Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced that the UK and Spain are ready to cooperate in the construction of a more advanced version of the Turkish Navy’s flagship.
Erdogan, who attended a showy ceremony for the sailing of Turkey’s newly built a multi-purpose amphibious assault ship TGC Anadolu through the Istanbul Strait on April 23, National Sovereignty and Children’s Day, said in a telephone speech to the ship’s crew that he is determined to build a more advanced version of Anadolu.
Erdogan told the sailors he had talks with the British and the Spaniards on the proposed construction and that he received positive responses.
Turkey had most recently cooperated with Spain in the production of Anadolu, the largest ship in the Turkish Navy with a length of 231 meters, a width of 32 meters and displacement of 27,436 tons. It was designed by Spain’s Navantia and built at the Sedef Shipyard in Turkey.
Last week Erdogan had claimed the British sought to benefit from Turkey’s experience in the construction of an unmanned submarine, which the British later denied. At an event in İstanbul where he met with youngsters on April 17, Erdogan also claimed there were orders for frigates from the US and Pakistan; that some countries wanted aircraft carriers and submarines built in Turkey; and that the UK wanted to cooperate to build a submarine.
Speaking to the London-based Middle East Eye, which is close to the Turkish government, a Turkish source said the UK is interested in the joint production of unmanned submarines with Turkey.
Not only contradicting the rhetoric of the government, which claims that Western countries do not want Turkey’s defense industry to develop and have implemented a secret arms and technology embargo, but Erdogan’s statement was also denied by the British.
A spokesperson for the Royal Navy told Breaking Defense in a Wednesday statement that “no one knows anything of these [Turkish] discussions,” including teams from the UK’s Submarine Delivery Agency, Defence Nuclear Organisation and shipbuilder BAE Systems.
According to Breaking Defense, although UK military naval agencies are not in talks about submarine matters, a number of “high level visits to Turkey” from British defense officials have taken place over the last few years, according to Sidharth Kaushal, research fellow at the UK-based Royal United Services Institute defense think tank.
It is no secret that there is close cooperation between the UK and Erdogan’s government, unlike other Western countries. The UK had been the only Western country to support the Erdogan government’s narrative after a controversial military coup attempt in 2016 that many believe was a false flag operation organized by Turkish intelligence. Following the abortive putsch, Erdogan built an authoritarian regime and completely controls the judiciary and armed forces thanks to the purge of more than 150,000 civil servants and military officers.
In 2022 the United Kingdom was the first country to lift a ban on arms sales to Turkey that had been imposed along with European Union countries following a unilateral Turkish offensive in northern Syria in 2019.
The UK and Turkey signed a free trade agreement on December 29, 2020, the first such agreement between the UK and another state since the UK’s departure from the EU.
Meanwhile, the TGC Anadolu, which Erdogan repeatedly describes as an aircraft carrier but is actually a multi-purpose amphibious assault ship, has become the latest showcase product in his election propaganda. One of Erdogan’s election strategies is to show voters that Turkey is becoming stronger by promoting domestically produced defense industry products.
The pro-Erdogan media also insist that the ship is Turkey’s first and only aircraft carrier. In some publications, they claim the ship is the first military drone carrier in the world.
In his speech at the ceremony on Sunday, Erdogan said Anadolu will soon anchor in Izmir and will be open to the public. However, according to a statement from the Defense Ministry, Anadolu will remain in Istanbul for a while before heading to İzmir.
According to some experts, the ship is neither the world’s first ship on which drones are deployed nor an aircraft carrier. They even state that many critical tests have not yet been completed. So that the Erdogan government can put on a show before the elections, the ship has been activated before the end of the acceptance tests, which may cause serious problems, Nordic Monitor reported last week.