3 QUESTIONS – Türkiye’s 1st unmanned combat aerial vehicle ship: TCG Anadolu
TCG Anadolu to serve as prestige warship for Türkiye within NATO, likely to command joint operations in alliance
In three questions, Can Kasapoglu analyzes the significance of Türkiye’s new largest warship, the TCG Anadolu, with its capabilities and potential contributions to the Turkish navy.
Why is the TCG Anadolu important?
The TCG Anadolu is a special warship that can create an impact far beyond the country’s territorial waters. It represents the geopolitical transformation of the Turkish Armed Forces as the world heads toward a second Cold War.
We need to recognize that Turkish military might is now at a much more advanced level than the Cold War-era defense combat organization designed to block dozens of Soviet Union divisions.
Turkish Armed Forces built up a capacity that produces political and military influence beyond its borders, with advanced bases stretching from Africa to the Middle East and the Caucasus during the 2020s.
We can also add the technology development and export portfolio of the Turkish defense industry to this military capacity.
The Turkish navy now seeks to gradually construct an open sea fleet and equip it with robotic combat capabilities.
The TCG Anadolu will have a more distinctive combat value compared to other Juan Carlos I-class and derivative amphibious assault ships in the Australian and Spanish navies.
This is because a significant portion of TCG Anadolu’s naval aviation capacity will consist of unmanned combat aerial vehicles.
Some media outlets have even used the term “drone ship” to describe the TCG Anadolu.
On the other hand, the vessel’s status as an “unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) ship” stems from an ambitious search to resolve a fundamental naval aviation deficiency.
Why is the TCG Anadolu referred to as a “UCAV ship”?
As part of the F-35 program, Türkiye was supposed to have a large F-35A fleet.
The F-35 has also been produced in variants such as the F-35B, which can perform short takeoff and vertical landing, and the F-35C, which has catapult-assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR) capabilities.
The C variant is a platform designed for conventional aircraft carriers, while the F-35B is the appropriate option for landing helicopter dock-class (LHD) and amphibious assault ships.
Türkiye’s exclusion from the F-35 project derailed the entry of the F-35B jets, which were to be purchased in addition to the planned F-35As, into the inventory for use on the TCG Anadolu.
Turkish decision-makers came up with an ambitious solution to bring the TCG Anadolu together with the country’s rising UAV capacity.
Undoubtedly, the Bayraktar TB2 is Baykar’s most well-known and extensively covered system in the world, with a wide range of combat experience from Libya to Karabakh and, most recently, Ukraine.
More recently, the turbofan engine technology, internal weapon stations, and aeroballistic missile certification of the Kizilelma jet-powered UCAV have drawn attention.
The TB3, another UAV is at least as critical as TB2 and has not been subject to the dozens of military evaluations like the TB2 or Kizilema. But, it will constitute the TCG Anadolu’s main robotic combat capacity.
The TB3 can easily be deployed on amphibious assault ships with its foldable wing design.
With a payload capacity of 280 kilograms (about 620 pounds), it can carry 130 kg more than the TB2.
The TB3 also boasts a higher cruise speed and maximum speed than the TB2 and will fly with its indigenous PD170 engine.
After a while, the Kizilelma will also join the TB3 with a variant fitted to the TCG Anadolu.
What will the TCG Anadolu bring to Türkiye and its allies?
First, the TCG Anadolu is a 30,000-ton tool of defense diplomacy, considering that prestigious warships are among the most valuable diplomatic assets of the country they represent.
Every port visit, every message delivered by the TCG Anadolu, and every visiting leader hosted on board will receive special coverage by the international media.
Militarily, the TCG Anadolu will afford the Turkish Armed Forces and Türkiye’s allies with highly flexible capabilities and opportunities. For example, if Türkiye had a warship like TCG Anadolu in its inventory during the military operation in Libya, it would have reached success much more quickly.
It should be noted that strategic warships like the TCG Anadolu act together with their own task groups in accordance with the operational design.
In the US Navy, task groups around aircraft carriers are called Carrier Strike Groups (CSG), while groups formed around amphibious assault ships are known as Amphibious Ready Groups (ARG).
We will closely follow when the TCG Anadolu enters the inventory and how its task group will be formed.
Though the TCG Anadolu is considered an unmanned aerial vehicle ship, its amphibious roots should not be overlooked.
Turkish naval amphibious units have successfully carried out many important operations, from internal security operations to cross-border operations in Syria.
The TCG Anadolu will represent a new stage for Turkish amphibious units.
Finally, it is also an ideal warship for coalition missions, with its three operation centers.
In addition, the flight ramp modification and runway features enable a wide range of naval aviation operations. The TCG Anadolu will serve as a prestige warship for Türkiye within NATO and will likely command joint NATO operations.