Turkish Task Force Starts Its Circumnavigation Of Africa

TDGGTomorrow, on 17 March 2014, the Barbaros Turkish Maritime Task Group will leave Turkish Naval Base in Gölcük to starts its circumnavigation of Africa.

The task force will contain the frigates F-495 TCG Gediz, F-245 TCG Oruçreis, the corvette F-511 TCG Heybeliada and the replenishment tanker A-595 TCG Yarbay Kudret Güngör.

During the deployment, which is expected to take 102 days, Barbaros TMTG will navigate round the African continent from west to east and will make 40 port visits in 28 countries and conduct military exercises with their navies.

It will be the first crossing of Cape of Hope by Turkish ships after 148 years. The ships will travel for about 15,000 nautical miles approximately 30,000 km throughout their sail.

This deployment is not just a navigational exercise of circumnavigation around Africa. It is also a powerful application of Turkish soft power to Africa. During the last decade Turkey finally realized that there is more Africa than just the Mediterranean countries where Turkey had links for centuries. With the discovery of sub Saharan Africa Turkish entrepreneurs started to do business with these countries. They were followed quickly by missions of Turkish Foreign Ministry and flights from Turkish Airlines.

As I learn more about the details of the activities planed during this deployment more I understand how much background work must have been done to make this happen. Below are the some highlights of the planned activities:

  • Turkish defence companies Meteksan, Otokar, TAI, Dearsan, Havelsan, Roketsan, Aselsan, STM will show their products in following cities:

Thema, Ghana
Lagos, Nigeria
Luanda, Angola
Dar es Salaam Tanzania
Mombasa, Kenya

  • Turkish Ministry of Health will conduct health checks and provide medical assistance in following cities:

Banjul Gambia
Dakar, Senegal,
Port of Sudan, Sudan

  • Military music bands will perform concerts in following cities:

Las Palmas, Spain
Conakry, Guinea
Abidjan, Ivory Coast
Pointe-Noire, Congo
Cape Town, South Africa
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Mombasa, Kenya
Djibouti, Djibouti
Port of Sudan, Sudan

  • Members of Multinational Maritime Security Centre of Excellence will conduct maritime security and boarding training in following cities:

Lagos, Nigeria
Pointe-Noire, Congo
Luanda, Angola
Simon’s Town, South Africa
Mombasa, Kenya

  • There will be theoretical training in all ports of call.
  • Various high-ranking Turkish officers will visit their counterparts in 17 different cities.

This deployment of Barbaros TMTG is not just about hearts and minds either.

The frigate F-245 TCG Oruçreis will take part in Obangame Express Exercise between 19 and 21 April 2014. Obangame Express, conducted by U.S. Naval Forces Africa, is an at-sea maritime exercise designed to improve cooperation among participating nations in order to increase maritime safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea.  It focuses on maritime interdiction operation, as well as visit, board, search, and seizure techniques.

The two frigates and the corvette will conduct live missile firing exercise in Denel Overberg Test Range between 5 and 9 May 2014. There they will test their skills to the limits.

And when the Barbaros TMTG reaches Gulf of Aden it will conduct anti piracy operations between 5 and 11 June 2014.

This deployment is one of most meticulous prepared foreign deployments of Turkish Navy and a text-book example how nations can use their military to gain affection abroad. But not everybody is sharing my sentiments.

Admiral Nusret Güner, who had resigned to protest the Sledgehammer and other trials when he was expected to become the Commander of the Turkish Naval Forces, after a 1.5-year tenure as the head of the Fleet Command, criticized the upcoming African campaign of the Turkish Navy, pointing out the tensions in the Black Sea over the Crimean crisis .

The Black Sea waters are boiling because of what’s happening in Crimea and Ukraine. The United States and Russia are playing chess. They make moves one after another. When there is an imminent risk of clash, it’s an unacceptable situation that the Turkish Naval Forces are engaged in an African campaign in a way that they weaken their presence in the region,” Güner told daily Hürriyet.

Güner said he considers the African campaign as a wrong move for one more reason, which is the current status of Turkish naval forces. “The Sledgehammer trial and other legal cases have weakened the professional experience and skills of the Navy staff,” he said.

