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.

Turkish Navy Will Sail Around Africa


The Milgem class corvette F-511 TCG Heybeliada is one of the ships taking part in the Barbaros Task Force

Yesterday, the creation of  Barbaros Task Force was made public in a press conference held at the Fleet HQ in Gölcük Naval Base.

This task force (TF) consisting of 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. The TF will set sail from main Turkish Naval Base, Gölcük on 17 March 2014 and is scheduled to return home after a deployment of 102 days.

During this deployment, TF will navigate round the African continent from west to east and will make port visits in 26 countries and conduct military exercises with their navies. Furthermore the TF will conduct live firing exercises in South Africa. The TF will take part in the US led exercise Obangame Express and will conduct anti piracy operations when it arrives in the Gulf of Aden.

It will be the first crossing of Cape of Hope by Turkish ships after 148 years.



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 Gemlik in Sri Lanka

F-492 TCG Gemlik arriving in Colombo Sri Lanka. Official Sri Lanka Navy Photo.

While the tension rises in the Eastern Mediterranean, the lone frigate F-492 TCG Gemlik is continuing her goodwill visits in the Indian Ocean.

The remaining ship of the Turkish Navy Task Group, she arrived in Colombo on 5th September 2011. Sri Lanka Navy ceremonially welcomed them in accordance with naval traditions. The purpose of the visit is to strengthen friendly ties between the two Navies.

According to Sri Lanka Navy website TCG Gemlik will remain at port of Colombo till 08th September 2011 and its crew will participate in special programs organized by the Sri Lanka Navy to promote goodwill and cooperation between the two Navies.

Turkish Navy Task Group Returned Home

TCG Barbaros and TCG Gelibolu mooring at Aksaz Naval Base. Official Turkish Navy Photo.

On Monday 8th August 2011, the Turkish Navy Task Group minus the frigate F-492 TCG Gemlik returned to Aksaz Naval Base, Marmaris as planned.

The Task Group spend the last 70 days in Indian Ocean providing naval escort for Turkish and non-Turkish flagged vessels in the Gulf of Aden and conducted anti-piracy escorts in designated segments on the internationally recommended transit corridor (IRTC)

Besides the anti-piracy operations, TMTG will also visited ports in Oman, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Pakistan, India, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and conducted passage exercises with these countries and other multinational force in the area.

Click here to read earlier news about the task group.

TCG Gemlik Starts Her Shanghai Visit

TCG Gemlik arriving in Shanghai. Photo: Anadolu Ajansı

The frigate F-492 TCG Gemlik arrived in Shanghai on 1 August 2011, to mark to the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Turkey and China.

Upon her arrival the frigate was welcomed by Senior Colonel Wu Weyhua, Turkey’s consul general Deniz Eke and deputy military attaché at the Turkish Embassy in Beijing,  Lieutenant Colonel Mustafa Ömer Seyran.

The ship will stay four days in China and will be open for public visit before sailing to Japan.

Rear Admiral Sinan Ertuğrul, commander of the Turkish Naval Task Group,  who held a short press conference onboard the frigate said the visit was aimed at commemorating the 40th anniversary of the two countries’ diplomatic relations.

He stressed the peacetime importance of navies and said this is the first time in Turkey’s history that an officer at the rank of rear admiral is paying a visit to a Chinese port.

Rear Admiral Ertuğrul also said that bilateral relations are important not only for the countries concerned but also for global peace and stability.

The reminder of the Turkish Naval Task Group, F-244 TCG Barbaros, F-493 TCG Gelibolu and A-595 TCG Yarbar Kudret Güngör are back in the Mediterranean after finishing their anti piracy escorts and patrols. This week, the TNTG will take part in the surge operation of NATO’s Operation Active Endeavor before returning to their home port, Aksaz Marmaris on 8 August 21011.

TCG Gemik in Shanghai. Photo: Anadolu Ajansı

Turkish Navy And RAN Conducted Exercise Scimitar Exocet

The Australian frigate HMAS Toowoomba conducted Exercise Scimitar Exocet with Turkish warships TCG Barbaros and TCG Yarbay Kudret Gungor before the Turkish ships stopped in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for a port visit.

The exercise was conducted in the Bab Al Mandeb Strait when the Turkish ships were returning to the Red Sea after completed their anti piracy patrols.  Exercise Scimitar Exocet was conducted between the 22nd and 23rd of July 2011 in the vicinity of the Gulf of Aden and involved Toowoomba, two Turkish Navy vessels and French Mirage fighter aircraft. Commanding Officer of HMAS Toowoomba, Commander Andrew Quinn, said the exercise proved the Royal Australian Navy’s interoperability with the Turkish Navy against an air-borne attack exercise.

