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Turkish Armed Forces
Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri
Turkish Armed Forces seal
Service branches
Turkish Army Turkish Army
Turkish Air Force Turkish Air Force
Turkish Navy Seal Turkish Navy
Turkish Gendarmerie Turkish Gendarmerie
Turkish Coast Guard Turkish Coast Guard
Chief of the Turkish General Staff İlker Başbuğ
Military age 20
Conscription 6 to 15 Months
Available for
military service
40,645,893 (2010), age 20-49
Fit for
military service
35,218,805 (2010), age 20-49
Budget $49 billion (2010)
Percent of GDP 6% (2010)
Related articles
History Military history of Turkey
Standard of the President as Commander-in-Chief of the Turkish Armed Forces

The Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) (Turkish: Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri or TSK) consist of the Army, the Navy (including naval aviation and naval infantry), and the Air Force of the Republic of Turkey and Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. The Gendarmerie and the Coast Guard operate as components of the internal security forces in peacetime, and are subordinate to the Turkish Ministry of Interior. In wartime, they are subordinate to the Army and Navy. Both have law enforcement and military functions.

The Chief of General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) since August 4, 2008 is General İlker Başbuğ.

After becoming a member of the NATO Alliance on 18 February 1952, Turkey initiated a comprehensive modernization program for its Armed Forces. Towards the end of the 1980s, a second restructuring process was initiated.

The TAF, with a combined troop strength of around 1,356,281 soldiers,[1] is the second largest standing force in NATO (after the United States).[2][3] Currently, up to 36,700 troops may be stationed in the north of Cyprus as part of the Cyprus Turkish Peace Force.

Advocates of the European Union as a superpower have predicted that the addition of the Turkish Armed Forces into the EU Military Framework will enable it to be a true global player.[4] The TAF already participates in European Union battlegroups under control of the European Council, as a part of the Italian-Romanian-Turkish Battlegroup, which will be on standby for duty during June–December 2010. It also contributes operational staff to the Eurocorps multinational army corps initiative of the EU and NATO.

NATO officials also state that the modern day Turkish Armed Forces are "very experienced and very well-trained".[4]




Foundation of the Republic of Turkey

The Turkish Army has its foundations in the remnant of the Ottoman forces inherited after the fall of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. The rise of Turkish nationalism in Anatolia, under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, led eventually to victory in the Turkish War of Independence, and subsequently to the founding of the Republic of Turkey, at which time these forces were reorganized into the Turkish Army.

World War II

Turkey remained neutral until the final stages of World War II, and tried to maintain an equal distance between both the Axis and the Allies. However, at the Second Cairo Conference in 1943, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and İsmet İnönü reached an agreement on issues regarding Turkey's possible contribution to the Allies, and it was decided that Turkey should maintain its neutrality and thus block the Axis from reaching the strategic oil reserves of the Middle East.

Korean War

Turkey participated in the Korean War as a member state of the United Nations and suffered 731 deaths in combat.

Turkey became a member of NATO on February 18, 1952, and initiated a comprehensive modernization program for its Armed Forces.

Echoes of the Kunuri Battle:

"4500 soldiers in the middle of the firing line have known how to create miracle. The sacrifices of the Turks will eternally remain in our minds." - Washington Tribune

"The courageous battles of the Turkish Brigade have created a favorable effect on the whole United Nations Forces." - Time

"The surprise of the Korean battles were not the Chinese but the Turks. It is impossible at this moment to find a word to describe the heroism which the Turks have shown in the battles." - Abent Post

"The Turks have shown in Kunuri a heroism worthy of their glorious history. The Turks have gained the admiration of the whole world through their glorious fighting in the battles." - Figaro

"The Turks who have been known throughout history by their courage and decency, have proved that they have kept these characteristics, in the war which the United Nations undertook in Korea." - Burner - U.S. Congressman

"There is no one left who does not know that the Turks, our valuable allies, are hard warriors and that they have accomplished very great feats at the front." - Claude Pepper, U.S. Senator

"I now understand that the vote I gave in favor of assistance to Turkey was the most fitting vote I gave in my life. Courage, bravery and heroism are the greatest virtues which will sooner or later conquer. In this matter, I know no nation superior to the Turks." - Rose - U.S. Senator