I agree with Mr. Güner’s remarks that the Black Sea waters are boiling and the shady trials against the Turkish high-ranking officers mostly from Naval Forces has created a havoc among the ranks of Turkish Navy. But I do not think that these are enough reasons to cancel the deployment of Barbaros TMTG. As being the former Commander of Turkish Naval Fleet, he must be in a better situation to judge the strengths and weaknesses of our navy but if we cannot spare 2 frigates and one corvette out of our fleet of 16 frigates and 8 corvettes, then something is not correct.

Even if the points made by Mr. Güner are correct we have other means to counter them. We have a good fleet of submarines that can creep very close to Crimea and gather very important intelligence. If we have to show the flag in the Black Sea we have many fast attack craft and some long range coast guard vessels that can fulfill the mission even if we cannot spare any of the 14 frigates left.

It is a very big pity that because of the shady trials many aspiring high-ranking officers are behind the bars today. The loss of their collective expertise and experience is a big blow to our navy. But expertise and experience are not gained by staying at home. They are gained by daring to new adventures and going to places that are new. Barbaros TMTG is just going to do that.

TCG Gökçeada Escorts Somalia Bound Cargo Vessel

TCG Gökova escorting the merchant vessel M/V Aqua Luna in Gulf of Aden. Photo: Official Turkish Navy Photo.

TCG Gökçeada escorting the merchant vessel M/V Aqua Luna in Gulf of Aden. Photo: Official Turkish Navy Photo.

The Turkish frigate F-494 TCG Gökçeada escorted the merchant ship M/V Aqua Luna carrying Turkish aid to Somalia.

M/V Aqua Luna chartered by Turkish Red Crescent was carrying 90 thousand canned goods,  5 thousand tons of sugar, 5 thousand tons of flour and many other goods and machinery need to overhaul Somalia’s infrastructure.

I was assuming that this escort duty would be performed by TCG Gökova as she has been in the with SNMG-2. The departure of TCG Gökçeada to the region was not announced either by the Turkish Navy or The Turkish General Staff. Both organisations used to be open about these deployments in the past.

Now, Turkish Navy has again two warships “East of Suez”.

 

 

An Everyday Heroism? Turkish Sailors Take A 80 Miles Boat Ride In The Middle Of The Indian Ocean

The original text of the thank you note. Photo: Turkish General Staff.

The original text of the thank you note. Photo: Turkish General Staff.

Today, The Turkish General Staff website run a thank you note (an e-mail actually) from a recovering Turkish merchant sailor who got very ill when his ship was in Gulf of Aden 15 days ago.

According to the e-mail, the sailor, electrician officer on board of M/V Tuna 7 (in the actual e-mail the name of the ship is not mentioned but the maritime portal denizhaber.com confirmed the ship) got sick at very late night on 13th January 2013.

The ship was in a convoy protected by the Chinese Navy.  The Chinese warship offered help over the radio but this was not enough.

The Turkish frigate F-496 TCG Gökova was 80 miles away at this point but the ship send its RHIB any way with the executive officers, medical officer and a small security team on board. This team performed the first medical treatment to the ill sailor who was later transferred to a hospital in Salalah, Oman.

It is no easy feat to travel 80 miles on a small boat in the middle of pirate infested waters in the dead of the night to save a life. Hats off to those who made gave this episode a happy ending.

 

 

 

 

TCG Gökova Escorts Mogadishu Bound Cargo Vessel

F-496 TCG Gökova escorting M/V Aqua Luna.

F-496 TCG Gökova escorting M/V Aqua Luna. Photo: Official Turkish General Staff photo.

F-496 TCG Gökova escorting M/V Aqua Luna. Photo: Official Turkish General Staff photo.

F-496 TCG Gökova escorting M/V Aqua Luna.  The Mk-41VLS launcher is clearly visible.Photo: Official Turkish General Staff photo.

According to the announcement made by Turkish General Staff, the Turkish frigate F-496 TCG Gökova escorted the cargo vessel M/V Aqua Luna as she was carrying humanitarian cargo to Somalia. The Turkish owned and Monrovia flagged freighter left the port of Mersin in late November and passed through the Suez Canal on 30th November.

