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Thousands of artillery pieces from the Cold
War era are supplemented by about 300 modern
T-155 Firtina self-propelled howitzers and over
200 Panter towed guns of 155-mm caliber derived
from examples acquired from South Korea and
Singapore respectively. China supplied prototypes
and documentation on multiple rocket launchers that
have been used in setting up license production in
the country. When artillery is needed to suppress
enemies - be they Kurds or Daesh - the Turkish army
now more often relies on systems of Pacific Rim
origin rather than NATO. Noting Ankara's growing
ambition to reduce its dependence on NATO supply
and develop local defense production, arms makers
in Asia-Pacific expect more contracts and co-
development programs with Turkish industry.
Established in 1911, the Turkish Air Force has
developed into a vast organization with 60,000
military personnel and seven hundred manned
aircraft. It operates nearly 300 supersonic jets.
These are represented by two American types, the
F-4E Phantom II (between 30 and 50 examples)
and F-16C/D Fighting Falcon (about 240,
including 90 twin seaters) - very popular, and
combat-proven. Although an old design, Turkish
Phantoms have undergone several modernisation
and lifetime extension programs with the help of
U.S. and Israeli firms.
Apart from eight aircraft received directly from
the U.S., all Fighting Falcons have been assembled
locally. Established in 1984, Turkish Aerospace
Industries (TAI) has been producing the F-16C/D
under license for domestic and foreign customers.
Under orders from the Turkish defense ministry, the
company has so far completed 232 aircraft of Block
30/40/50. Thirty more airframes of Block 50+ are
in the making. There is an ongoing effort to upgrade
in-service aircraft to the Block 50+ standard.
Spy planes include a pair of CN235 turboprops
in a reconnaissance version and four Boeing 737
AEW&C Peace Eagle, derived from the Australian
air force E-7A Wedgetail. There are plenty of tactical
transports, such as brand-new A400Ms and older
Army Aviation operates 15 TAI/AgustaWestland
T129 tandem seat all-weather attack helicopters
based on the Agusta A129 Mangusta platform.
These brand-new machines are supplemented by
U.S. made AH-1 Cobras. Late in the past century,
Turkey brought ten AH-1Ws new from the factory
and 32 used examples upgraded to AH-1F version.
UNMANNED AIR VEHICLES
Since the Lebanon war of 1982-1984, unmanned
air vehicles have been constant "eyes in the sky"
- an irreplaceable and always-present means of
reconnaissance. Turkey has operated several types
of popular U.S. and Israeli drones, and is now
producing designs of its own. The largest in the
inventory is the Anka UAV. It was developed under a
project that commenced in 2004. Attributed to the
MALE category (Medium Altitude Long Endurance),
the 1600-kg vehicle has a wingspan of 17 meters
and a single 155-hp piston engine. Flight tests
commenced in December 2010. The first mission
flight over homelands was reported in February
Another local type is the Bayraktar Tactical UAV
that also became operational in 2014. With a 650kg
gross weight and 12 meter wing span, it is in service
with 12 examples. The local industry has also built
hundreds of hand-launched Bayraktar Mini drones
with a 2-meter wingspan.
There are believed to be a tiny number of
MQ-1 Predator UAVs in use, but this has not
been confirmed. A follow-on contract with the
manufacturer is reported as having been cancelled.
Turkey used to operate 22 GNAT reconnaissance
UAVs developed in the late 1980s and manufactured
by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. Israeli
equipment is represented by ten IAI Herons and a
number of older designs, but the intent is to replace
those with more recent ones of local origin.
There is no reliable information on availability of
UCAVs, apart from the fact that TAI is working on a
new version of the Anka ("+A") armed with AGM-
114 Hellfire missiles or their local analogues. In
January 2017 the Turkish defense ministry and TAI
announced shipment of six Anka-S systems (an
armed Anka with a typical payload of 200kg) for later
this year, and four more in 2018.
ASSESSING MILITARY STRENGTH
From an economic development viewpoint, Turkey
is the most developed country in the Middle East
after Israel. It has a domestic industry able to fulfill
at least some of the army's basic needs in modern
equipment and to maintain the large inventory of
imported weapons systems. Historically, the Turks
are known as fierce warriors, who at one time kept
under their swords the Middle East, North Africa and
half of Europe.
The country was among the first in the world
to field a regular standing army, but was slow
to master aircraft and armored vehicles. Turkey
fought on the German side in WW1, but did not
participate in WW2. A NATO member since 1952,
the Turkish military has worked hard to meet the
Most of the country's 80 million people show
a strong Turkish national identity, but long-term
problems exists with the Kurds (8 million) - a people
without a state who favor the idea of independence.
For decades, the Turkish army and police have
been involved in fighting Kurdish separatists using
heavy weapons, including airplanes and helicopters.
The conflict between Turkey and the Kurdish PKK
movement has resulted in over 40,000 deaths.
According to the PKK, last year they killed 3,404
Turkish servicemen and injured 1,334, destroyed
166 armored vehicles and damaged 48 more.
While having amassed a rich experience in battling
insurgency, the Turkish army has not seen a major
military conflict for almost a century.
Information available on Euphrates Shield reveals
that the Turkish army has suffered significant losses
in armored vehicles and personnel when it meets
a strong opponent such as the motivated, battle-
hardened Daesh force equipped with rapid-fire
cannons, anti-tank missiles, mortars, howitzers,
multiply rocket launchers, remotely piloted air
vehicles and armored bomb-cars driven by suicide
attackers. The battle for Al-Bab continues with
mounting losses in tanks (including Leopard 2A4s)
and infantry fighting vehicles without any appreciable
achievement for months.
What had been anticipated to be an easy
victory for domestic consumption and international
recognition has turned into a protracted war of
Since October the Turkish armed forces and their FSA collaborators have
been stuck at Al-Bab.
Since the Lebanon war of 1982-1984, unmanned air vehicles have been
constant "eyes in the sky" - an irreplaceable and always-present means
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