Military Analysis: Turkish Armed Forces



SouthFront: Analysis & Intelligence is continuing to study the Trukish military capabilities. Our previous paper was dedicated to the Turkish 2nd Army positioned along the southern border with Syria. This force will likely be used in case of the Turkish military invasion to Syria. Howver, in case of possible global escalation, it’s important to estimate straight that the Turkish military potential is much wider than the forces already prepared for military intervention.

Written and produced by SouthFront Military Analysis TeamIgor Pejic, Brian Kalman, Viktor Stoilov, Daniel Deiss

Igor Pejic graduated Political Science Foreign Affairs Department at the Faculty of Political Science and now he is a postgraduate student on the MA Terrorism, Security and Organised Crime at the University of Belgrade, Serbia.


The Turkish Armed Forces consist of land, naval and air forces under the General Staff, also the Gendarmerie and the Coast Guard can operate under the land and naval forces during war times, but usually they are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The giant historical leap for the Turkish military occurred in 1952 when Turkey became a member state of NATO, the country’s geopolitical and military significance rapidly grew after this event especially during the Cuban missile crisis. Of course, NATO membership doesn’t come cheaply. In the later years the Turkish military went through a comprehensive reform and modernization in order to accommodate the Western military standards. Today, Turkey is one of the most important NATO countries, controlling the Bosphorous and the Dardanelles, accessing Europe, the Middle East and the Caucasus region, and providing NATO with ~ 500,000 active military personnel, making this country a valuable ally for the Western powers.

Turkey has around 510,000 military and 102,000 paramilitary personnel, and a reserve of around 380,000 military and 50,000 paramilitary personnel. The goal of the Turkish military is to become a smaller, but better-skilled force, with the ability to accomplish all kinds of NATO missions while providing a highly mobile force, able to fight across the spectrum of a conflict. The military budget is estimated at 22.6 billion dollars or 2.2% of the GDP.


The Army consists of 402,000 servicemen (325,000 conscripts) with Land forces command in Ankara. The Army has a long history and usually likes to point out that their tradition goes centuries back to when the Ottomans first invaded Europe. In modern terms, it had been formed in 1920 as an Army of the Great National Assembly after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The army was active during the Korean War, the Turkish invasion of Cyprus and the army also regularly participates in NATO’s missions. The main asset of the army is its robust structure of more than 400,000 active personnel which makes it the second largest ground force in NATO.

