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Turkish Armed Forces

Turkey's armed forces, the second largest in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), are mainly made up of conscripts commanded by a cadre of professional soldiers. In 2008 the army had 402,000 active personnel, the navy had 48,600, and the air force had 60,100. Of the active personnel, about 360,000 in the army and navy were conscripts. In addition, some 379,000 were in the reserves and 150,000 in active and reserve components of the National Guard. Turkey contributes troops to several United Nations and NATO peacekeeping operations as well as maintaining a significant force in Turkish Cyprus. In 1998 a major expansion of the domestic arms industry began with the aim of withstanding an arms embargo such as the one imposed by the United States in the mid-1970s after the Cyprus conflict. In 2008 plans called for doubling the domestic contribution to total procurement, from 25 percent to 50 percent. The Ministry of Defense nominally controls the military, but in fact the chief of the General Staff, the most powerful figure in the military, enjoys substantial autonomy. Among the requirements for Turkey's membership in the European Union is that the military be brought fully under civilian control.

In 1996 Turkey signed two military cooperation agreements with Israel, making it the first Muslim state to establish such a relationship with that country. Between 1996 and 2002, military and economic ties between the two countries blossomed. The two shared training exercises and intelligence information and cooperated on joint security and weapons projects. However, in the early 2000s Turkey condemned Israeli actions against Palestine, cooling the relationship. In 2005 Israel and Turkey signed a new round of joint military production agreements. Turkey participated actively in the United States-led war on terrorism, maintaining 760 non-combat troops in Afghanistan as of 2008 and assuming the rotating command of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)'s International Security Assistance Force in that country in 2002 and 2005. However, because of the Kurdish situation, Turkey blocked U.S. troop movement into Iraq at the onset of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. In 2002 Turkey was granted an advisory role in military operations of the European Union (EU). In the early 2000s, nearly all of Turkey's arms acquisitions have been from EU countries or Israel; in 2007 it was the fourth-largest importer of arms in the world.

Beginning in the 1960s, regional disputes have brought Turkey and Greece close to war on several occasions. Although general relations have improved, in the early 2000s negotiators failed to negotiate a treaty ending the Cyprus crisis, and Greece has continued to press its claim of 12 miles of territorial waters from the Greek islands of the Aegean Sea. In 2003 the U.S. invasion of Iraq increased Turkey's fears that Kurds from northern Iraq would unite with Kurds in southeastern Turkey to renew claims for an autonomous or independent Kurdistan. That issue remained in the background of relations with Iraq and the United States in 2008.

The official defense expenditure for 2003 was US$8.1 billion and US$8.5 billion for 2004. The official figure for 2005 was US$8.1 billion, increasing to US$8.3 billion in 2006 and to US$10.9 billion in 2007. Official budget amounts do not include funding for the National Guard (which is under the Ministry of Interior) or for procurement from the Turkish defense industries. The 10-year program to upgrade the defense industry received an initial allocation of US$31 billion in 2005.

In 2007 the army had 2 infantry divisions, 17 armored brigades, 15 mechanized infantry brigades, 11 infantry brigades, 5 commando brigades, 8 training brigades, 4 aviation regiments, 1 attack helicopter battalion, and 3 aviation battalions. The air force had 11 squadrons of ground attack fighters, 7 squadrons of fighter jets, 2 reconnaissance squadrons, 5 transport squadrons, 1 special forces command headquarters, and 4 surface-to-air missile squadrons. The naval forces were divided into the Northern Sea Area Command, the Southern Sea Area Command, and the Naval Training and Education Command. One regiment of marines (3,100 troops) also was on active duty. The air force had two tactical air forces and six surfaceto-air missile squadrons.

In 2007 the army had 4,205 main battle tanks, 250 armored reconnaissance vehicles, 650 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 830 armored personnel carriers, more than 685 pieces of towed artillery, 868 pieces of self-propelled artillery, 84 multiple rocket launchers, 5,813 mortars, 1,283 antitank guided weapons, 3,869 recoilless launchers, 1,664 antiaircraft guns, 935 surface-to-air missiles, 168 aircraft, 215 unmanned aerial vehicles, 37 attack helicopters, and 243 support helicopters. The navy had 13 submarines, 24 frigates, 24 missile combat vessels, 28 patrol craft, 1 minelayer, 23 mine countermeasures vessels, 8 amphibious vessels, 27 support vessels, and 16 armed helicopters. The air force had 480 combat aircraft, 40 support helicopters, no attack helicopters, and 178 surface-to-air missiles.

The majority of military personnel are conscripted. At age 19, males are eligible to be conscripted for a 15-month tour of active duty, which was shortened from 18 months in 2003. University graduates may be conscripted as reserve officers for a 12-month period. The reserve obligation extends to age 41 for all services.

The National Guard, or Jandarma, includes 100,000 active personnel and a reserve of 50,000, under the command of the Ministry of Interior in peacetime and the Ministry of Defense in wartime. Included are one border division and three brigades, one of which is a commando brigade. Between 1988 and 2004, border security was the responsibility of the military; the Ministry of Interior reassumed this duty to meet a European Union requirement. The Coast Guard has 2,200 active-duty personnel, including 1,400 conscripts. Another 1,050 navy personnel are detailed to the Coast Guard.

Turkey hosts the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Joint Command Southeast at Izmir. In 2005 that installation included some 1,650 U.S. Air Force personnel.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:06:57 ZULU