Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan used a ceremony showcasing a military carrier to burnish his defense credentials ahead of close-run general elections next month.
On Monday, Erdogan presided over the commissioning of Turkey’s first drone, tank, and helicopter carrier, the TCG Anadolu, near Istanbul. It is part of the latest display of home-grown defense equipment including prototypes of new fighter jets and drones.
The carrier is expected to increase Turkey’s operational capabilities in the Aegean and the Mediterranean, where tensions run high over territorial rifts with Greece and Cyprus. Erdogan’s seeking to bolster support from nationalist voters ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections on May 14.
He’s been partly relying on his projection of military power to win support from some of his disillusioned grassroots supporters during the worst cost-of-living crisis in two decades.
“We’re happy and full of pride but this is not enough,” Erdogan said during a televised ceremony. “God willing, we will also succeed in building a full-scale aircraft carrier. We’ve been in touch with many countries about that project,” he said without elaborating.
The carrier can be fitted out with dozens of helicopters and the latest-generation Bayraktar TB3 drones as well as tanks and armored combat vehicles, according to the state-run defense procurement agency.
Turkey’s military had plans to deploy vertical-landing F-35 jets aboard the TCG Anadolu. However, the US imposed sanctions on Turkey in 2019 for acquisition of S-400 missile-defense systems from Russia. The sanctions prevented Turkey from working on and receiving Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 stealth jets.
Washington remains cautious about Turkey’s possession of an advanced Russian missile-defense system, at a time when Ankara is looking to buy new F-16 warplanes from the US, a sale that requires US congressional approval. Meanwhile, the US is urging Turkey to support Sweden’s bid to join the North Atlantic Alliance, following the ratification of Finland’s bid.