"While the Turks were for a long time fighting against the enemy and dying, the British and Americans were withdrawing. The Turks, who were out of ammunition, affixed their bayonets and attacked the enemy and there ensued a terrible hand to hand combat. The Turks succeeded in withdrawing by continuous combat and by carrying their injured comrades on their backs. They paraded at Pyongyang with their heads held high." - G.G. Martin - British Lieutenant General

"The Turkish forces have shown success above that expected in the battles they gave in Korea." - General Collings - Commander US Army

"We owe the escape of thousands of United Nations troops out of a certain encirclement to the heroism of the Turkish soldiers. The Turkish soldiers in Korea have added a new and unforgettable page of honor to the customs and legends of heroism of the Turkish nation." - Emanuel Shinwell - U.K. Minister of Defense

"The heroic soldiers of a heroic nation, you have saved the Eighth Army and the IX'th Army Crops from encirclement and the 2nd Division from destruction. I came here today to thank you on behalf of the United Nations Army." - General Walton H. Walker, Commander, Eighth Army

"The Turks are the hero of heroes. There is no impossibility for the Turkish Brigade." - General Douglas MacArthur - United Nations Forces Commander in Chief


On 20 July 1974, the Turkish Armed Forces launched an intervention of Cyprus on the pretext of a coup which had been staged by the Cypriot National Guard against president Makarios III with the intention of annexing the island to Greece, but the intervention ended up with Turkey occupying a considerable area on the north part of it and establishing a government on it that only Turkey recognizes. The intervention came after more than a decade of sporadic intercommunal violence between the island's Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots resulting from the constitutional breakdown of 1963. Turkey invoked its role as a guarantor under the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee in justification for it.[5] Turkish forces invaded the island in two waves, occupying 37% of the island's territory in the north-east.[6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28]

In the aftermath, Turkish Cypriots declared a separate political entity in the form of the Turkish Federative State of Cyprus and by 1983 made a unilateral declaration of independence as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which was recognised only by Turkey. The United Nations continues to recognize the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus according to the terms of its independence in 1960. The conflict continues to overshadow Turkish relations with Greece and with the European Union.

PKK Campaign

Beginning in the 1980s the Turkish armed forces have been involved in a protracted campaign against PKK, a militia force includes members of both native and foreign origin, considered a terrorist organisation due to act of violence towards innocent. This statement is accepted by most EU members and US. militants.[29] In the course of that campaign which has involved frequent forays into neighbouring Iraq many Kurdish rural communities were uprooted in an effort to limit the PKK's base of logistical support.[29] These actions by the TAF had resulted by the mid-1990s in more than 3,000 Kurdish villages being deserted while according to official figures 378,335 Kurdish people had been displaced and rendered homeless.[29]


Turkish T-155 self-propelled Howitzers

Towards the end of the 1980s, a restructuring and modernization process valued at US$ 300 billion was initiated by the Turkish Armed Forces, and continues today. The final goal of Turkey is to produce new generation indigenous military equipment and to become increasingly self-sufficient in terms of military technologies.Turkey is now ranked as one of top ten strongest militaries in the world.[30]

Turkish T-129 Attack helicopter

Duties and Defense Doctrine

Turkey is located in a vitally important and challenging region with various political regimes, religions, economic systems and military powers. Due to its strategic position surrounded by the Black, Aegean and the Mediterranean Seas, as well as the Balkans, the Caucasus and the Middle East, it is a focal point where international geostrategic lines and routes of the three continents of the Old World (Europe, Asia and Africa) intersect. Turkey, which controls the Turkish Straits, is also well positioned to control the Suez Canal and consequently the maritime traffic in the region.

Eastern and Southeastern Anatolia are the shortest land and air transport routes to the vast energy resources in the Middle East. Radical changes are taking place in the region around Turkey, and these changes bring great challenges with them. While the uncertainties in the content and duration of these changes continue, Turkey stands firm as an element of stability in the region.

Turkish soldiers participating in a NATO exercise

In this environment of uncertainty, the threat to the security of Turkey is no longer comprised solely of the various regimes and military powers in the region, but also of political, economic and social instabilities, border disputes, struggles of power and terrorism.

In addition to the regional crises, the Turkish Armed Forces must -based on political decisions- also be prepared to respond to the crises which pose a threat to global peace.

