Military Analysis: Turkish Armed Forces


SouthFront: Analysis & Intelligence is continuing to study the Trukish military capabilities. Our previous paper was dedicated to the Turkish 2nd Army positioned along the southern border with Syria. This force will likely be used in case of the Turkish military invasion to Syria. Howver, in case of possible global escalation, it’s important to estimate straight that the Turkish military potential is much wider than the forces already prepared for military intervention.

Written and produced by SF Team: Igor Pejic, Brian Kalman, Viktor Stoilov, Daniel Deiss

Igor Pejic graduated Political Science Foreign Affairs Department at the Faculty of Political Science and now he is a postgraduate student on the MA Terrorism, Security and Organised Crime at the University of Belgrade, Serbia.

The Turkish Armed Forces consist of land, naval and air forces under the General Staff, also the Gendarmerie and the Coast Guard can operate under the land and naval forces during war times, but usually they are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The giant historical leap for the Turkish military occurred in 1952 when Turkey became a member state of NATO, the country’s geopolitical and military significance rapidly grew after this event especially during the Cuban missile crisis. Of course, NATO membership doesn’t come cheaply. In the later years the Turkish military went through a comprehensive reform and modernization in order to accommodate the Western military standards. Today, Turkey is one of the most important NATO countries, controlling the Bosphorous and the Dardanelles, accessing Europe, the Middle East and the Caucasus region, and providing NATO with ~ 500,000 active military personnel, making this country a valuable ally for the Western powers.

Turkey has around 510,000 military and 102,000 paramilitary personnel, and a reserve of around 380,000 military and 50,000 paramilitary personnel. The goal of the Turkish military is to become a smaller, but better-skilled force, with the ability to accomplish all kinds of NATO missions while providing a highly mobile force, able to fight across the spectrum of a conflict. The military budget is estimated at 22.6 billion dollars or 2.2% of the GDP.

The Army consists of 402,000 servicemen (325,000 conscripts) with Land forces command in Ankara. The Army has a long history and usually likes to point out that their tradition goes centuries back to when the Ottomans first invaded Europe. In modern terms, it had been formed in 1920 as an Army of the Great National Assembly after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The army was active during the Korean War, the Turkish invasion of Cyprus and the army also regularly participates in NATO’s missions. The main asset of the army is its robust structure of more than 400,000 active personnel which makes it the second largest ground force in NATO.

