One of NATO’s strongest members dropped the bomb: a formidable army is being built next door to Russia

By RockedBuzz 14 Min Read

Turkey and NATO

Although Turkey remained neutral throughout the Second World War, it was still unable to stay out of the power games that followed the war. Soon after the end of the World War, Stalin entered the Turkish territories as well: he demanded the return of the eastern province of Kars (it belonged to the tsarist empire between 1878-1917), and he wanted to establish a Russian base in the straits connecting the Mediterranean and Black Seas. Stalin also offered a defense contract to the Turkish state.

It was clear, however, that Turkey could not face Stalin’s ultimatum alone: ​​from the east, along the border of today’s Georgia and Armenia, it was directly bordered by the Soviet Union for about 500 kilometers, and on the Black Sea it faced the Russian fleet stationed in the port of Sevastopol. In addition, it bordered the Soviet-affiliated state Bulgaria in the west. This is how the North Atlantic Treaty Organization led by the United States of America came into being, of which it became a full member in 1952.

NATO’s defense is not only important for Turkey, but due to Turkey’s geographical location, the republic is also important for NATO. It was a top priority for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to prevent the Russian Black Sea Fleet from reaching the Mediterranean. And only Turkey is capable of this, which also exercises authority over the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles.

During the Cold War, the country functioned as NATO’s forward military position, but new conflicts in the Caucasus, the Balkans, the Middle East, and now in Ukraine after the breakup of the Eastern Bloc showed that Turkey’s NATO membership has not lost its importance.

However, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the geopolitical situation of the region changed, and Ankara began to open up to Russia, which emerged as a successor state, which caused confrontations with its Western allies. And the Turkish military industry also suffered the consequences of this.

Turkey and Western weapons

The breaking of bread between Turkey and the West finally took place in 2017: Turkey bought Russia’s S-400 missile systems instead of American Patriot air defense missile systems, which drew the ire of the United States. Not long after, revenge came – They were removed from the F-35 stealth fighter development program in 2019, and in 2020, some senior Turkish officials were also put on the sanctions list. At the same time, Germany also refused to modernize the Leopard tanks.

In 2021, the news came that Washington finally relented and provided the opportunity to purchase 40 F-16 fighter jets and 80 modernization packages, but this has not been delivered since then. Indeed, the United States continues to assess the integration of the systems of the Russian S-400s and the American F-16s as a security risk.

Turkey, which previously relied heavily on Western weapons, has therefore turned more and more towards its own developments. Although the Turkish military industry has produced increasingly spectacular results in the past decade (BMC Kirpi and BMC Vuran combat vehicles, Bayraktar drones). Moreover, in the case of MRAPs, the country fought its way to the forefront of the world. Six states have already purchased Kirpik for their own armies, but among others, Hungary has also ordered a domestically configured version of Ejder Yalcin’s MRAP manufactured by Turkish Nurol Makina, which is sold under the name Gidrán.

That is why Ankara’s lagging behind is particularly striking keht area is still significant: medium/general tanks and combat aircraft. However, the related developments seem to have finally reached the finish line.

Turkish BMC Kirpi MRAP in the service of the Ukrainian army. The prototypes of the combat vehicle rolled off the production line in 2009, their first live deployment took place in the 2012 Syrian civil war.

Altay general tank

Turkey previously had no self-developed tanks. The Turkish ground forces mainly consist of older M60 Pattons, Leopard 1A3 and 2A4 tanks, which do not have the active protection and modernized armor required on modern battlefields.

Turkish tank destroyed by Kurdish led-force SDF Jarablus-Syria 27.08. 2016Turkish tank destroyed by Kurdish led-force SDF Jarablus-Syria 27.08. 2016

Ankara before he asked modernization of its own Leopards, but the political resistance in Germany refused to cooperate due to the use of Leopard 2s against civilians (especially Kurds), further pushing the Turkish military industry to start going its own way.

The Turk media reported on Thursday that as the closing chord of the “Altay” development project launched in 2007, the Turkish armed forces will receive the first two “New Altay” tanks for testing within a month.

