Yes, Even With the Purges, Turkey’s Military Is a Beast to Be Feared

Yes, Even With the Purges, Turkey’s Military Is a Beast to Be Feared

Kyle Mizokami

Security, Middle East

Ankara is a powerful country.

Key point: Ankara weakened its military through repeated purges after a failed coup in 2016, but its forces remain formidable. Indeed, Turkey boasts one of the largest and best-equipped militaries in the region.

Straddling two continents, Turkey has one of the most powerful armed forces in Europe or Asia. Over four hundred thousand strong, Ankara’s armed forces are divided into the Army, Air Force, and Navy. A Special Forces Corps exists and is subordinate directly to the Turkish General Staff. The Turkish military formed a bulwark against the Warsaw Pact during the Cold War, facing Bulgarian, Romanian and Soviet forces that in wartime would drive south through Thrace and seize the Bosphorus Strait.

After the fall of the Soviet Union the Turkish Army downsized, shrinking from approximately 370,000 to 260,000 while shifting to an entirely mechanized force. The Turkish Air Force is one of the strongest in the region, consisting of nearly 300 F-16 Fighting Falcons. Also, the Turkish Navy is one of the largest in the eastern Mediterranean, with more than a dozen submarines and a marine infantry brigade.

Much of the Turkish military’s equipment is foreign made but the country is currently making an effort to build up its military industrial base. Turkey is developing locally produced tanks, rockets and missiles, and is expanding ties with foreign defense contractors. Turkish companies were subcontractors for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and Turkey is now developing its own fighter jet. With that in mind, here are five of the most powerful weapons in the Turkish military.

SOM-J Cruise Missile:

As part of Turkey’s contribution to the F-35 program, Turkish defense contractor Roketsan partnered with Lockheed Martin to develop the SOM (Stand Off Missile) cruise missile. SOM is Turkey’s first cruise missile, designed to attack targets both on land and at sea. There are several versions under development but the most advanced is probably SOM-J. SOM-J was designed to be carried internally in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s weapon bays, preserving the jet’s stealthy profile against probing enemy radars. The missile is also designed to be carried externally by several types of warplanes—especially the F-16 fighter.

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