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.


10 Responses to Turkish Task Force Starts Its Circumnavigation Of Africa

  1. Kevin Brent says:

    Were none of these men released after the decision to re-examine the cases? Or did that decision only apply to Ergenekon?

  2. Yavuz says:

    An expensive and pointless mini-Armada. A naval version of Davutoglu’s failed foreign policy.

  3. Harry says:

    I agree with the admiral. Turkish navy should have stayed close to home waters. The world is dealing with a major crisis hence a pointless and wasteful show. Unfortunately, the naval officers of the Navy have been subjected to lies and half-truths.

  4. Mehmet Kale says:

    Unfortunately we have been deceived all along. I have known that corruption was present in our governmental departments, but I have never thought the departments were acting as a syndicate.

    These Milgem-S, LPD projects were just an outfit’ s game trail. But when I look back, I ask myself that how we could not ask ourselves that if we really needed this fully offensive wagon, LHD and a task force screening it.

    A profiting economy can maintain imperialistic dreams, task groups. We can not even intervene and put under control a war occurring in our southern border. Our planes are shot by almost half a century old air defence measures(ZSU-23-4 if I remember correct).

    Crimea, Eastern mainland Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, in none of the turfs mentioned, nothing progresses to our advantage, to our benefit. China bids to buy millions of acres of farm land from Ukraine, we try to build an amphibioua task force which we will and can never use because of our fragile economy.

    Instead of playing imperialistic dreams, i would purchase farm lands in Romania, Ukraine, Bulgaria; build foundation companies for military oriented microprocessor design.

    Sorry for raining on this parade. With a fragile democracy and economics, we manage to maintain a magnificent Navy. But we need more strategic moves than shows.

    What I expect is the permanent bailing of LHD project after the recent tapes. Hope the budget will be directed to more important issues.

    P.S. I truly hope my LHD mentionings will not be considered as divergence. I try to focus on the waste of resources on offensive firepower.

  5. Yavuz says:

    Well, there is some truth in what you said. TN’s backbone is more than 30 years old second hand frigates -which they spent a lot to modernise- but still they are planning to spend a fortune on an LPD.

    There is no civilian authority to scrutinise procurement decisions. After years of so called democratisation, Turkey is actually in the same position -if not worse- as before. Decisions are made in a hierarchical manner, now that a military coup is not possible government seems to accept all proposals from TN or initiate them purely for internal political reasons. Remember. national defence industry is an old dream of radical islamists from days of Erbakan, national ship, national tank, national aircraft etc. are all part of the game. What is actually national in these is another matter of debate.

    And this TN is trying to project the failed foreign policy of the government; around Africa. Not in Mediterranean, not in Black Sea but in the Gulf of Guinea.

    Paper tiger unfortunately.

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  9. my name is ebrahiem manuel from simonstown -south africa – we look forward to invite the turkish officers & crew to visit the heritage museum in simonstown in may 2014

  10. I’m Pascal Mayalla from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, we are looking forward this visit in Tanzania, with positive expectations, because it is not just a visit, but they will do some positive things for Tanzanians no matter how little it is, it is something!.

    The fleet is expecting to arrive in Dar es Salaam port this week!.


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