Article: Turkish Naval Forces Strategy – MSI Turkish Defence Review / MSI TDR Reference Magazine of Turkish Defence and Aviation Industry

Article: Turkish Naval Forces Strategy

17 Ekim 2016

Issued in October 2015, Turkish Naval Forces Strategy was prepared with great care and published just in time during a critical period when military threats in both Syria and the Eastern Mediterranean started to pose a great danger. Ensuring that this comprehensive document reaches a large audience is vital not only for Turkey’s national interests, but also for raising awareness on its national naval strategy. By issuing such a document, the Turkish Navy has undersigned a very important study with regard to creating a clearer understanding of our national naval strategy, in line with its traditional spirit of planning, prognosis, and innovation.

In brief, Turkish Naval Forces has defined the essence of its strategy with the maxim, ‘Dependable in cooperation, deterrent in crises, decisive in combat! Strong at Sea, Safe at Home: Present at Sea Influential in The World ’. This motto, even on its own, could be considered a point of reference for Turkey’s national naval strategy.

As stated by Admiral Bülent Bostanoğlu, Commander of the Turkish Naval Forces, it is understood that, “Turkish Naval Forces Strategy” is prepared in a way to overcome these challenges, ensure doctrinal unity of the Turkish Navy personnel and provide information on future perspective of our forces for various circles ranging from the decision makers setting the direction of Turkey in the international arena and conducting defence planning activities to the relevant academic circles”

The Turkish Naval Forces Strategy has been developed and studied under the following main topics : Importance of the Seas, Security, Foreign Policy Objectives, Maritime Objectives, Naval Forces, and Strategy.

Importance of the Seas

The Turkish Naval Forces Strategy, undoubtedly, has been based on the military, geopolitical and commercial importance afforded to Turkey by its surrounding seas. With respect to this robust perspective,

  • Shipping still remains the most preferred method of transportation in the world.
  • A country’s commercial competitiveness is proportional to its exploitation of the international maritime shipping system.

‘Commercial competitiveness of the countries is proportional to their exploitation of international maritime transportation system.’

  • Globally, sea trading routes are also a means of power transfer and the sea control of critical passages on these routes is an integral part of geopolitical competition. Nowadays, the high seas are among the most important elements of strategic competition.
  • Eighty percent of global trade volume (tonnes), 70 percent of global trade value (in dollars) [1], 60 percent of oil and 25 percent of natural gas transportation [2] is done through maritime routes. [3]


In the Turkish Naval Forces Strategy, security is summarised as follows:

  • Long-standing issues in the Aegean Sea remain unresolved. Turkey’s sensitive stance towards these issues was declared to the whole world with a decree from the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. [4]
  • As a consequence of the ‘Arab Spring’ process, the Middle East has been facing a more fragile geopolitical transformation.
  • An increasingly aggressive attitude by the Russian Federation (RF) has led to a questioning of the current security architecture in the region.

‘Long-standing issues in the Aegean Sea remain unsolved and restriction of maritime jurisdiction areas in the Eastern Mediterranean has emerged a significant regional dispute.’

  • Although Turkey’s prospective maritime jurisdiction areas are equal to more than half of the country’s land area, the boundaries of these maritime areas have so far been regulated by international treaty “only” for the Black Sea.
  • While globalisation decreases the effect of territorial borders between countries, developments in technology have created a contrary impact on the high seas, which have been open to and navigated by almost every country for centuries. With respect to the limitation of jurisdiction areas regarding continental shelves, the struggle among countries for the exploitation of seabed resources has been escalating each year and the Navy’s role for the protection of these areas has also been increasing accordingly.

‘The security architecture established by the initiatives of NATO and the EU following the Cold War is being re-evaluated.’

  • Initiated nationally by Turkish Naval Forces in 2004, Operation Black Sea Harmony continues uninterrupted, encouraging the participation of all other Black Sea coastal states. [5] Following the tensions that occurred between Turkey and RF on November 24, 2015, however, the future of the operation currently is of critical concern.
  • Some so-called licenced areas, established by the Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus in 2007 in the south of the Island of Cyprus, partially overlap Turkish maritime jurisdiction areas in the Eastern Mediterranean. As a result of the attitudes shown by the Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus, a dispute that involves a large number of coastal states in the region has emerged. [6]
  • Since 2006, Turkish Naval Forces have been conducting Operation Mediterranean Shield in the Eastern Mediterranean.
  • In 2011, NATO published the new maritime strategy [7] of the Alliance and in accordance with this new strategy; the Alliance subsequently has started to review its activities in all maritime areas.
  • On a global scale, the Asia-Pacific region has been transformed into the world’s geo-economic and geo-strategic centre and a significant portion of the US Navy is deployed in this region. [8]

Foreign Policy Objectives

The Turkish Naval Forces Strategy emphasises that Turkey’s foreign policy vision is based on stability, cooperation and continental-scale initiatives. On the other hand, with its capability to reach all areas of the region from the surrounding seas to the far oceans where Turkey has interests and activities, the Turkish Navy is an indispensable foreign policy tool.

‘Turkish Navy is as a vital foreign policy tool with the capability to reach all geographies where Turkey has interests and activities.

One of the most substantial examples of the Turkish Navy’s role to support continental-scale foreign policy initiatives is the deployment activities of the Barbaros Turkish Maritime Task Group. [9]

 Maritime Objectives

As maritime shipping accounts for approximately 87 percent of Turkey’s foreign trade, investment on the development of seafaring capabilities and activities is crucial.

