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Kara Kuvvetleri Komutan
Turkish Land Forces

Turkey has the second largest army in NATO, second only to that of the United States, and the second largest one in Europe, second only to Russia. The Turkish armed forces (Trk Silahli Kuvvetleri - TSK) have a total active manpower of about 510,600, with reserves of 378,700. The land force has a total active manpower of 402,000, including 325,000 conscripts with approximately 258,700 troops in reserve. Turkey also has Gendarmerie forces with 150,000 troops, including 50,000 reservists, which have mainly served in counterinsurgency operations against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (Partiya Karkeran Kurdistan - PKK).

According to the TSK's own assessment, its manpower capacity enables it to deploy fifty thousand troops on short notice to carry out four peacekeeping operations simultaneously. As of 2009 Turkey participated in peacekeeping missions around the world with around two thousand troops. TSK can also conduct day and night air-landed operations to deploy six battalions.

The Turkish Ground Force Command in 2002 was composed of 4 armies, 10 army corps, 2 mechanized infantry divisions, 1 infantry division, 1 training division, 14 mechanized infantry brigades, 14 armored brigades, 12 infantry/internal security brigades, 5 commando brigades, 5 training brigades. In 2009 the TSK had 4 Field Armies with 10 headquarters, 2 infantry divisions, 11 infantry brigades, 15 mechanized infantry brigades, 17 armoured brigades, and 5 commando brigades. These units are organized as four Field Armies and Logistics Command and Training and Doctrine Command, which are subordinate to the Turkish Land Forces.

The average Turkish soldier was well-motivated, nationalistic in orientation, and imbued with the legacy of the tenacious combat achievements of Ataturk, a highly decorated officer of World War I who is the father of modern Turkey. Since World War II Turkey had played a major role as a steady ally of the United States, serving as the linchpin of the southern flank of NATO during the Cold War. Turkey proudly provided a superbly trained and motivated combat regiment to the United Nations forces in Korea. It also played a signi?cant support role in the United Nations victory in Desert Shield/Desert Storm, and provided the base support for UN Operation Provide Comfort in northern Iraq. Turkey volunteered to provide a mechanized task force to Somalia including the overall UN commander. A Turkish reinforced mechanized battalion deployed in support of UN operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Through these actions and other NATO missions, the TLFC proved a loyal and willing partner.

In the mid-1990s underlying problems existed in doctrine, training, and logistics that affected the TLFC's combat readiness. TLFC lacked an integrated, strategic doctrine upon which to base force structure changes and training programs. Unit training was not focused on mission essential tasks, lacked realism, and was not conducted in a combined arms / joint environment. The need for an increased training OPTEMPO (operational tempo) to gain and maintain proficiency on new systems had not been fully implemented. The short period of mandatory service for conscripts, which formed the bulk of theforce, inhibited development of weapon system crew pro?ciency, a problem aggravated by the complexity of the newly acquired weapon systems. The lack of planning and funding, particularly the latter, led to shortfalls in acquiring needed ammunition and repair parts. Until these issues were adequately addressed, the advantages in combat capability offered by new hardware would not be fully realized.

TLFC capabilities for training individuals and conducting small unit light infantry training are generally good. Branch schools provide appropriate instruction in basic skills for junior officers and soldiers; graduates are knowledgeable and capable. The technical NCO program, designed to provide up to 5,000 graduates each year, fills the rapidly growing need for better quali?ed leaders to operate and maintain the more sophisticated equipment TLFC has acquired. This is necessary because the average conscript was not in service long enough to acquire the requisite skills.

Training in light infantry tactics, a TLFC mainstay before its transition began, is well understood and executed. In the 1990s training capabilities in combined arms and joint operations were initially weak, however. The lack of a capstone doctrine (i.e., a set of principles for the assignment of wartime missions to combat units), plus the lack of combat maneuver training centers and training simulation systems, contributed to somewhat weak unit sustainment training, particularly for the newer mechanized infantry and armor units. TLFC units did not routinely conduct combined arms training. Joint training exercises between TLFC and the other Turkish armed forces were not often conducted. Integration of combat functions was also not fully implemented. The lack of approved, disseminated doctrine that was tailored to the threat, missions, and force structure of the TLFC, was a liability.