TCG Gökova escorted  the cargo vessel during her 2650 nautical miles long trip. M/V Aqua Luna was chartered by Turkish Red Crescent and was carrying undisclosed humanitarian aid to Somalia. The Trip took 11 days from the Suez Canal to Mogadishu.

Although it has not been officially announced yet it is highly possible for F-496 TCG Gökova to replace the F-492 TCG Gemlik in CTF-151.

The Wreck Of The Shot Down Turkish Plane Sighted And The Bodies Of The Pilots Recovered

Today Turkish general Staff published photos from the search and rescue salvage operations Turkish Navy is conducting off Syrian coast.

As reported earlier,  the research vessel, E/V Nautilus was able to send her ROVs and broadcast live images from the wreck of the Turkish reconnaissance airplane RF-4ETM. This broadcast also confirmed what we have been  fearining: The two pilots have died and their bodes were recovered from the bosom of the sea.

This is a short summary of the all naval operations explained by Turkish General Staff:

  • Between 22 and 26 June 2012, 1 frigate, 1 fact attack craft, 1 patrol boat, 2 Coast Guard vessels, 1 plane and four helicopters searched a  70×23 miles area. During this time about 30 floating items belonging to the plane have been found.
  • Between 26 June and 2 July 2012 the survey ship of Turkish Navy A-599 TCG Çeşme searched for the wreckage of the airplane with her side scan sonar at an average depth of 1230 meters. during this operation TCG Çeşme identified 8 large pieces.
  • Between 3 and 4 July, the research vessels E/V Nautilus broadcasted images for the 8 large pieces identified by TCG Çeşme before and found the bodies of the crew.
  • TCG İnebolu an ocean capable tug with a capacity from salvaging from 3000 meters depth recovered the bodies of the pilots and started to collect pieces from the wreckage of the aircraft.
  • TCG İnebolu and E/V Nautilus are continuing with the salvaging.

Here some photos published by Turkish General Staff:

For more photos and for the location information of the wreck click here.

E/V Nautilus Starts To Search For The Shot Down Turkish Plane

The last recorded position of E/V Nautilus and the location where the Turkish fighter plane crashed.

This was rumored repeatedly last week but now it is official. E/V Nautilus is helping Turkish Navy to locate and inspect the wreckage of RF-4ETM, shoot down by Syria.

The ship was in Istanbul for the preparations of her 2012 expedition to explore the Black Sea, Aegean Sea and Mediterranean Sea off the coasts of Turkey and Cyprus.

She has departure from Istanbul on 29th June 2012 . Currently she is about to arrive at the crash location and start her mission. What makes this62 meters long  research vessel special and unique is the state-of-the-art exploration and telepresence technology has has on board.  The primary remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) on board, named Hercules and Argus, are used to view the seafloor with high definition video, take environmental measurements and collect geological and biological samples. The two secondary exploration tools, the towfish named Diana and Echo, are used to utilize side-scan and subbottom sonar technology to explore the seafloor and seek out compelling targets for closer investigation and study.  Once her side-scan sonars have precisely located the wreck of the plane the ROV will allow us to see the plane and help us to understand how it was hoot down and most importantly if the pilots are still in the wreckage or not.

According to news there will be 4 Turkish naval officers on board during the mission and six warships plus three helicopters will support and protect the E/V Nautilus.

As the wreckage is inside the Syrian territorial waters and as the most of the E/V Nautilus‘ crew most notably Dr. Robert Ballard is from USA, I guess that some kind of a deal must have been struck between Turkey, Syria and USA for this mission.

Here is a video showing E/V Nautilus off the coast of Bodrum on Sunday morning, picking up some crew members transferred by a Turkish Coast Guard vessel. The frigate TCG Gelibolu and the fact attack craft  TCG Karayel can also be seen.

Ten Years Of Operation Active Endeavour

F-245 TCG Oruçreis

In the wake of the 11th September 2001 terrorist attacks on WTC, NATO  implemented  Article 5 of the Washington Treaty. One of the actions taken in this regard was the starting of Operation Active Endeavour (OAE) in Eastern Mediterranean.

