Turkey’s plane-less aircraft carrier

The TCG Anadolu is based on the Spanish ship Juan Carlos I, a multi-purpose amphibious assault ship. Navantia provided design, technology transfer, equipment and technical assistance to Sedef Shipyard of Turkey for the design and development of the Anadolu.

From the start of the Turkish amphibious assault ship program, the Turkish Navy had wanted a vessel purely designed to operate helicopters. However, local media reported that soon after exploring options for the design, the Turkish Navy later changed its plans and opted for a fully equipped flight deck with a ski-jump ramp in front, intending to purchase the F-35B STOVL aircraft.

Turkish national newspaper, Hurriyet Daily News, reported at the start of the year that the country was planning to buy a number of F-35B jets in addition to its plus 100 F-35As, the paper stated that this was “planned to be procured in line with Ankara’s growing interest in strengthening its naval forces, mainly for overseas operations”, the vessel they’d fly from is the TCG Anadolu.

The commissioning of the ship is scheduled for 2021 and she is expected to cost around $1 billion.

Jane’s had also confirmed Turkey’s interest in the the F-35B, citing Turkish and Western defense industry sources. According to Jane’s:

“A senior Turkish Defence Industries undersecretariat official expressed his country’s interest in buying F-35 STOVL variants to Vice Admiral Mathias Winter, head of the US Defense Department’s F-35 programme office, during a meeting held in Ankara in mid-October.”

Fast forward to 2019, When Turkey defied US warnings to go through with its purchase of Russian S-400 air defence system, it was warned that this could be a threat to information relating to NATO systems. Turkey ignored those warnings.

Days after the S-400s arrived, Turkey was kicked out of the F-35 programme.

Turkey was a Level 3 partner in the Joint Strike Fighter programme and the Turkish vessel TCG Anadolu was designed to be capable of operating up to 12 F-35Bs and 12 helicopters.

Now, that will not be happening.

While some describe the gradual and incremental build up to a return to British carrier strike as an example of ‘carriers without jets’, this is the real thing. When the TCG Anadolu enters service, there will be no jets in training, in build or even on order.