Strictly adhering to Atatürk’s principle, "Peace at Home, Peace in the World", the Armed Forces of the Republic of Turkey is determined not to pursue any aggressive intentions, but will take action when the independence of the Turkish state and the security and honour of the Turkish nation will be attacked; in parallel with the common ideals of international organizations and treaties of which Turkey is a member and signatory.

As a member of the NATO Alliance, the Republic of Turkey has ensured an increased sense of security to its allies and has contributed to the protection of global peace as well. Turkey continues to cooperate with NATO countries in the field of defense and fully supports the initiatives towards global disarmament and arms control. In this context, Turkey is committed to a global disarmament plan that is realized under an effective control mechanism, which does not adversely affect the security of any nation.

In an environment full of hot conflicts, Turkey, having great importance as the last link within the NATO defense chain, must have a powerful national defense capability and a strong Army that's ready to effectively react against potential dangers.

The main elements of the Turkish Defense Doctrine are the determination for national defense, NATO solidarity and loyalty to the Turkish Armed Forces.

The Armed Forces of the Republic of Turkey comprises the Army, Navy and Air Force which are subordinate to the Turkish General Staff. The General Command of Gendarmerie and the Coast Guard Command, which operate as part of the internal security forces in peacetime, are subordinate to the Land and Naval Forces Commands, respectively, in wartime.

The Chief of General Staff is the Commander of the Armed Forces. In wartime, he acts as the Commander in Chief on behalf of the President. Commanding the Armed Forces and establishing the policies and programs related with the preparation for combat of personnel, intelligence, operations, organization, training and logistic services are the responsibilities of the Turkish General Staff. Furthermore, the Turkish General Staff coordinates the military relations of the Turkish Armed Forces with NATO member states and other friendly nations.


The Turkish Armed Forces consists of five branches: It has an active man power of around 958,000 personnel.

A Turkish Maroon Beret special forces soldier


Turkey signed a memorandum of understanding to order an initial batch of 116+8 F-35A Lightning II

The Turkish Army is one of the largest standing armies in the world and the second largest army of NATO.[2][3] The Turkish Army can deploy a sizable Army Corps to conduct joint operations at short notice.[31] The Army can conduct air assault operations with a lift capability of up to six battalions at a time, day and night.[31]

The modern Turkish Army has its foundations in remnants of the Ottoman forces inherited after the fall of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I, though official sources - the Commandership of Land Forces and others - date its founding to Mete Khan in 209 BC.[32] The rise of Turkish nationalism in Anatolia, under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, led eventually to victory in the Turkish War of Independence, and subsequently to the founding of the Republic of Turkey, when these remnant forces were reorganized into the modern Turkish Army.[33]

The Turkish Army has around 750,000 active personel.

Air Force

The Turkish Air Force is one of the oldest air forces in the world and operates one of the largest combat aircraft fleets of NATO. In its long history, many famous air aces and aviation pioneers have served in the Turkish Air Force, including Sabiha Gökçen, the world's first female combat pilot. Supported by the TAF's in-flight refueling capability, the fighter jets of the Turkish Air Force can participate in international operations and exercises on every major continent and return back to their home bases. The Turkish Air Force has around 65,000 active personel.


Turkish Navy ships in formation

The Turkish Navy has historically been one of the largest sea powers of the Mediterranean. Supported by its replenishment ships, the Turkish Navy can participate in international operations and exercises on every major sea and ocean of the world. Submarines can individually navigate up to 28,000 km and return back to their home bases. The Turkish Navy has around 56,000 active personel.


The Turkish Gendarmerie is responsible for maintaining law and order in rural areas which do not fall under the jurisdiction of regular police forces. The Turkish Gendarmerie has around 250,000 active personel.

Coast Guard

The Turkish Coast Guard is responsible for maintaining law and order in the Turkish territorial waters. The Turkish Coast Guard has around 20,000 active personel.


This Paramilitary organization is using in Southeast Anatolia during the Turkey-PKK Conflict.There is still 90.000 Village Guards equipped with AK-47/74 and RPK/PKM/RPD LMG's.But The Government is planning to phase out that System.

Role of the military in Turkish politics

Since Mustafa Kemal Atatürk founded the modern secular Republic of Turkey in 1923, the Turkish military has perceived itself as the guardian of Atatürkçülük, the official state ideology. The TAF still maintains an important degree of influence over Turkish politics and the decision making process regarding issues related to Turkish national security, albeit decreased in the past decades, via the National Security Council.

