Forces: September 3, 2005


Turkey has been a major power in the Eastern Mediterranean sea, and the Middle East, for centuries. Despite the destruction of the Turkish empire after World War I, this dominance remains. The Turkish military has, for half a century, been one of the bulwarks on NATOs southern front. Turkeys military is one that faces a multitude of potential operations, including counter-insurgency warfare against Kurdish separatists in southeast Turkey, conflict with Greece over Cyprus (currently divided, and a potential powder keg), and humanitarian operations (such as in the aftermath of the 1999 earthquakes).

The Turkish Army is a large force (402,000 active-duty personnel, 206,000 reservists). It is divided into four armies (the First, Second, Third, and Aegean), and consists of ten corps,  14 mechanized infantry brigades, 14 armored brigades. 12 infantry brigades, and five commando brigades. Major equipment includes 443 Leopard 1 main battle tanks, 720 M60A3, 289 M60A1 (of which 170 will be modified to the same standards as the Israeli Sabra main battle tank, which is an M60A3 with a 120mm smoothbore gun, much like the gun on the Merkava), 798 M48A5s that have been modified to M60A3 specs (with a laser range-finder, smoke grenade launchers, and the ability to fire accurately on the move), 1,789 M48A5T1 tanks (which have been upgraded to the same specs as the M60A1), and 287 M48T5s that are also upgraded to the M60A1 standard. Over 1200 M48A2 and M48A3 tanks are in reserve and provide spare parts for the tanks in service. The Turkish Army also has a large number of APCs and IFVs. Of these, 650 Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicles which are M113s with a 25mm cannon, 1381 are Advanced Armored Personnel Carriers, and over 3100 M113 armored personnel carriers. Other equipment the Turkish Army uses includes 295 M110 self-propelled eight-inch howitzers, 524 M44T and M52T self-propelled 155mm howitzers (upgraded pieces from the 1950s, the latter were originally 105mm howitzers), 36 AH-1 attack helicopters, 690 towed 155mm artillery guns (M114 and M59), 830 M101 105mm howitzers, and 140 towed 203mm howitzers.

The Turkish Air Force is a force that operates a large number of aircraft. Two types are in service. First is the ubiquitous F-16 Fighting Falcon. Turkeys force of F-16s is the second-largest (behind only the United States Air Force). There are a total of 196 F-16Cs and 44 F-16Ds available. The Turkish Air Force also operates the F-4 Phantom. There are 136 of these aircraft in service 52 of which have been upgraded by Israeli Aircraft Industries to the 2020 Terminator standard. The 2020 Terminator Phantoms have enhanced maneuverability and upgraded avionics systems. Turkey is also planning on buying as many as 150 F-35s and up to 4 737-700 airliners modified into airborne early warning planes.

The Turkish Navy has a mix of new-build and second-hand ships. The surface force consists of 19 frigates. Eight Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates that retain their Mk 13 missile launchers and three Knox-class frigates have been acquired from the United States. These go along with four Yavuz-class frigates, which have 16 Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missiles (eight rounds in a Mk 29 launcher with eight reloads), Harpoon anti-ship missiles, a five-inch gun, and three Sea Zenith (a four-barreled 25mm gun for close-in defense). Turkey also has two Barbaros-class frigates (which differ from the Yavuz-class frigates in having 16 reloads for the Mk 29 Sea Sparrow launcher as opposed to eight), and two Salihreis-class frigates (which replace the Mk 29 launcher with a Mk 41 vertical-launch system holding 16 Sea Sparrows). 

Turkey also has 14 Type 209 submarines (eight Type 209/1400 and six Type 209/1200) in service.  Turkey is planning to build six frigates, and also has six DEstinne DOrves-class corvettes that have been acquired from France. Turkey also has 23 fast missile boats (15 with the Harpoon anti-ship missile, eight with the Norwegian Penguin anti-ship missile), with four more Harpoon-equipped missile boats on order.

The Turkish military police are also a factor. The 180,000-strong Gendarmarie (with 50,000 reservists) usually operates in rural areas, often using the Russian BTR-60 armored personnel carrier and a mix of armored cars (like the Cadillac V150 and the Dragoon 300). This unit also has a small force of helicopters, 26 of which are Blackhawks, 18 of which are Mi-17 Hips from Russia.

The Turkish military has been securing NATOs southern flank since 1952. It has had a few combat operations (such as the 1974 invasion of Cyprus, rumored aerial engagements with Greece over the Aegean Sea, and the Kurdish insurgency in the southeastern part of that country). This is a force slated to keep Turkey as a major player in the Eastern Mediterranean for the foreseeable future. Harold C. Hutchison ([email protected])




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close