The 65-ton tank combines self-developed systems and the technology used in South Korea’s K2 Black Panther. In order to boost domestic production, Turkey bought, among other things, the production license of the 120 millimeter CN08 used as the main weapon (the tank gun is said to be capable of hitting low-flying helicopters), but in addition, many parts and systems were naturalized. Although the first tanks will be put into operation with South Korean diesel engines, domestic BMC engines will take over the movement of the vehicle during series production. In addition, the panzer already has composite and ERA armor, compared to his comrades in the army.

According to plans, the army will complete the tests by 2024, and serial production of the armored car could start by 2026. The planned annual capacity is 100 tanks, of which around 25-30 are intended for export. The planned total order is about 1,000 pieces.

The latest Turkish tanks will therefore not only be entirely domestically developed, but also much more modern than the current stock in Turkish hands.

whose renovation failed due to Western political resistance.

Stealth – but not F-35s

Turkey’s air force, including primarily its combat aircraft, is entirely American-made: its air fleet consisted of 158 obsolete F-16C multi-role fighters and 48 F-4E fighter-bombers. The modernization of the fighter fleet has therefore long been a central issue of Turkish military development. Although the US-led F-35 stealth program looked promising for Ankara for a long time, they were forced out of the project with the purchase of Russian air defense systems.

The TAI (Turkish Aerospace Industries) developed by the company TF-X its history began in 2010. The fighter was originally intended to supplement the F-35s, but as a result of being excluded from the project, ideas changed, and independence from foreign suppliers has now become the primary goal.

The development of the fighter most similar to the F-22 is more recent to a milestone arrived with that performed its first rolling tests. Although the first live tests of the system have already begun, Turkey’s first fifth-generation fighter will probably not enter service until the end of the decade. The maximum speed of the multipurpose fighter is around twice the speed of sound, and it will be armed with air-to-air, air-to-ground missiles and various unguided bombs.

Simultaneously and similarly, he stood on the runway and completed it his first rolling test a Shout out also, Turkey’s supersonic future trainer and light combat aircraft. The Hürjet is a single-engine aircraft that will mainly play a training and air support role in the future super-modern Turkish Air Force.

According to the manufacturer’s information, the fighter will be able to reach one and a half times the speed of sound (about 1,900 kilometers per hour), and its range will be 2,222 kilometers. Its arsenal will include various air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles.

Turkey’s air force is developing not only in the field of combat aircraft, but in parallel with fighter jets, it is also trying to catch up with the world’s leading arms-producing states in the development of unmanned aerial vehicles, the star weapon of the Russian-Ukrainian war.

Last week, Turkish Aircraft Industries (TAI) presented its latest development, the A stealth drone called ANKA-3 MIUS. According to the information that has just been made public, the drone was designed for long-range, reconnaissance-strike purposes, including the destruction of enemy air defenses.

ANKA-3 opens a new chapter in the field of drone development with its jet engine and speed, high payload capacity, and its structure that is almost invisible on radar

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said about the project in December 2022.

According to the current announcement, ANKA-3 can start test flights as early as April, but a more detailed schedule for the test phase has not been published. Anka-3 has a deployment altitude of 12,000 meters, a maximum speed of Mach 0.7, and will be able to stay in the air for up to 10 hours.

In parallel, the competitor Baykar Bayraktar Kızılelma (“Red Apple”) and its drone has already successfully lifted off the ground during a test in December. According to the plans, the first version of the similarly stealthy drone will be able to reach speeds below the speed of sound, and later versions will be able to reach speeds above the speed of sound. The company’s CEO recently stated that, according to his plans, the type can be presented to the general public around 2024-25, after which it can be put into service.

Türkiye's maiden unmanned fighter jet, Bayraktar Kizilelma flies for the first timeTürkiye’s maiden unmanned fighter jet, Bayraktar Kizilelma flies for the first time

What will happen to you Turkish army?

Together, these four “musketballs” – TF-X, ANKA-3, Bayraktar Kizilelma and Hürjet – represent a promising new era for Turkey’s aerospace industry and air force, and the Altay tank can be a solution to the modernization issue for the ground forces.

Although there may still be many pitfalls in the projects, as a result of which some developments may even be shelved, Turkey can nevertheless hope that by the end of the decade, it will build a modern, effective force that is above all independent of foreign manufacturers.

The development of domestic production also provides an opportunity for the country to increase its diplomatic scope on the international stage,

reducing the possibility that some of its controversial decisions in the West will stand in the way of military modernization, as happened with Leopard tanks and fighter jets.

Cover image source: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

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