Turkey, shunned by US, prepares to launch first aircraft carrier, but with a twist

Turkish Amphibious Ship TCG Anadolu

Turkey’s largest warship TCG Anadolu in Istanbul, September 2022.Isa Terli/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

  • Turkey is about to enter service with its largest warship, the amphibious assault ship TCG Anadolu.

  • The ship was to operate with F-35B jets, but the United States has pulled Turkey out of the F-35 program.

  • Turkey will instead operate Anadolu with drones, using drones to project power across the region.

Turkey is nearing the commissioning of its first aircraft carrier, TCG Anadolu. In January, Ankara was Start acceptance testconcludes an almost decade-long development cycle marked by unfortunate delays.

As Turkey’s flagship, the ship will enhance the Turkish military’s power projection and expeditionary capabilities, making Turkey one of the few nations with a domestically built aircraft carrier.

But Anadolu will be more than Turkey’s first airline. It will also be the world’s first flattop with an air wing composed primarily of unmanned aerial vehicles.

The US pulled Turkey out of the F-35 program in 2019, and Ankara had no fighters for the new carrier. But Turkish officials are determined to operate fixed-wing aircraft aboard Anadolu and have turned to Turkey’s increasingly capable drone industry to fill that gap.

no need for F-35

Turkey delivers first F-35

Turkey received its first F-35 at a ceremony in Forsworth, Texas in June 2018.Atirgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

At 757 feet long, 105 feet wide and with a displacement of 27,436 tons, Anadolu will be the Turkish Navy’s largest warship. Her top speed is 20.5 knots, her range is 9,000 nautical miles, and at sea she can operate for 50 days.

Strictly speaking, Anadolu is not a dedicated aircraft carrier, amphibious assault ship — Specifically, the Landing Helicopter Dock, or LHD.It was designed by Spanish shipbuilder Navantia. Juan Carlos Class Iwhich is also two standards in Australia. Canberra class LHD. A second Turkish LHD named TCG Trakya is also planned.

Anadolu was ordered in 2015, laid down in February 2018 and launched in April 2019. Commissioning she was scheduled for 2021, but has been delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan TCG Anadolu

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan inspects TCG Anadolu from a helicopter in September 2022 in Istanbul.Mustafa Kamachi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

When ordered, Anadolu’s air wing was to consist of: F-35B stealth aircraft. Turkey is a Level III partner in the US-led F-35 program, and Turkish companies manufacture about 900 parts for the aircraft.

By 2019, Turkey had contributed $1.4 billion to the program and received six of the 30 F-35As it ordered. (The jet was delivered in the US and never made it to Turkey.) About 20 pilots and mechanics were in the US learning how to operate them.

However, in July of that year, Turkey Banished The purchase of Russia’s S-400 surface-to-air missile system has excluded it from the F-35 program.US and NATO officials fear it could be used to gather intelligence on the F-35.

Turkish aircraft carrier drone

Turkish Amphibious Ship TCG Anadolu

TCG Anadolu in September 2022 in Istanbul.Isa Terli/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Turkey could have made Anadolu a helicopter carrier, as Australia did with its Canberra-class ships, but Turkey’s desire to carry out reconnaissance and strike operations far from the coast would require fixed-wing aircraft. is necessary.

Fortunately for the Turkish navy, Turkey One of the world’s leading drone manufacturers.

The exact composition of Anadolu’s air wing has not yet been determined, but mainly Bayrakthal TB3the naval variant of the famous Bayrakthal TB2 Made by Turkish defense company Baykar.

Still in development, the TB3 has many improvements over its land-based counterpart, including increased take-off weight, longer wings that can be folded for storage, and nearly double the total payload of the TB2. This would allow the TB3 to carry at least two additional laser-guided smart bombs and fly farther than the TB2 while having a similar endurance of around 24 hours.

Another model expected to be in Anadolu’s air wing is that of a biker Kyzlerma, which is also a jet-powered combat drone still in development. The Kuzlerma, which Baykar called a “fighter UAV,” has a range of 500 nautical miles, a ceiling of 35,000 feet, a payload of 1.5 tons, and a cruising speed of 0.6 Mach he said.

Ukrainian military personnel pushing Bayraktar TB2 UCAV at Kurvakin Airfield during Sea Breeze Exercise 2021 in Mykolaiv, Southern Ukraine.

Ukrainian military with Bayraktar TB2 drones during exercises in southern Ukraine in 2021.Yulii Zozulia/Ukrinform/future publication via Getty Images

Kuzlerma is equipped with an active electronically scanned array radar that can operate continuously for five hours. Baykar says it also has stealth properties thanks to its angular cross-section and internal weapon bays.Turkish media claimed Kyzlerma will be able to perform close air support, suppress and destroy enemy air defenses, and air-to-air combat.

Kyzlerma is second test flight Last month, Baykar claimed it could take off from a short runway carrier without a catapult. TB3 is scheduled to fly for the first time this year.

Anadolu is slightly modified to support infrastructure for drone operations, including a drone control station with satellite terminals for long-range connectivity.a roller system Installed on the bow to assist in the launch of TB3, a hook arresting system is installed on the deck to allow the Kizleruma to land safely. Safety nets are also available for TB3 landings.

In addition to drones, Anadolu will deploy helicopters, including domestic ones. T129 attack. The Turkish Navy already Training conducted An AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopter and an SH-70B utility helicopter operate on Anadolu’s deck.

power projection

Turkish Amphibious Ship TCG Anadolu

TCG Anadolu in September 2022 in Istanbul.Isa Terli/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar Said Anadolu can carry up to 94 vehicles in total.This includes armored vehicles like the Turks Altai tank A landing craft that can be deployed from the ship’s rear welldeck. The ship is also capable of transporting and deploying her 700 soldiers and is equipped with a 30-bed hospital.

Anadolu’s air wing size and composition are subject to change based on its mission. Akar said he could carry 24 helicopters, and Ismail Demir, head of the government agency that oversees Turkey’s defense industry, said: Said Can carry up to 80 drones, of which 10 to 15 Operation possible At the same time, the helicopter can take up less space.

Anadolu arrives at a critical time for Turkey. Turkey is becoming more and more active in the region and around the world.Cyprus, Iraq, Qatar, Syria, and Somalia,and it is involvement in the civil war in Libya.

Turkish Navy Warship Blue Homeland 2022 Exercise

Turkish warships during Exercise Blue Homeland in April 2022.DurmuÅ Genc/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Moreover, Turkey’sblue homeland” Strategies put us in conflict with our neighbors, other European powers in the Mediterranean. Ankara’s aspirations for hegemony in the Black Sea gain Since Russia invaded Ukraine last year,

“Currently, our sphere of influence is three continents and our area of ​​interest is global,” says Akar. Said in January.

Anadolu would allow Turkey to reach into the Indian Ocean and support its own and allied forces in reconnaissance and strike missions.

Anadolu is also an important part of Turkey’s efforts towards its improvement. domestic defense industryAbout 70% of the ships and their systems are manufactured in Turkey, and Ankara is developing a new frigate. corvette Most of them are built domestically. Like Anadolu, Trakya uses mostly Turkish components.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would “resolutely continue these efforts until we have the most powerful navy in the region and in the world.”blue homelandExercises conducted in April 2022 in the Aegean Sea, Black Sea and Eastern Mediterranean.

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