

The submarine force consisted originally of United States World War II-era diesel-powered attack vessels of the Guppy class. Seven of these were still listed in 1994, but their utility was doubtful. Since 1975 Turkey has been acquiring German 20-class (type-1200) submarines, quiet-running craft smaller than the Guppies but suitable for defending the approaches to the straits as well as Turkey's coastal waters. The first three of the six vessels were built in Germany and the next three were built at Gölcük. Four additional 209-class submarines of the more advanced type-1400, armed with sub-Harpoon SSMs, are to be added between 1994 and 1998.

The sixteen missile-armed fast-attack craft in the Turkish fleet in 1994 were a mixture of older and newer technologies. The most up-to-date units were eight Dogan-class vessels equipped with Harpoon SSMs. They were built in Turkey along the lines of the German Lürssen 57. Two more fast-attack craft of the Yildiz class are to be delivered in 1995. These high-speed vessels would be especially effective against ships attempting to transit the confined waters in and around the Turkish straits.

The amphibious force of sixty-six vessels in the inventory at the end of 1994 would be sufficient to land Turkish infantry and tanks in individual operations or in conjunction with other NATO assault forces. The inventory of twenty-nine minelayers and minesweepers would have the task of implementing a NATO decision to seal off the Black Sea. Turkish officers are considered to be highly qualified in such operations, but in the mid-1990s minesweepers and minelayers were due for modernization.

In 1994 the naval air arm included fourteen Italian-built Agusta-Bell AB-204 and AB-212 antisubmarine helicopters, which could be flown off frigate flight decks. United States-manufactured Grumman S-2E Tracker aircraft, flown by air force personnel and used for land-based antisubmarine and marine reconnaissance, were due to be replaced. The marine contingent of some 3,000 officers and troops was organized as a brigade of three infantry battalions and one artillery battalion, plus support units.

Data as of January 1995

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Turkey Table of Contents