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TCG Anadolu: Turkey launches its largest warship, the world's first 'drone carrier'

Experts call the TCG Anadolu a 'game-changer' for the Turkish navy as Ankara aims to project more power in the region
An aerial view of the world's first armed unmanned aerial vehicle ship and Turkey largest warship, the Multi-Purpose Amphibious Assault Ship TCG Anadolu in sea, Turke on December 06, 2022. (AA)
The world's first "drone carrier" and Turkey's largest warship, the multi-purpose amphibious assault ship TCG Anadolu, on 6 December 2022 (AA)
By Ragip Soylu in Ankara

The Turkish navy officially added the TCG Anadolu light aircraft carrier and amphibious assault ship to its arsenal on Monday, touting it as the world's first "drone carrier". 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the ship is a turning point for the country’s defence industry, as 70 percent of the vessel was built using local resources over seven years. 

"The TCG Anadolu is the world's first ship that carries armed drones,” Erdogan said at its inauguration. He said the design was revised to host aircraft that are under development, like the Bayraktar TB3 drone, Kizil Elma unmanned fighter jet, and Hurjet light fighter aircraft.

“In addition, thanks to the tanks and armored amphibious assault vehicles it carries, this ship has the features that will enable us to carry out military and humanitarian operations in every corner of the world when necessary," he added.

It was built in the Istanbul shipyard Sedef, and the ship, which is 231 metres long and 32 metres wide can carry helicopters as well.

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The ship's weapon, combat management, electronic warfare, infrared search and track, electro-optical search, laser warning, and torpedo defence systems, as well as radars, were developed locally, Erdogan said. 

"The TCG Anadolu is a game-changer for Turkish naval power and power projection capabilities,” retired US colonel Rich Outzen, a nonresident senior fellow at the Washington-based Atlantic Council, told Middle East Eye.

“The first 'drone carrier' will enable Turkish forces to conduct reconnaissance and strike operations against naval and littoral targets across the Mediterranean.

"It is a dual threat, with the ability to carry ground equipment for amphibious assault, and will also be the largest ship in the Turkish navy. A sister ship, the Trakya, is planned as well.”

The ship has the capacity to transfer a force of at least battalion size in the Aegean, Mediterranean, and Black Sea, with its own logistics capabilities, without requiring home-based support.

“The ship may also operate further abroad, depending upon national and coalition requirements,” Outzen added. 

The ship can be used for natural disaster relief missions when necessary.

Thanks to its onboard hospital and operating room facilities, it will be able to provide medical support in natural disaster relief, humanitarian aid, and refugee evacuation operations.

Four mechanized landing craft, each carrying a tank, can enter the water-capable pool inside TCG Anadolu. The ship can carry a total of 94 vehicles, including 13 tanks, 27 armored amphibious assault vehicles, six armored personnel carriers, 33 miscellaneous vehicles, and 15 trailers. 

Can Kasapoglu, a non-resident senior fellow at Washington-based Hudson Institute, says the TCG Anadolu is an ideal platform for coalition missions. 

“We are talking about a ship with three combat operations centres, capable of managing highly developed combat networks,” he said.

“In addition, the flight ramp modification and runway features enable a wide variety of naval aviation operations.

"TCG Anadolu will be Turkey's prestige platform within Nato and will likely command joint Nato operations as well.”

Ten helicopters or 11 armed drones can be deployed on the flight deck of the ship, and 19 helicopters or 30 armed helicopters can be transported in the hangar. The ship will host 1,223 personnel.

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