  • 1st Army HQ Istanbul
    • 2nd Corps Gelibolu
      • 4th Mechanized Infantry Brigade Kesan
      • 8th Mechanized Infantry Brigade Tekirdag
      • 18th Mechanized Infantry Brigade Canakkale
      • 95th Armored Brigade Malkara
      • 102nd Artillery Regiment Uzunkopru
      • Corps Engineer Combat Regiment Gelibolu
    • 3rd Corps Sisli, Istanbul (NATO Rapid Deployment Corps)
      • 52nd Tactical Armored Division Hadimkoy
      • 2nd Armored Brigade Kratal
      • 66th Mechanized Infantry Brigade Istanbul
      • 23rd Tactical Motorized Infantry Division Hasdal
    • 5th Corps Corlu
      • 1st Armored Brigade Babaeski
      • 3rd Armored Brigade Cerkezkoy
      • 54th Mechanized Infantry Brigade Edirne
      • 55th Mechanized Infantry Brigade Suloglu
      • 65th Mechanized Infantry Brigade Luleburgaz
      • Corps Armored Cavalry Battalion Ulas
      • 105th Artillery Regiment Corlu
      • Corps Engineer Combat Regiment Pinarhisar
    • 15th Infantry Division Kosekoy
  • 2nd Army HQ Malatya
    • 4th Corps Ankara
      • 28th Mechanized Infantry Brigade Mamak
      • 58th Artillery Regiment Polatli
      • 1st Commando Brigade Talas
      • 2nd Commando Brigade Bolu
    • 6th Corps Adana
      • 5th Armored Brigade Gaziantep
      • 39th Mechanized Infantry Brigade Iskenderun
      • 106th Artillery Regiment Islahiye
    • 7th Corps Diyarbakir
      • 3rd Tactical Infantry Division Yuksekova
      • 34th Border Brigade Semdinli
      • 16th Mechanized Brigade Diyarbakir
      • 20th Mechanized Brigade Sanliurfa
      • 70th Mechanized Infantry Brigade Mardin
      • 172nd Armored Brigade Silopi
      • 2nd Motorized Infantry Brigade Lice
      • 6th Motorized Infantry Brigade Akcay
      • 3rd Commando Brigade Siirt
      • 107th Artillery Regiment Siverek
      • Hakkari Mountain Warfare and Commando Brigade Hakkari
    • 3rd Army HQ Erzincan
      • 8th Corps Elazig
        • 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade Dogubeyazit
        • 12th Mechanized Infantry Brigade Agri
        • 10th Motorized Infantry Brigade Tatvan
        • 34th Motorized Infantry Brigade Patnos
        • 49th Motorized Infantry Brigade Bingol
        • 51st Motorized Infantry Brigade Hozat
        • 4th Commando Briagde Tunceli
        • 108th Artillery Regiment Ercis
        • 17th Motorized Infantry Brigade Kigi
      • 9th Corps Erzurum
        • 4th Armored Brigade Palandoken
        • 14th Mechanized Infantry Brigade Kars
        • 25th Mechanized Infantry Brigade Ardahan
        • 9th Motorized Infantry Brigade Sarikamis
        • 48th Motorized Infantry Brigade Trabzon
        • 109th Artillery Regiment Erzurum
      • Aegean Army HQ Izmir
        • Cyprus Turkish Peace Force
          • 28th Infantry Division Asha
          • 39th Infantry Division Cmlibel
          • 14th Armored Brigade Asha
          • Special Force Regiment
          • Artillery Regiment
          • Naval units
        • Logistic Division Balikesir
        • 57th Artillery Training Brigade Izmir
        • 19th Infantry Brigade Edremit
        • 11th Motorized Infantry Brigade Denizli
        • 5th Army Aviation School Command Mugla
        • 2nd Infantry Regiment Mugla
        • Commando Training School Command Isparta
        • 3rd Infantry Training Brigade Antalya
        • 1st Infantry Training Brigade Manisa
      • Army Aviation Command Ankara Guvercinlik Army Air Base
        • Special Aviation Group Command
        • General Staff Electronic Systems
        • Mapping General Command
        • UAV Central Command
        • Army Aviation School Command
        • 5th Main Maintanance Center Command
        • 1st Army Aviation Regiment Guvercinlik Army Air Base
        • 2nd Army Aviation Regiment Malatya
        • 3rd Army Aviation Regiment Gaziemir Air Base
        • 4th Army Aviation Regiment Samandira Army Air Base
        • 7th Army Aviation Group Command Diyarbakir
        • Northeren Cyprus Turkish Army Aviation Unit Command Karter Air Base

In Ankara there are also stationed the Training and Doctrine Command, Logistics Command, Turkish Military Academy and the Army Aviation Command.

Equipment by Type:

  • MBT : 2,504: 325 Leopard 2A4; 170 Leopard 1A4; 227 Leopard 1A3; 274 M60A1; 658 M60A3; 850 M48A5 T1/T2
  • RECCE 320+: 250 Akrep; 70+ ARSV Cobra
  • APC 3,643: 830 AAPC; 2,813 M113/M113A1/M113A2
  • ARTY 7,822 ♦ SP103 ♦ 105mm 391: 26M108T; 365 M-52T; 155mm 457: 222 M-441T1; 235 T0-155 Firtina (K-9 Thunder); 175mm 36 M107; 203mm 219 M110A2 ♦ TOWED 760 ♦ 105mm 75 M101A1; 155mm 523: 517 M114A1/M114A2; 6 Panther; 203mm 162 M115
  • MOR 5,813 ♦ SP 1,443 ♦ 107mm 1,264 M-30; 120MM 179 ♦ TOWED 4,370 ♦ 81mm 3,792; 120mm 578
  • ATSP 365 TOW ♦ MANPATS 998: 80 9K123 Kornet; 186 Cobra; 340 Eryx; 392 Milan
  • AIRCRAFT ♦ Transport Light 38 ♦ 5 Beech 200 King Air; 30 Cessna 185 (U-17B); 3 Cessna 421
  • Training Aircraft 74: 45 Cessna T182; 25 T-41D Mescalero; 4 T-42A Cochise
  • Attack Helicopters 40: 18 AH-1P Cobra; 12 AH-1S Cobra; 6 AH-1W Cobra; 4 TAH-1P Cobra
  • Air DefenseSP 148 ♦ 70 Altigan PMADS octuple Stinger launcher, 78 Zipkin PMADS quad Stinger launcher ♦ MANPAD 935: 789 FIM-43 Redeye; 146 FIM-92A Stinger
  • RADAR LAND ♦ AN/TPQ-36 Firefighter AEV 12: 12M48 ♦ ARV 150: 12 Leopard 1; 105 M48t5; 33 M88A2


The Turkish Naval Forces consist of 14,000 servicemen and 34,500 conscripts active personnel. The whole Navy numbers around 48,000 personnel including the Coast Guard (2,200 personnel) and the Marines (3,100 personnel). The Turkish naval experience began in the late 11th century when the first fleets had sailed on the Aegean. With the Ottoman reign coming to an end in the 20th century and the Turkish war for independence in 1920, the modern Turkish Naval Force was  formed. At first the naval force was known as the Directorate for Naval Affairs, later as Ministry of the Navy and finally as Undersecretariat of the Sea, which operates under the Turkish General

Staff. After this massive administrative reorganization began, along with the modernization of the navy, the navy ended up suffered heavy losses during WWI. The Navy has a great strategic significance for the Turkish armed forces, especially the Northern Fleet which secures the two straits connecting the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. The Turkish Naval Force also operates in the international military missions such as ALTHEA, CTPF, ISAF, KFOR, UNMIK etc.

In the 1960s, the Turkish Navy was reorganized into four main sections: the Turkish Fleet Command, the Turkish Northern Sea Area Command, the Sothern Sea Area Command, and the Naval Training and  Education Command.

  • Fleet Command
    • Surface Action Group Command, Golcuk Naval Base Kocaeli
    • Submarine Group Command
    • Fast Patrol Boat Group Command Istanbul
    • Mine Warfare Group Command, Erdek Naval Base Balikesir
    • Logistic Support Group Command, Golcuk Naval Base Kocaeli
    • Naval Aviation Group Command, Cengiz Topel Naval Air Station Kocaeli
  • Northern Sea Area Command Istanbul
    • Istanbul Strait Command
    • Canakkale Strait Command
    • Naval Hydrography and Oceanography Division Command
    • Naval Museum Command Istanbul
  • Southern Sea Area Command Izmir
    • Naval Infantry Brigade Command Foca
      • Amhibious Group Command Foca
    • Naval Infantry Battalion Command Izmir
    • Accompaniment and Patrol Boats Flotilla
    • Aksaz Naval Base Command Marmaris
  • Naval Training and Education Center Istanbul
    • Naval Academy Istanbul
    • Naval High School Haybeliada
    • Karamurselbey Training Center Command Yalova
  • Amphibious Marine Infantry Brigade Command Foca, Izmir
  • Underwater Offence Command Izmir
  • Underwater Defense Group Command Foca

Equipment by type:

  • SUBMARINES 14: 6 Atilay with 8 single 533mm ASTT with SST-4 HWT; 8 Preveze with 8 single 533mm ASTT with UGM-84 Harpoon AShM/Tigerfish Mk2 HWT
  • PRINCIPAL SURFACE COMBATANTS – FRIGATES 19: 4 Barbaros ( 2x mod GER MEKO 200 F244 & F245 2x mod GER MEKO 200 F246 & F247) with 2 quad Mk141 launcher with Aspide SAM, 2 Mk32 triple 324mm ASTT with Mk46 LWT, Sea Zenith CIWS, 1 127mm gun ♦ 3 Gaziantep with 1 Mk13 GMLS with RGM-84C Harpoon AShM/SM-1MR SAM, 1 8-cell Mk41 VLS with RIM-162 SAM, 2 Mk32 triple 324mm ASTT with Mk46 LWT, 1 Phalanx Block 1B CIWS, 1 76mm gun ♦ Gazintep with 1 Mk13 GMLS with RPGM-84C Harpoon AShM/SM-1 MR SAM, 2 Mk32 triple 324mm ASTT with Mk 46 LWT, 1 Phalanx Block 1B CIWS, 1 76mm gun ♦ 1 Muavenet with 1 octuple Mk16 launcher with ASROC/RGM-84C Harpoon AShM, 2 twin 324mm ASTT with Mk46 LWT, 1 127mm gun ♦ 4 Yavuz with qaud Mk141 launcher with RGM-84C Harpoon AShM, 1 octuple Mk29 GMLS with Aspide SAM, 2 Mk32 triple 324mm ASTT with Mk46 LWT, Sea Zenith CIWS, 1 127mm gun ♦ Ada with 2 quad launcher RCM-84C Harpoon AShM, 1 Mk49 21-cell launcher with RIM-116 SAM, 2 Mk32 twin 324mm ASTT with Mk46 LWT, 1 76mm gun
  • PATROL AND COASTAL COMBATANTS 60; armed with MM-38 Exocet AShM, 324mm ASTT with Mk46 LWT, Penguin AShM, RGM-84A/C Harpoon AShM, 76mm guns, 100mm guns
  • LANDING SHIPS 5: 2 Erugrul ( US Terrebonne Parish), 1 Osman Gazi, 2 Sarucabey
  • LANDING CRAFT 49 vessels
  • Naval Aviation : 2 squadrons with Bell 212 ASW; S-70B Seahawk ♦ 1 squadron with ATR-72-600; CN-235M-100; TB-20 Trinidad


The Turkish Air Force consists of 60,000 servicemen divided into two tactical commands (East and West) with the HQ in Ankara. The history of the Turkish Air Force dates back to the Ottoman Empire and the military aviation which was used in the Balkan Wars. During WWI, the Ottoman aviation reached its peak with over 90 aircraft with the help of the German Empire’s support. After the First World War and the War for Independence, the Turkish Air Force was one of the biggest in the region of the Balkans and the Middle East, having around 500 aircraft. Although large, the equipment of the air force is rather outdated and is in a need of an upgrade. The modernization effort, funded with 160 billion dollars, initiated by the Turkish Armed Forces should provide the air force with about 45 billion dollars, and it is suggested that aircraft such as the TAI TFX fifth generation fighter and Lockheed Martin F-35 Lighting II could be one of the primary objectives of this venture. Some of the notable engagements of the Turkish Air Force are the Ararat and Dersim Rebellion, the Battle of Tillyria, Operation Sun etc.