TCG Barbaros and  HMAS Toowoomba are both MEKO 200 design of German shipyard Blohm and Voss. Both ships have a similar armaments.

Photos: Official RAN photos.

TCG Gemlik visits Malaysia, While The Rest Of The Turkish Task Group Hunts For Pirates

TCG Gemik, in Medan. Official Turkish Navy Photo.

F-492 TCG Gemlik has finished her visit to Medan Indonesia and proceeded to Kuala Lumpur Malaysia.

The frigate was one of the 5 ships that sailed as the Turkish Naval Task Group from Marmaris in June.

After finishing their visit in India the rest of the group returned to piracy fighting operations in Gulf of Aden whereas TCG Gemik started her Far East Tour. The first stop was Medan, Indonesia. The current stop in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. She will leave Kuala Lumpur on 23 July 2011.
The Turkish Navy did not made the route of TCG Gemlik and the schedules of her port visits public. Therefore it is not possible to say whether besides Tokyo and Shanghai, she will visit other ports / nations or not. But I would not be surprised if she would made stops in Singapore and in Korea.

Convoy operations. Official Turkish Navy Photo.

In the meantime the rest of the Task Group returned to Gulf of Aden and escorted merchant convoys inside the IRTC between 15 and 22 July.

A Turkish Navy delegation visitied the commader of NATO’s SNMG-1 /CTF-508 Rear Admiral Gualtiero Mattesi on his flagship D-553 ITS Andrea Doria. Actually SNMG-1 consists solely from ITS Adrea Doria. That makes SNMG-1 officially the smallest NATO fleet ever.

The anti piracy operations of Turkish Naval Task Group will continue till end of this week. On 26 July 2011 F-244 TCG Barbaros will visit Jeddah.

The Turkish Navy Task Group minus TCG Gemlik will return to Turkey on 8 August 2011.

TCG Gemlik Starts Her Far East Tour

After conducting naval exercises with the Indian Navy last week F-492 TCG Gemlik has left Turkish Naval Task Group and is making a visit in Medan, Indonesia.

The port visit in Medan will be the first stop of TCG Gemlik during her Far East cruise. Later she will visit Tokyo and Shanghai. The port visit in Tokyo is scheduled for 8 August 2011.

In the meantime the rest of the TNTG will return to Gulf of Aden and start patrolling and convoy escorting duties.



News From Turkish Task Force And Comments Of Adm. Ertuğrul About Piracy

Passex with Omani Navy. Official Turkish Navy Photo.

The Turkish Navy Task Force is continuing its deployment and is making headlines around the Gulf region. The task force is composed of F-244 TCG Barbaros as flagship, F-492 TCG Gemlik, F-493 TCG Gelibolu and A-595 TCG Yarbay Kudret Güngör.

This is from Oman Daily Observer:

Muscat City Centre (Seeb) will play host to a Turkish Navy band today from 7pm onwards. The band itself will be on board one of the four frigates which docked at the Sultan Qaboos Port in Muscat yesterday.
The band will be presenting some of Turkey’s most famous songs, in addition to numerous well-known, classic editions.

Play it once, Sam. For old times’ sake. Play for the hearts and minds of those people.

And this one is from The National of UAE:

“On the 26th we will conduct a bilateral passage exercise with the UAE navy and the participation of some units. Then we’ll continue with our programme as scheduled at sea.”

The admiral said he believed land-based solutions were the key to combating piracy: “If there’s a political solution ashore, we’ll support it.”

In the Indian Ocean, he said: “A ship there is not even a dot. How can we cover it? If you bring all the navies of the globe, it is nothing. But we do our best by positioning our ships in camps around Somalian coast, not to let them get access to the open seas, by keeping them in the region, in their territorial waters.”

But sensitivity was required, he said. “We are there to make a distinction between ordinary humble fisherman, and pirates.”

Admiral Ertugrul added: “Turkey is a valuable and very active member of the international community and that is why we believe that counter-piracy is a threat to the peace and prosperity not only to the region but worldwide as it has an impact on the maritime trade and safe navigation, maritime security.”

The Admiral, Sinan Ertuğul is no stranger to these waters. He has commanded CTF-151 in 2010. So he knows what he is talking about. I think it is safe to say that Turkish Navy sees the solution to the problem of piracy lies on land and the efforts of combating the piracy is just buying time.


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