Turkish navy launched its biggest ever military exercise on February 27 amid rising tensions in the Middle East, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
On February 26, during a press conference in the Turkish Navy Command in Gölcük, Northwest Turkey, Rear Admiral Yankı Bağcıoğlu, Chief of Operations of the Turkish Naval Forces spoke about a naval drill to take place between March 2 and 5. Coded “Blue Homeland 2019”, the drill will be carried out simultaneously at all seas surrounding Turkey for the first time: the Black Sea, the Aegean and the Mediterranean. 13 frigates, 6 corvettes, 16 torpedo boats, 7 submarines, 7 minesweepers, 22 landing ships, 14 patrol boats, 17 support vessels and 1 school ship are also planned to take part in the drill: a total of 103 warships, together with naval patrol planes, helicopters and UAVs. Turkish Air force and Coast Guard, which is subordinate to the Interior Ministry, are planned to support the Navy drill.
Navy spokesman also said that Turkey takes part in the NATO drill in the Mediterranean Sea Turkey takes part, the “Dynamic Manta” with 1 frigate, 1 submarine and 1 sea patrol plane and 1 minesweeper in a Black Sea “Poseidon” drill off of Romania. A frigate of the Turkish navy is currently in the Aden Sea as a part of an international force fighting piracy and a Corvette as a part of the UNIFIL effort off of Lebanon.
The Turkish Navy has been prepared for the Blue Homeland drill reportedly for the last six months. It is taking place at a time of political strain in the Black Sea region mainly due to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. The strain also rose around the Mediterranean island of Cyprus since the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot governments have announced oil and gas drills in answer to the Greek Cypriot government’s deals with Israel and Egypt added to the military build-up in the Eastern Mediterranean due to the Syria War. Recently Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan said that Turkey’s security concerns in Syria and Cyprus were no different. Turkish media reports revealed plans about building another navy base in the Eastern Black Sea, opposite to the Russian base at Sochi.
Aside from the exhibition of Turkey’s naval power capabilities with new and natively built ships, UAVs and weapon systems, the drill has another importance in the eyes of Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government. One of the worst affected government agencies in relation with the July 15, 2016, military coup attempt in Turkey, as indicated to be masterminded by the U.S.-resident Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen’s illegal network was the in Navy; thousands of navy personnel were dismissed and some of them are under trial. The Blue Homeland drill is also to show that the Turkish Naval Force is back in shape again.