The aim of OAE is to control the shipping through the Mediterranean basin by hailing ships or by boarding them so that the flow of the terrorists, or their tools of trade can be intercepted.

Building on the experience acquired over the years, OAE has become largely network-based and has developed a considerable Maritime Situational Awareness through the use of modern tracking and analysis technologies. It also benefits enormously from cooperation with non-NATO contributing nations. However, surge operations remain an integral part of OAE and are specifically designed to deny terrorists the option of operating in the Mediterranean Sea.

According to Vice Admiral Veri: “The ship remains at the centre of NATO’s presence in the Mediterranean but it is what lies behind and supports this presence which is now so very impressive. Networking both in the sense of NATO networking with other countries and organisations, as well as in the sense of computer and digital networks, gives me a vision of the Area of Operations that just wasn’t there for the first commander of OAE. And although they are two distinct operations, the situational awareness that OAE has given me has been of enormous use during the maritime operations carried out in Operation Unified Protector”

Many NATO, EAPC/PfP Partners, Mediterranean Dialogue countries and other selected nations supported OAE. Currently SNMG2 flagship, F-245 TCG Oruçreis along with German frigate F-216 FGS Schleswig Holstein is patrolling the Mediterranean Sea in support of OAE.

Rear Admiral (LH) Sinan Azmi TOSUN, Commander of SNMG2:

Our presence and patrols in support of Operation Active Endeavour will continue to deter terrorists transporting personnel, equipment and materials through the Mediterranean. As a vivid example of the global fight against terrorism, OAE not only serves to deter terrorist or illegal activities but also provides reassurance to the all sailors legitimately using this vast area. Therefore, the key to the success of the operation is the interaction with the maritime community. This sharing of information gives us a good inside to detect anomalies very quickly and to take appropriate actions.”

I am glad to see that the strength of SNMG-2 was increased by %100; from one to two ships.

H/T: David Shirlaw.

Turkish Aid Ship In Somalia

M/V Burak A. in Mogadishu

Turkish merchant ship M/V Burak A. carrying 5.000 tons of humanitarian including 8 full equipped ambulances, 1 forklift, 5 jeeps, 6 generators, 500 tents, 5000 blankets and 4.500 tons of food and medical supplies arrived in Mogadishu .

The ship left Istanbul on 16th August and escorted by the frigate F-494 TCG Gediz all the way.  After escorting M/V Burak A.  away from dangerous waters the frigate will join the CTF-151.

On the same day a 213-member high-level delegation from Turkey completed a one-day visit to Mogadishu to learn the needs of Somalia and explore business opportunities in the country. It is the largest such delegation to Somalia since 1991.

 

The Barbaros Action Plan

A few days ago the Turkish Daily Sabah run an article about the Barbaros Action Plan of Turkish Navy.

The owners of Sabah have a very personal and close relationship with Turkish Prime Minister Mr. Erdoğan. That creates a dilemma. Did Sabah run that article because they have received some insider information from sources close to Prime minister or did they wrote this article to appear niche to Ankara and to create a public opinion that supports Ankara’s latest measures against Isreal.

Any way the article has found a relative large audience on the internet and is used by many analysts pundits, bloggers etc as a source for their writings about the latest Turco – Isreali crisis.

But to be honest here is not much in that article beyond the very obvious fact that the presence of Turkish Navy in the Eastern Mediterranean will increase. Well this should be not news to anyone, ( including regular readers of this blog) as Turkish Navy is trying to increase its presence in the last couple of years.

SABAH is releasing an important detail regarding the Turkish Navy’s presence. Declaring their Plan B in response to Israel’s attitude following the release of the Palmer report, it turns out that the decision to “take all precautionary measures to establish further presence in the Eastern Mediterranean” is actually a part of an important plan of action.

In upcoming days, Turkey will begin to display a more active presence along with maritime components in both the east and southern regions of Cyprus. Within this framework, the number of frigates, assault boats, submarines and naval station planes serving in the Mediterranean Shield Operation which provide security in the Eastern Mediterranean will also be on the incline.

The Barbaros Action Plan, which aims to display the Turkish Navy’s presence in neighboring seas, now plans for Turkish maritime components to be in constant navigation not only in the Black Sea, the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean but also in the Adriatic Sea, the Red Sea as well as the Indian Ocean.