  • 1st Tactical Air Force Command Eskisehir
    • 1st Main Jet Base Group Command Eskisehir
    • 3rd Main Jet Base Group Command Konya
    • 4th Main Jet Base Group Command Akinci, Ankara
    • 6th Main Jet Base Group Command Bandrima
    • 9th Main Jet Base Group Command Balikesir
    • 15th Missile Base Group Command Istanbul
  • 2nd Tactical Air Force Command Diyabakir
    • 5th Main Jet Base Group Command Merzifon, Amasya
    • 7th Main Jet Base Group Command Erhac, Malatya
    • 8th Main Jet Base Group Command Diyabakir
  • UAV Base Command Batman
  • 10th Tanker Base Command Adana
  • Air Force Staff Division Command
    • 11th Air transporation Main Base Command Etimesgut
    • 12th Air Transportation Main Base Command Erkilet
  • Air Training Command Izmir
  • Air Logistics Command Etimesgut

Forces by Role:


  • 1 squadron with F-4E Phantom II
  • 2 squadrons with F-16C/D Fighting Falcon


  • 2 squadrons with F-4E Phantom II
  • 8 squadrons with F-16C/D Fighting Falcon


  • 2 squadrons with RF-4E/ETM Phantom II
  • 1 unit with King Air 350


  • 1 squadron with B-737 AEW&C


  • 1 squadron with KC-135R Stratotanker


  • 1 squadron with C-130B/E/H Hercules
  • 1 squadron with C-160D Transall
  • 1 squadron with Cessna 550/650
  • 3 squadron with CN-235M


  • 4 squadrons with MIM-14 Nike Hercules
  • 2 squadrons with Rapier
  • 8 unit with MIM-23 HAWK


The Paramilitary forces include the Gendarmerie/National Guard and Coast Guard, at around 102,000 personnel total. The Gendarmerie is commissioned for maintaining order and peace that falls outside of the jurisdiction of the police. This jurisdiction encompasses mostly rural or border areas of the country. Essentially, the Gendarmerie is a law enforcement unit of military nature. Although the Ministry of Interior has jurisdiction over the Gendarmerie, elements such as training and education are done in a military manner. The Coast Guard is responsible for maritime security and defending the country from all illegal actions which fall under their jurisdiction at sea.

Equipment by Type:

  • RECCE Akrep
  • APC 560: 535 BTR-60/BTR-80; 25 Condor
  • HELICPOTERS: 19 Mi-17 Hip H; 13 S-70A Black Hawk; 8 Bell 204B; 6 Bell 205A; 8 Bell 206A Jet Ranger; 1 Bell 212
  • PATROL AND COASTAL COMBATANTS: 2 Dost with 1 76mm gun; patrol boats 57; fast patrol boats 47.


Despite having an impressive military, Turkey falls short in comparison to the other military powers in the region such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Russia, especially in the finance sector. On one hand, the Turkish military budget can sustain an impressive half a million personnel, but on the other hand, the high end technology which the US provides to their allies like Saudi Arabia and Israel is not something Turkey can easily afford. The Turkish Air Force is a good example. Although the country is an important NATO member state, the Air Force is still relying on jets like the F-4 Phantom II and the F-16 Fighting Falcon. Now, these are good fighter/bombers, but these machines are outdated (the F-4 Phantom II has been retired in some countries like Israel and Germany) and won’t be the most effective in a potential conflict. Especially if you have in mind that the Turkish government has a misguided notion of using these aircraft in Syria and eventually clashing swords with Russia. This brings us to another matter. Although the Turkish military may represent a reasonable adversary, it cannot just barge in Syria and expect a warm welcome or hope for a passive stance from Russia and Iran. That’s probably why we see such frantic behavior on the part of President Erdogan and the Turkish government in the last few days, trying to pull the EU and the US deeper into the conflict with Russia. All of these cries for help are because we are told that the Russian Air Force is yet again “violating” Turkish air space, the blackmailing and putting of pressure on the US, while it is demanded that they need to choose between Turkey and the Kurds, and now Turkey is even threatening Europe with another wave of migrants if they don’t support Turkey’s actions in the region. It seems like the Turkish regime is not only losing its grip on the  political situation, but with the current reality on the ground as well. The only question that remains unclear is how long the US will tolerate this infantile policy of the Turkish government which can lead to a global conflict.

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