    1st Army HQ Istanbul
        2nd Corps Gelibolu
            4th Mechanized Infantry Brigade Kesan
            8th Mechanized Infantry Brigade Tekirdag
            18th Mechanized Infantry Brigade Canakkale
            95th Armored Brigade Malkara
            102nd Artillery Regiment Uzunkopru
            Corps Engineer Combat Regiment Gelibolu
        3rd Corps Sisli, Istanbul (NATO Rapid Deployment Corps)
            52nd Tactical Armored Division Hadimkoy
            2nd Armored Brigade Kratal
            66th Mechanized Infantry Brigade Istanbul
            23rd Tactical Motorized Infantry Division Hasdal
        5th Corps Corlu
            1st Armored Brigade Babaeski
            3rd Armored Brigade Cerkezkoy
            54th Mechanized Infantry Brigade Edirne
            55th Mechanized Infantry Brigade Suloglu
            65th Mechanized Infantry Brigade Luleburgaz
            Corps Armored Cavalry Battalion Ulas
            105th Artillery Regiment Corlu
            Corps Engineer Combat Regiment Pinarhisar
        15th Infantry Division Kosekoy
    2nd Army HQ Malatya
        4th Corps Ankara
            28th Mechanized Infantry Brigade Mamak
            58th Artillery Regiment Polatli
            1st Commando Brigade Talas
            2nd Commando Brigade Bolu
        6th Corps Adana
            5th Armored Brigade Gaziantep
            39th Mechanized Infantry Brigade Iskenderun
            106th Artillery Regiment Islahiye
        7th Corps Diyarbakir
            3rd Tactical Infantry Division Yuksekova
            34th Border Brigade Semdinli
            16th Mechanized Brigade Diyarbakir
            20th Mechanized Brigade Sanliurfa
            70th Mechanized Infantry Brigade Mardin
            172nd Armored Brigade Silopi
            2nd Motorized Infantry Brigade Lice
            6th Motorized Infantry Brigade Akcay
            3rd Commando Brigade Siirt
            107th Artillery Regiment Siverek
            Hakkari Mountain Warfare and Commando Brigade Hakkari
        3rd Army HQ Erzincan
            8th Corps Elazig
                1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade Dogubeyazit
                12th Mechanized Infantry Brigade Agri
                10th Motorized Infantry Brigade Tatvan
                34th Motorized Infantry Brigade Patnos
                49th Motorized Infantry Brigade Bingol
                51st Motorized Infantry Brigade Hozat
                4th Commando Briagde Tunceli
                108th Artillery Regiment Ercis
                17th Motorized Infantry Brigade Kigi
            9th Corps Erzurum
                4th Armored Brigade Palandoken
                14th Mechanized Infantry Brigade Kars
                25th Mechanized Infantry Brigade Ardahan
                9th Motorized Infantry Brigade Sarikamis
                48th Motorized Infantry Brigade Trabzon
                109th Artillery Regiment Erzurum
            Aegean Army HQ Izmir
                Cyprus Turkish Peace Force
                    28th Infantry Division Asha
                    39th Infantry Division Cmlibel
                    14th Armored Brigade Asha
                    Special Force Regiment
                    Artillery Regiment
                    Naval units
                Logistic Division Balikesir
                57th Artillery Training Brigade Izmir
                19th Infantry Brigade Edremit
                11th Motorized Infantry Brigade Denizli
                5th Army Aviation School Command Mugla
                2nd Infantry Regiment Mugla
                Commando Training School Command Isparta
                3rd Infantry Training Brigade Antalya
                1st Infantry Training Brigade Manisa
            Army Aviation Command Ankara Guvercinlik Army Air Base
                Special Aviation Group Command
                General Staff Electronic Systems
                Mapping General Command
                UAV Central Command
                Army Aviation School Command
                5th Main Maintanance Center Command
                1st Army Aviation Regiment Guvercinlik Army Air Base
                2nd Army Aviation Regiment Malatya
                3rd Army Aviation Regiment Gaziemir Air Base
                4th Army Aviation Regiment Samandira Army Air Base
                7th Army Aviation Group Command Diyarbakir
                Northeren Cyprus Turkish Army Aviation Unit Command Karter Air Base

In Ankara there are also stationed the Training and Doctrine Command, Logistics Command, Turkish Military Academy and the Army Aviation Command.

Equipment by Type:

    MBT : 2,504: 325 Leopard 2A4; 170 Leopard 1A4; 227 Leopard 1A3; 274 M60A1; 658 M60A3; 850 M48A5 T1/T2
    RECCE 320+: 250 Akrep; 70+ ARSV Cobra
    APC 3,643: 830 AAPC; 2,813 M113/M113A1/M113A2
    ARTY 7,822 ♦ SP103 ♦ 105mm 391: 26M108T; 365 M-52T; 155mm 457: 222 M-441T1; 235 T0-155 Firtina (K-9 Thunder); 175mm 36 M107; 203mm 219 M110A2 ♦ TOWED 760 ♦ 105mm 75 M101A1; 155mm 523: 517 M114A1/M114A2; 6 Panther; 203mm 162 M115
    MOR 5,813 ♦ SP 1,443 ♦ 107mm 1,264 M-30; 120MM 179 ♦ TOWED 4,370 ♦ 81mm 3,792; 120mm 578
    AT ♦ SP 365 TOW ♦ MANPATS 998: 80 9K123 Kornet; 186 Cobra; 340 Eryx; 392 Milan
    AIRCRAFT ♦ Transport Light 38 ♦ 5 Beech 200 King Air; 30 Cessna 185 (U-17B); 3 Cessna 421
    Training Aircraft 74: 45 Cessna T182; 25 T-41D Mescalero; 4 T-42A Cochise
    Attack Helicopters 40: 18 AH-1P Cobra; 12 AH-1S Cobra; 6 AH-1W Cobra; 4 TAH-1P Cobra
    Air Defense ♦ SP 148 ♦ 70 Altigan PMADS octuple Stinger launcher, 78 Zipkin PMADS quad Stinger launcher ♦ MANPAD 935: 789 FIM-43 Redeye; 146 FIM-92A Stinger
    RADAR LAND ♦ AN/TPQ-36 Firefighter ♦ AEV 12: 12M48 ♦ ARV 150: 12 Leopard 1; 105 M48t5; 33 M88A2