The military has had a record of intervening in politics. Indeed, it assumed power for several periods in the latter half of the 20th century. It executed coups d'état in 1960, in 1971, and in 1980. Most recently, it maneuvered the removal of an Islamic-oriented prime minister, Necmettin Erbakan, in 1997.[34]

On April 27, 2007, in advance of the November 4, 2007 presidential election, and in reaction to the politics of Abdullah Gül, who has a past record of involvement in Islamist political movements and banned Islamist parties such as the Welfare Party, the army issued a statement of its interests. It said that the army is a party to "arguments" regarding secularism; that Islamism ran counter to the secular nature of the Turkish Republic, and to the legacy of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The Army's statement ended with a clear warning that the Turkish Armed Forces stood ready to intervene if the secular nature of the Turkish Constitution is compromised, stating that "the Turkish Armed Forces maintain their sound determination to carry out their duties stemming from laws to protect the unchangeable characteristics of the Republic of Turkey. Their loyalty to this determination is absolute."[35]

Contrary to outsider expectations, the Turkish populace is not uniformly averse to coups; many welcome the ejection of governments they perceive as unconstitutional.[36][37] Members of the military must also comply with the traditions of secularism, according to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom report in 2008, members who performed prayers or had wives who wore the headscarf, have been charged with “lack of discipline”.[38]

Humanitarian relief

Turkish Armed Forces can perform "Disaster Relief Operations" as in the 1999 İzmit earthquake in the Marmara region of Turkey. Turkish Armed Forces can conduct peace-support operations anywhere in the world with a task force of four battalions.

Apart from contributing to NATO, the Turkish Navy is also available for the Black Sea Naval Co-operation Task Group (BLACKSEAFOR), which was created in early 2001 by Turkey, Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russia and Ukraine for search and rescue and other humanitarian operations in the Black Sea.

