Türkiye sees visitor influx as it opens largest warship to public - M5 Dergi
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Türkiye sees visitor influx as it opens largest warship to public

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The Turkish public on Monday flocked to the Sarayburnu coastline of Istanbul to get a first-hand look at Türkiye’s recently commissioned, long-anticipated largest warship.

The TCG Anadolu bolsters Türkiye’s naval capabilities and makes the country one of the few nations globally with a domestically built aircraft carrier.

More than Türkiye’s first aircraft carrier, the ship will also be the world’s first vessel with an air wing mainly comprised of unmanned aircraft.

The TCG Anadolu anchored at the Sarayburnu Port Sunday, just a week after the ship was delivered to the Naval Forces Command in a ceremony led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who announced the vessel would be open to the public.

Visitors lined up on Monday to visit the TCG Anadolu, a landing helicopter dock (LHD) type amphibious assault ship based on Spain’s flagship, the Juan Carlos I.

It is 231 meters (758 feet) long and 32 meters wide and boasts a displacement of 27,436 tons. It has a top speed of around 21 knots, a range of 9,000 nautical miles, and can operate at sea for 50 days.

“This is a product of the fusion of the state and the nation. As long as we are together, we will achieve a lot,” said Nusret Gür, arriving from the central province of Konya to see the ship.

Stressing that it marks the first for Türkiye, Faruk Tunçer said: “It started with this (ship), I hope the series continues. We are very proud as a nation.”

TCG Anadolu is open to the public daily through April 23 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., before it sets sail through the Bosporus on April 24.

The ship was ordered in 2015, laid down in February 2018 and launched in April 2019. Its inauguration was scheduled for 2021 but has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The TCG Anadolu was initially intended to operate like similar amphibious assault ships and carry a fleet of helicopters and short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) fighters, such as Lockheed Martin’s F-35B variant of the fifth-generation stealth aircraft.

Yet, any such prospect diminished after the U.S. removed Türkiye from the multinational program developing the F-35 fighter jets over Ankara’s decision to acquire Russian-made S-400 air missile defense systems in 2019.

By that year, Türkiye had contributed $1.4 billion to the program and had planned to purchase some 100 F-35 jets in the long term.

This prompted Türkiye to reconsider the development plans and make additional adjustments to transform the TCG Anadolu into a carrier of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) and uncrewed fighter jets, in addition to helicopters.

The ship’s air wing is expected to consist mostly of Bayraktar TB3s, a short-runway-capable version of the renowned Bayraktar TB2. Both platforms have been developed by the Turkish drone magnate Baykar.

The TB3 will be displayed and make its first public appearance on the sidelines of this year’s edition of Türkiye’s largest aviation, space and technology festival Teknofest, scheduled to begin in late April.

The aircraft, the first of its kind boasting the ability to fold its wings, is expected to finish its testing phase by the end of 2023, according to the company’s officials.

The platform will have long-range communication capabilities, allowing it to be remotely controlled from great distances. This will enable it to conduct reconnaissance, surveillance, intelligence gathering and attacks against overseas targets.

Another of Baykar’s landmark platforms, the unmanned fighter jet Kızılelma, will also be capable of taking off from and landing on the TCG Anadolu.

Kızılelma completed its maiden flight in December. It represents a significant expansion of capabilities for slow-moving reconnaissance and missile-carrying drones. It promises to increase the top speed and carrying capacity of the existing unmanned aircraft in Türkiye.

Powered by a jet engine, it shows similar exterior features to fifth-generation fighter jets. Baykar says in addition to conventional drone missions, Kızılelma will be able to conduct air-to-air engagements.

The autonomous maneuvering platform will be capable of operating in tandem with piloted aircraft and may carry air-to-air missiles, according to the company.

In addition to drones, the TCG Anadolu will house helicopters, including the domestically produced T129 Atak, the AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters and SH-70B utility helicopters.

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