CDR (ret.) Eyal Pinko, Ph.D.
Turkey Completed the Largest Naval Exercise in its History
The Turkish navy completed in the first week of June the largest naval exercise it has ever performed. The exercise, called "Denizkurdu," involved 132 battleships, ten submarines, 43 aircraft, 28 helicopters, and 14 unmanned aerial vehicles.
" Denizkurdu " is a large-scale exercise, which the Turkish navy performs once every two years. The last exercise, spread over two weeks, was conducted in the Aegean and the Mediterranean sea.
The exercise objectives were to examine the operational readiness of the navy, explore the processes of building a multidimensional maritime picture in parallel battlefields, examine and improve combat doctrine, and strengthen cooperation between all naval units, all of which take part in the exercise.
The exercise was performed in three main stages. First, independent readiness exercises of the various units. The second phase included the practice of a four-day campaign involving various units in the Aegean Sea, and the third phase was a drill in the two arenas.
It was interesting to see that the Turkish navy incorporated, for the first time as part of the exercise, the operation of TB2 Bayraktar UAVs. This UAV fired missiles at a pre-prepared target for the training.
Another innovation presented at the exercise was the unmanned surface vehicle (ULAQ). The USV developed in the Turkish industry Ares Shipyard, about 11 meters long and reaches 35 knots. The USV carries onboard four Cirit laser-guided missiles with a range of 15 km and four UMTAS anti-aircraft missiles with a range of 8 km, both missiles made in the Turkish defense industries.
During the exercise, while it was controlled from the shore, the USV fired two Cirit missiles.
The Turkish exercise has far-reaching strategic significance. First, the exercise is a significant milestone in examining the Turkish naval strategy, the Mavi Vatan.
The Mavi Vatan strategy has been implemented in the last decade and aims to achieve Turkish naval supremacy in the various arenas, as a first step in the Black Sea, the Aegean, and the Mediterranean; And later in more distant arenas like the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, and the Indian Ocean.
The exercise demonstrated the impressive capabilities of the Turkish navy to operate in multiple arenas simultaneously, build a multi-dimensional maritime picture, and deploy air, sea, and land forces in coordination, based on NATO's operational doctrine.
More than that, the exercise showed the Turkish military power and strength, especially vis-à-vis Egypt, Greece, and Cyprus, especially with the ongoing conflict between Turkey and the countries over Turkey's aspirations to take over exclusive economic zones of these countries and create a significant foothold in Libya.
Turkey's aspirations and maritime strategy are based on two elements. The first element is Turkey's need for energy sources from the sea. The second element is Turkey's ambition to become a regional power and the return of its greatness to the days of the Ottoman Empire, So at least according to the vision of Turkish President Erdogan.
Erdogan's ambitions led to the force build-up of a very significant Turkish navy force, in which the navy was equipped with many more advanced vessels, submarines, advanced missiles, unmanned vehicles, and other major capabilities. This force build-up and its power were examined in the last exercise, which is undoubtedly impressive. The Turkish naval power introduces a deterrence against the Egyptian and Greek navies.
Moreover, as part of the ambitious plan, "Mavi Vatan," Erdogan declared that Turkish military forces would rely by 2025 on one hundred percent of Turkish defense industries development and production and reduce military equipment supply from foreign countries to zero.
The naval exercise demonstrated several impressive technological capabilities of the Turkish military industry in developing unmanned aerial vehicles, unmanned vessels, and modern missiles.
Furthermore, the technologies and systems developed by the Turkish defense industry and their use in the naval battlefield indicate the Turkish navy's strategic thinking.
The Turkish strategic thinking emphasizes the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for intelligence gathering, building a maritime picture and naval target attack from the air, and using unmanned surface vehicles to defend manned vessels and attack long-range naval targets.
The Turkish strategic thinking is modern and advanced thinking, which combines elements of unmanned platforms in naval warfare using various types of missiles and a centralized command and control system.
At the end of the exercise, the Turkish Defense Minister concluded that Turkey is making its way to realizing its vision of technological independence.