Turkey commissioned its first home-built amphibious assault ship on Monday, with the aim of extending its drone capabilities from land-based to naval operations.
The 232-metre TCG Anadolu, Turkey’s largest warship, will be configured to carry an air wing made up mostly of armed drones.
The vessel is designed to carry light aircraft such as helicopters and combat jets that can make short or vertical take-offs.
It carries a crew of 1,400 people, plus combat vehicles and support units.
The launch is the latest display of home-grown defence equipment, which has also included prototypes of fighter jets and drones.
The Anadolu enters service amid increased regional tensions as war rages in Ukraine on the other side of the Black Sea.
“This vessel will allow us to conduct military and humanitarian operations in every corner of the world, when needed,” said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the launch, which comes ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections on May 14.
“We see this vessel as a symbol that will consolidate Turkey’s regional leadership position.”
The ship was built in Istanbul’s Sedef Shipyard by a Turkish-Spanish consortium, based on the design of Spanish light aircraft carrier Juan Carlos I.
Ankara’s plan was to equip the ship with F-35B Lightning fighter jets, which can take off from short runways.
But its plans changed after the US removed Turkey, a Nato ally, from its F-35 programme because of Ankara’s purchase of Russian S-400 defence systems in 2019. Turkey then converted TCG Anadolu into a drone carrier.
Turkey also plans to equip the new carrier with Bayraktar TB3 and Kizilelma combat drones, both under production by Turkish defence firm Baykar, as well as Hurjet light attack aircraft being developed by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI).
Turkey, which has Nato’s second-largest army, shares a border with Syria and Iraq and has a long coastline on the Mediterranean and Black Sea.
In the nearly 14-month Ukraine war, Turkey has positioned itself as an intermediary between Kyiv and Moscow, helping to broker with the UN a deal allowing for the safe export of grain from Ukrainian ports through the Black Sea.
Source: The National News