See also


  1. ^ "Country Forecast: Turkey," Economist Intelligence Unit, 2005, p.23
  2. ^ a b Öymen, Onur (1999-06-26). "Turkey and the Alliance". NATO. Retrieved 2008-08-19. 
  3. ^ a b "Who is Losing Turkey?". The Economist. 2006-09-26. Retrieved 2008-06-30. 
  4. ^ a b Evans-Pritchard, Ambrose (2004-12-18). "Turkish army crucial to EU power hopes". The Age. Retrieved 2008-06-30. 
  5. ^ How Did the Situation Change after July 1974 ?, Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  6. ^ Welz, Gisela. Divided Cyprus: Modernity, History, and an Island in Conflict. Indiana University Press. p. 2. ISBN 0253218519. 
  7. ^ Carpenter, Ted Galen (2000). NATO's Empty Victory: A Postmortem on the Balkan War. Washington, D.C: Cato Institute. pp. 36. ISBN 1-882577-85-X. 
  8. ^ Carpenter, Ted Galen (2002). Peace and Freedom: Foreign Policy for a Constitutional Republic. Washington, D.C: Cato Institute. pp. 187. ISBN 1-930865-34-1. 
  9. ^ Linos-Alexandre Sicilianos (2001). The Prevention of Human Rights Violations (International Studies in Human Rights). Berlin: Springer. pp. 24. ISBN 90-411-1672-9. 
  10. ^ Borowiec, Andrew (2000). Cyprus: a troubled island. New York: Praeger. pp. 2. ISBN 0-275-96533-3. 
  11. ^ Rezun, Miron (2001). Europe's nightmare: the struggle for Kosovo. New York: Praeger. pp. 6. ISBN 0-275-97072-8. 
  12. ^ Brown, Neville (2004). Global instability and strategic defence. New York: Routledge. pp. 48. ISBN 0-415-30413-X. 
  13. ^ Borowiec, Andrew (2000). Cyprus: a troubled island. New York: Praeger. pp. 2. ISBN 0-275-96533-3.
  14. ^ Brown, Neville (2004). Global instability and strategic defence. New York: Routledge. pp. 48. ISBN 0-415-30413-X.
  15. ^ Ted Galen Carpenter, Peace & freedom: foreign policy for a constitutional republic, Cato Institute, 2002, ISBN 1930865341, 9781930865341, p. 187
  16. ^ Ted Galen Carpenter, NATO's empty victory: a postmortem on the Balkan War, Cato Institute, 2000, ISBN 188257785X, 9781882577859
  17. ^ Jean S. Forward, Endangered peoples of Europe: struggles to survive and thrive The Greenwood Press "Endangered peoples of the world" series Endangered peoples of the world, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2001, 0313310068, 9780313310065, p. 53
  18. ^ Antony Evelyn Alcock, A history of the protection of regional cultural minorities in Europe: from the Edict of Nantes to the present day, Palgrave Macmillan, 2000. ISBN 0312235569, 9780312235567, p. 207
  19. ^ Van Coufoudakis, Eugene T. Rossides, American Hellenic Institute Foundation, 2002, ISBN 1889247057, 9781889247052, p. 236
  20. ^ William Mallinson, Bill Mallinson, Cyprus: a modern history , I.B.Tauris, 2005, ISBN 1850435804, 9781850435808, p. 147
  21. ^ .Robert F. Holland, Britain and the revolt in Cyprus, 1954-1959, Oxford University Press, 1998, ISBN 0198205384, 9780198205388
  22. ^ University of Minnesota. Modern Greek Studies Program, Modern Greek studies yearbook, Τόμος 9, University of Minnesota, 1993, p.577
  23. ^ David J. Whittaker, Conflict and reconciliation in the contemporary world, Making of the contemporary world, Routledge, 1999, ISBN 0415183278, 9780415183277, p. 52
  24. ^ Miron Rezun, Europe's nightmare: the struggle for Kosovo, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2001, ISBN 0275970728, 9780275970727
  25. ^ Dimitris Keridis, Robert L. Pfaltzgraff, Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis, Kokkalis Foundation, NATO and southeastern Europe: security issues for the early 21st century A publication of the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis & the Kokkalis Foundation, Brassey's, 2000, ISBN 1574882899, 9781574882896, p.187
  26. ^ Brad R. Roth, Governmental illegitimacy in international law, Oxford University Press, 2001, 0199243018, 9780199243013, p. 193
  27. ^ Thomas M. Franck, Recourse to force: state action against threats and armed attacks, vol. 15 of Hersch Lauterpacht memorial lectures, Cambridge University Press, 2002, ISBN 0521820138, 9780521820134
  28. ^ David A. Lake, Donald S. Rothchild The international spread of ethnic conflict: fear, diffusion, and escalation, Princeton University Press, 1998, ISBN 0691016909, 9780691016900
  29. ^ a b c "Still critical". Retrieved 2009-01-11. "The Security forces have been accused by some circles as having forcibly displaced Kurdish rural communities during the 1980s and 1990s in order to combat the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) insurgency, which drew its membership and logistical support from the local impoverished population. Accusations of indiscriminatory use of force followed, asserting that the Turkish security forces had failed to distinguish between the armed terrorists and the local civilian financial support...The operations were marked by scores of “disappearances” and extrajudicial executions. By the mid-1990s, more than 3,000 villages had been virtually wiped from the map, and, according to official figures, 378,335 Kurdish villagers had been displaced and left homeless" 
  30. ^ Strength in Numbers
  31. ^ a b Capabilities of the Turkish Armed Forces
  32. ^ "Kara Kuvvetleri temeli; Hun İmparatorluğu döneminde Mete Han tarafından M.Ö.209 yılında atılmıştır."
  33. ^ Some details on commanders and force structure during this period can be found here
  34. ^ CIA Factbook Turkey
  35. ^ "Excerpts of Turkish army statement". BBC News. 2007-04-28. Retrieved 2008-06-30. 
  36. ^ Baran, Zeyno (2006-12-04). "The Coming Coup d'Etat?". Newsweek. Retrieved 2008-10-11. 
  37. ^ Lt. Col. Patrick F. Gillis (2004-05-03). "U.S.-Turkish Relations: The Road to Improving a Troubled Strategic Partnership". U.S. Army War College. pp. 4. "In all of these 'coups' the majority of the Turkish public accepted the military’s actions because they felt they were necessary for the well being of the state and because the military did not seek to impose permanent military governance" 
  38. ^ Other countries under review: kazakhstan, malaysia, and turkey United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. 2008. Retrieved on 2009-05-02.

Further reading


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