The army (officially referred to as the Turkish Land Forces) is by far the largest of the three service components. During 1992 the army introduced a sweeping reorganization, shifting from a predominantly divisional and regimental structure to one based on corps and brigades. The personnel strength of the army was reduced in 1994 to about 393,000 (including about 345,000 conscripts). Major equipment acquisitions have enabled the army to upgrade firepower and mobility while enhancing command and control.

Until the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in 1990, the army had a static defense mission of countering Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces in the Caucasus and any possible attack on Thrace. When the General Staff attempted to shift 120,000 troops to the frontier with Iraq in 1990, they discovered that there were serious deficiencies in the army's ability to respond to crises that could erupt suddenly in distant regions. The army was even less prepared for a situation requiring the deployment and logistical support of forces in operations beyond Turkey's borders.

Prior to the army reorganization, the principal tactical units consisted of sixteen infantry divisions and one armored division, plus twenty-three independent brigades, of which six were armored and four mechanized. Under the reorganization, all divisions except three were dismantled. The existing nine corps were retained, with brigades directly responsible to the corps commands. The brigades were reconfigured as seventeen mechanized infantry brigades, fourteen armored brigades, nine infantry brigades, and four commando brigades.

Each armored brigade consisted in late 1994 of six battalions: two armored, two mechanized, and two artillery. The mechanized brigades consisted of one armored battalion, two mechanized battalions, and one artillery battalion, plus a reconnaissance squadron. The infantry brigades consisted of four infantry battalions and one artillery battalion. Each commando brigade consisted of three commando battalions and one artillery battalion. Other units [as of 1994] included a Presidential Guard regiment, an infantry regiment, five border defense regiments, and twenty-six border defense battalions.

General Hikmet Bayar, the commander of Turkish land forces in early 1995, operated from headquarters in Ankara. The capital is also the home of the Ankara garrison and of the training and logistics commands. The country is divided into four military sectors on the basis of strategic conditions of terrain, logistics, communications, and the potential external threat. The sectors are assigned to four field armies, the first three of which would come under NATO command in the event of a NATO reinforced alert.

The First Army, with headquarters in Istanbul, is widely deployed in the European part of Turkey known historically as Thrace, with responsibility for the defense of that province, the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits, and the Kocaeli Peninsula. The Second Army, headquartered at Malatya, is deployed in southeastern Anatolia with a defensive mission facing Syria, Iraq, and Iran. The Third Army, with headquarters at Erzincan, is deployed throughout the rugged mountains and deep valleys of eastern Anatolia, covering the borders with Georgia and Armenia and the historical invasion routes from the east. During the buildup preceding the Persian Gulf War, the Second Army was deployed along the Iraqi border along with some units from the Third Army. Under the new structure, most of the armored, mechanized, and commando brigades are located in the central region with the mission of rapidly reinforcing brigades in each theater as required.

The Aegean Army (sometimes called the Fourth Army) was organized in the mid-1970s in response to tensions with Greece in the Aegean Sea. Headquartered in Izmir, it is responsible for the vast area facing the Aegean coast from the Dardanelles in the north to the southernmost Greek offshore islands. Turkish commanders describe the Aegean Army as composed simply of training elements from which the major army units are supplied. They presumably would have the mission of defending the Aegean coast and keeping lines of communication open in the Aegean district in an emergency, although their capability for this mission seems highly limited. The Turkish corps on Cyprus is within the Aegean Army command structure. Known as the Cyprus Turkish Peace Force, it is said in The Military Balance, 1994-1995 to consist of 30,000 troops, equipped with 235 M-48 tanks, 107 armored personnel carriers (APCs), and numerous pieces of towed and self-propelled artillery.

At a short notice, Turkish Army can deploy an Army Corps of 40,000 (forty thousand) or 50,000 (fifty thousand) troops to conduct joint operations. It can deploy a force consisting of six battalions to distant targets in a very short time by day and night air-landed operations. Turkish Armed Forces can simultaneously conduct four separate Peace Support Operations via its Battalion Task Force throughout the world.

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