Turkey remains a military power that should not be taken lightly - analyst

Turkey remains a military power that should not be trifled with, despite the massive dismissals of army officers following a failed coup attempt in 2016, analyst Kyle Mizokami said in the National Interest on Friday.

Turkey has one of the most powerful armed forces in Europe or Asia with an air force consisting of nearly 300 F-16 Fighting Falcons and a naval force with more than a dozen submarines and a marine infantry brigade, the analyst said. 

“Much of the Turkish military’s equipment is foreign made but the country is currently making an effort to build up its military industrial base,” Mizokami said.

The analyst said Turkish companies had been subcontractors for the programme to build F-35 stealth fighters until the Pentagon suspended Turkey’s participation to the programme in July after Ankara started receiving Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile defence systems. 

Meanwhile, Turkey’s TF-X project, a $13 billion effort to offer a fifth-generation fighter to the international market, is aiming for first flight in 2025 and to enter service in 2028. 

Mizokami also listed five of the most powerful weapons in the Turkish military.

As part of Turkey’s contribution to the F-35 program, Turkish defence contractor Roketsan partnered with Lockheed Martin to develop the SOM (Stand Off Missile) cruise missile. There are several versions of SOM under development but the most advanced is probably SOM-J, which has a range of 155 miles and a high explosive warhead designed to be effective against hardened targets, Mizokami said. 

Turkey operates several hundred German-made Leopard 2A4, but the tanks lack many of the improvements, he said. 

The Turkish Air Force operates one of the largest F-16 fleets outside of the United States, the analyst said. The Turkish military uses 158 F-16Cs in the fighter role and 87 in the trainer role.

“Turkey not only flies the F-16, it is one of only a handful of countries to manufacture the aircraft,” Mizokami said, adding that the experience had been gained by its role in the manufacturing of F-16s had helped Turkey develop T-FX.

Turkey operates 14 Type 209 submarines, one of the largest undersea fleets in Mediterranean, and now place to replace the oldest of the 209s a with six new Reis-class Type 214 submarines to be built in Gölcük Naval Shipyard in Izmir under license from Germany, the analyst said.

In addition, Turkey hosts an estimated 90 B61 nuclear bombs at İncirlik Air Base in the southern province of Adana, with 50 allocated to U.S. Air Force pilots and 40 allocated to Turkish Air Force pilots, he said.