The Turkish Naval Forces consist of 14,000 servicemen and 34,500 conscripts active personnel. The whole Navy numbers around 48,000 personnel including the Coast Guard (2,200 personnel) and the Marines (3,100 personnel). The Turkish naval experience began in the late 11th century when the first fleets had sailed on the Aegean. With the Ottoman reign coming to an end in the 20th century and the Turkish war for independence in 1920, the modern Turkish Naval Force was  formed. At first the naval force was known as the Directorate for Naval Affairs, later as Ministry of the Navy and finally as Undersecretariat of the Sea, which operates under the Turkish General

Staff. After this massive administrative reorganization began, along with the modernization of the navy, the navy ended up suffered heavy losses during WWI. The Navy has a great strategic significance for the Turkish armed forces, especially the Northern Fleet which secures the two straits connecting the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. The Turkish Naval Force also operates in the international military missions such as ALTHEA, CTPF, ISAF, KFOR, UNMIK etc.

In the 1960s, the Turkish Navy was reorganized into four main sections: the Turkish Fleet Command, the Turkish Northern Sea Area Command, the Sothern Sea Area Command, and the Naval Training and  Education Command.

    Fleet Command
        Surface Action Group Command, Golcuk Naval Base Kocaeli
        Submarine Group Command
        Fast Patrol Boat Group Command Istanbul
        Mine Warfare Group Command, Erdek Naval Base Balikesir
        Logistic Support Group Command, Golcuk Naval Base Kocaeli
        Naval Aviation Group Command, Cengiz Topel Naval Air Station Kocaeli
    Northern Sea Area Command Istanbul
        Istanbul Strait Command
        Canakkale Strait Command
        Naval Hydrography and Oceanography Division Command
        Naval Museum Command Istanbul
    Southern Sea Area Command Izmir
        Naval Infantry Brigade Command Foca
            Amhibious Group Command Foca
        Naval Infantry Battalion Command Izmir
        Accompaniment and Patrol Boats Flotilla
        Aksaz Naval Base Command Marmaris
    Naval Training and Education Center Istanbul
        Naval Academy Istanbul
        Naval High School Haybeliada
        Karamurselbey Training Center Command Yalova
    Amphibious Marine Infantry Brigade Command Foca, Izmir
    Underwater Offence Command Izmir
    Underwater Defense Group Command Foca

Equipment by type:

    SUBMARINES 14: 6 Atilay with 8 single 533mm ASTT with SST-4 HWT; 8 Preveze with 8 single 533mm ASTT with UGM-84 Harpoon AShM/Tigerfish Mk2 HWT
    PRINCIPAL SURFACE COMBATANTS – FRIGATES 19: 4 Barbaros ( 2x mod GER MEKO 200 F244 & F245 2x mod GER MEKO 200 F246 & F247) with 2 quad Mk141 launcher with Aspide SAM, 2 Mk32 triple 324mm ASTT with Mk46 LWT, Sea Zenith CIWS, 1 127mm gun ♦ 3 Gaziantep with 1 Mk13 GMLS with RGM-84C Harpoon AShM/SM-1MR SAM, 1 8-cell Mk41 VLS with RIM-162 SAM, 2 Mk32 triple 324mm ASTT with Mk46 LWT, 1 Phalanx Block 1B CIWS, 1 76mm gun ♦ Gazintep with 1 Mk13 GMLS with RPGM-84C Harpoon AShM/SM-1 MR SAM, 2 Mk32 triple 324mm ASTT with Mk 46 LWT, 1 Phalanx Block 1B CIWS, 1 76mm gun ♦ 1 Muavenet with 1 octuple Mk16 launcher with ASROC/RGM-84C Harpoon AShM, 2 twin 324mm ASTT with Mk46 LWT, 1 127mm gun ♦ 4 Yavuz with qaud Mk141 launcher with RGM-84C Harpoon AShM, 1 octuple Mk29 GMLS with Aspide SAM, 2 Mk32 triple 324mm ASTT with Mk46 LWT, Sea Zenith CIWS, 1 127mm gun ♦ Ada with 2 quad launcher RCM-84C Harpoon AShM, 1 Mk49 21-cell launcher with RIM-116 SAM, 2 Mk32 twin 324mm ASTT with Mk46 LWT, 1 76mm gun
    PATROL AND COASTAL COMBATANTS 60; armed with MM-38 Exocet AShM, 324mm ASTT with Mk46 LWT, Penguin AShM, RGM-84A/C Harpoon AShM, 76mm guns, 100mm guns
    LANDING SHIPS 5: 2 Erugrul ( US Terrebonne Parish), 1 Osman Gazi, 2 Sarucabey
    LANDING CRAFT 49 vessels
    Naval Aviation : 2 squadrons with Bell 212 ASW; S-70B Seahawk ♦ 1 squadron with ATR-72-600; CN-235M-100; TB-20 Trinidad

The Paramilitary forces include the Gendarmerie/National Guard and Coast Guard, at around 102,000 personnel total. The Gendarmerie is commissioned for maintaining order and peace that falls outside of the jurisdiction of the police. This jurisdiction encompasses mostly rural or border areas of the country. Essentially, the Gendarmerie is a law enforcement unit of military nature. Although the Ministry of Interior has jurisdiction over the Gendarmerie, elements such as training and education are done in a military manner. The Coast Guard is responsible for maritime security and defending the country from all illegal actions which fall under their jurisdiction at sea.

Equipment by Type:

    RECCE Akrep
    APC 560: 535 BTR-60/BTR-80; 25 Condor
    HELICPOTERS: 19 Mi-17 Hip H; 13 S-70A Black Hawk; 8 Bell 204B; 6 Bell 205A; 8 Bell 206A Jet Ranger; 1 Bell 212
    PATROL AND COASTAL COMBATANTS: 2 Dost with 1 76mm gun; patrol boats 57; fast patrol boats 47.

Despite having an impressive military, Turkey falls short in comparison to the other military powers in the region such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Russia, especially in the finance sector. On one hand, the Turkish military budget can sustain an impressive half a million personnel, but on the other hand, the high end technology which the US provides to their allies like Saudi Arabia and Israel is not something Turkey can easily afford. The Turkish Air Force is a good example. Although the country is an important NATO member state, the Air Force is still relying on jets like the F-4 Phantom II and the F-16 Fighting Falcon. Now, these are good fighter/bombers, but these machines are outdated (the F-4 Phantom II has been retired in some countries like Israel and Germany) and won’t be the most effective in a potential conflict. Especially if you have in mind that the Turkish government has a misguided notion of using these aircraft in Syria and eventually clashing swords with Russia. This brings us to another matter. Although the Turkish military may represent a reasonable adversary, it cannot just barge in Syria and expect a warm welcome or hope for a passive stance from Russia and Iran. That’s probably why we see such frantic behavior on the part of President Erdogan and the Turkish government in the last few days, trying to pull the EU and the US deeper into the conflict with Russia. All of these cries for help are because we are told that the Russian Air Force is yet again “violating” Turkish air space, the blackmailing and putting of pressure on the US, while it is demanded that they need to choose between Turkey and the Kurds, and now Turkey is even threatening Europe with another wave of migrants if they don’t support Turkey’s actions in the region. It seems like the Turkish regime is not only losing its grip on the  political situation, but with the current reality on the ground as well. The only question that remains unclear is how long the US will tolerate this infantile policy of the Turkish government which can lead to a global conflict.