The ceremony also marked the start of a national frigate program that involves the construction of I-class vessels. These ships can carry longer-range weapons systems compared to the Ada-class corvettes and feature advanced command and control systems.
The local industry immediately expressed enthusiasm for the planned aircraft carrier program.
"We are willing to take on that ambition," said Orhan Gulcek, board chairman of Yalova Altinova Tersane Girisimcileri, an umbrella group of privately owned Turkish shipyards.
Gulcek said that Turkish shipyards are now capable of building almost all kinds of warships, including those that come close to an aircraft carrier. "The Ministry of Defense has in recent years supported all local programs which brought the industry to a point where it has become a major potential exporter," he said.
The "near aircraft carrier" Gulcek mentions is the TCG Anadolu being built by Turkish shipyards Sedef under license from Spain's Navantia. The vessel is a derivative of the Spanish ship Juan Carlos, a "light aircraft carrier."
Under the program, worth over $1 billion, Navantia will provide design, technology transfer, equipment and technical assistance to Sedef for the design and development of the TCG Anadolu. The ship will be built in Turkey and feature locally made command and control and combat systems.
The TCG Anadolu also will feature a fully equipped flight deck with the ski-jump ramp in front. It will be capable of operating up to 12 F-35Bs and 12 helicopters at a maximum range of 9,000 miles. Its flight deck and aviation hangar can accommodate either 12 medium-size helicopters or eight CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift helicopters. The ship will be delivered to the Turkish Navy in 2021.
Meanwhile, under a deal between the European Union and the
International Organization for Migration, Damen, an international shipyard group, delivered on July 7 two SAR 1906 vessels to the Turkish Coast Guard. The two vessels — the first to be delivered in what is a six-vessel contract — will be mobilized in refugee and migrant rescue operations.
"All that is in line with Erdogan's ambitions to make Turkey a regional power not just in Turkish littoral waters but also away," said one London-based Turkey specialist. "Naval and armored land platforms have so far proven to be the best local products the Turkish industry was able to offer. Both businesses have strong growth prospects in a country where the end user is willing to buy more and a region to which they tend increasingly to export."
Burak Ege Bekdil is the Turkey correspondent for Defense News.