In 2010, the first display of presence conducted by the Turkish Sea Task Group had the Turkish Navy paying visits to ports in the Aegean, the Mediterranean and the Adriatic. During that time the public of the nation’s visited were allowed to come on board to see the ships. The following is a list of the Turkish Navy’s activities in the Mediterranean, Aegean and Black Sea as well as the Adriatic, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean:

Well Turkish Navy is maintaining a regular and strong presence especially in the Black Sea and Turkish frigates has been present in the fighting against piracy in Gulf of Aden since 2008. So far there is nothing new there except the part I have emphasized. And this was expected after the statements of Mr. Davutoğlu and Mr. Erdoğan last week.

I do not see anything really newsworthy in the Sabah’s article. It just states the obvious,  shares a little information about the ongoing operations of Turkish Navy and gives the plan a name.

MEDITERRANEAN SHIELD TO BE ACTIVATED: It turns out that there are new procedures being put into place to further activate the Mediterranean Shield which was first established by the National Security Council in 2006 in order to establish security in the region following the establishment of the Ceyhan region as a center for energy. Upon Israel’s insistence on continuous postponement in regards to the apology issue, the number of frigates in the Mediterranean Shield program will be increased from two to four, the number of assault boats from three to five and the number of coast guard ships will be increased from one to three.

This paragraph raises the questions a) Whether the Operation Mediterranean Shield was deactivated? b) If so when it was deactivated? As far as Turkish Navy is concerned this Operation started as a national mission in accordance with NATO’s Active Endeavor is aimed to protect the oil terminals in Ceyhan Adana and to provide a deterrence through constant presence in the SLOC’s  east of Cyprus, leading to Ceyhan. I think that this inconsistency is due to the poor wording of the journalist or his/her lack of knowledge about the active operations of Turkish Navy.

One important question never mentioned in this article is whether Turkish Navy is going to set up permanent task forces or task groups. Both task groups established in 2010 and 2011 were temporary organisations with a specific purpose.  The Task Group in 2010 sailed trough the Mediterranean including the Adriatic Sea and visited several African and European States. This year’s task group sailed through the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean. It conducted anti piracy patrols, escorted convoys and visited several African, Middle East and South East Asian States. In fact one frigate from this task force F-492 TCG Gemlik is still in the region. But the task forces are disbanded when their scheduled cruises ended. So whether Turkish Navy is going to create constant task forces is for me the question.

One of the main duties of Turkish Navy is to be present in any part of the world where Turkey has a national interest. This is why we keep a frigate around year for the last couple of years in Gulf of Aden: to protect the Turkish ships passing through the region among other nations ships. Current political situation forces Turkish Navy to be in Eastern Mediterranean.

TCG Oruçreis In Copenhagen

TCG Oruçreis in Copenhagen. Official Turkish Navy Photo.

While the waters in eastern Mediterrean is getting warmer the NATO’s second smallest naval task force SNMG-2 ended its visit in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The SNMG-2 consisting of the Turkish frigate F-245 TCG Oruçreis (flagship) and the Greek frigate F-464 HS Kanaris set sail from Copenhagen following a short summer dispersal, on Monday 05 September 2011.

According to NATO

After departure, the force starts conducting a serial of exercises. In the coming weeks the force will work up to NATO Response Force (NRF) validation.  Rear Admiral (LH) Sinan Azmi TOSUN said: “
After a refreshing break, it is good to be back. The force is motivated to go through an intense training period enabling NATO to combat security challenges at sea.”

Besides an intensive warfare training programme with other Allied and friendly navies, SNMG2 will be employed in Operation Active Endeavour, NATO’s counter terrorist operation in the Mediterranean. In this context, the force will support NATO’s cooperation programme, Mediterranean Dialogue, and conduct other activities to further strengthen the well-established relationships between NATO and its partners.

I am quite sure that the Danish people really appreciated the sacrifice done by Turkish and Greek navies by sending two frigates to protect their capital, at a time when the ships are needed for stand offs in Med.

Click here for a video of TCG Oruçreis in Danish capital.

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