‘Developments and objectives in the maritime sector will increase the interaction between the two prominent components of the sea power, the navy and the merchant marine fleet, of Turkey  which has a growing economy and is opening to alternative markets.’

Globally, more than 60 percent of crude oil and petroleum products are being transported through the sea. [10] The permanent security of sea lines of communications for the transportation of energy and its products is of great importance. The critical shipping lanes, in terms of volume of transported crude oil and petroleum products, are respectively, the Strait of Hormuz, the Strait of Malacca, the Suez Canal, the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, the Danish Straits, the Turkish Straits and the Panama Canal. [11]

Naval Forces

A Navy is one of the main constituents of a country’s combined maritime power. Naval forces have distinctive features, such as mobility, flexibility, long-term operation, self-sufficiency and ability to use the high seas freely. With these characteristics, naval forces can influence any region where there are national interests, sustaining a continuous presence in those regions and maintaining diplomatic and military power.

‘With each component acting as a floating embassy, and navigating freely on the high seas, Naval Forces conduct diplomatic missions at four corners of the world, simultaneously .’

In case of conflict, the Navy contributes to joint military operations with activities, such as the provision of early warning, reconnaissance, surveillance and intelligence; protection of sea lines of communication and keeping them open; establishment of sea control in areas of operation; destruction of critical land-based targets; support to/of regional air defence; conduct of power projection and execution of amphibious operations when required. With this contribution, Naval Forces deployed in accordance with the requirements of peace, crisis and conflict situations undertake various tasks, such as:

  • to eliminate threats to the homeland from the farthest distance,
  • to support the development of bilateral or multilateral cooperation initiatives,
  • to contribute to the development and maintenance of relations and regional / global stability,
  • to shape the behaviours of other actors by playing an active role during crisis management,
  • to protect maritime rights and interests.

The way a country utilises its naval forces also reveals the nature of its foreign policy. The task spectrum of Naval Forces includes the following duties:

  • Sea control and power projection,
  • Strike operations,
  • Sea denial and protection of maritime transportation,
  • Maritime security operations and control of maritime jurisdiction areas,
  • Presence and show of flag, peace keeping operations,
  • Non-combatant evacuation operations,
  • Humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and Search and Rescue operations.


For centuries, notions, ‘the one who rules the seas rules the world’ [12] and ‘whoever controls the sea routes dominates the world’ [13] have constantly served guiding principles for naval strategists.

As mentioned in the Turkish Naval Forces Strategy, “The Turkish Naval Forces Strategy is prepared in the light of National Military Strategy that includes the maritime domain, and which is driven from the National Security Policy.”

Defence and security state, foreign policy and maritime objectives constitute the basic inputs of Turkish Naval Forces Strategy. These efforts, together with the interest and mission areas of the Turkish Naval Forces, determine the forces’ objectives. In attaining these objectives, the means of how to use naval forces, means of improvement of force structure as well as means of cooperation and collaboration with other stakeholders, all constitute the Naval Forces Strategy. The Naval Forces Strategy has a dynamic structure, due to the variable nature of these basic inputs.

Objectives of the Turkish Naval Forces

In the strategy document, the defining objectives are as follows:

  • to deter threats against the homeland in the maritime domain, and when needed, to win the war decisively through joint efforts with other elements of the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF),
  • to protect the sovereignty rights and maritime interests of Turkey, and contribute to the protection of sea lines of communications,
  • to support the defence of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and the protection of its vital rights and interests at sea,
  • to contribute to global stability and the creation of a stable security zone within the close vicinity of Turkey,
  • to support Turkish foreign policy and defence industry objectives,
  • to support the Alliance Maritime Strategy,
  • to maintain and develop an active naval force in order to carry out all tasks assigned in the envisioned security environment.

Furthermore, in order to deter threats against the homeland in the maritime domain, and when needed, to win a decisive war through joint efforts with other elements of the TAF, the following activities are to be conducted:

  • Use of the high seas for peaceful purposes : use of force, if required,
  • Sustain and maintain situational awareness more comprehensively using the Distant Horizon System,
  • Implement rules of engagement in coordination with the relevant authorities by taking into consideration the balance between accomplishing assigned tasks and keeping tension under control, while ensuring self-defence,
  • During a crisis; deployment of Naval Forces of desired magnitude in the crisis area in the shortest possible time, achievement of situational superiority in the crisis area and getting the Force underway with all its elements. In the case of a conflict, by taking the nature of the threat into consideration, the use of force on enemy to create an impact at the foreseen level by reacting jointly or the use of force for the purpose of sea control, only.

Based on the protection of the sovereignty rights and maritime interests of the Republic of Turkey, however, objectives include maintenance of a high readiness level for all times to react immediately to situations faced in case of a violation of rights arising from international treaties and international laws and disputes over the delimitation of maritime jurisdiction areas; and the prevention of illegal search/drilling operations in our maritime jurisdiction areas.

In terms of ensuring the security of our neighbouring seas and sea lines of communications, where the Turkish maritime trade is concentrated, the following activities are to be conducted:

  • Coordination and collaboration with the relevant players operating in maritime areas will be ensured,
  • Operation Black Sea Harmony will be continued,
  • Operation Mediterranean Shield will be continued,

In order to ensure maritime security in risky maritime areas, a presence will be ensured, with a national asset or in coordination with NATO and/or multinational maritime task groups, to protect sea lines of communications

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