||"A historical political resource."
Land Forces Command
|Established|| October 29, 1923|
|Disbanded|| Still Active |
|Last Modified||Ben March 11, 2005 07:50am|
The army (officially referred to as the Turkish Land Forces) is by far the largest of the three service components. During 1992 the army introduced a sweeping reorganization, shifting from a predominantly divisional and regimental structure to one based on corps and brigades. The personnel strength of the army was reduced in 1994 to about 393,000 (including about 345,000 conscripts). Major equipment acquisitions have enabled the army to upgrade firepower and mobility while enhancing command and control. |
Until the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in 1990, the army had a static defense mission of countering Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces in the Caucasus and any possible attack on Thrace. When the General Staff attempted to shift 120,000 troops to the frontier with Iraq in 1990, they discovered that there were serious deficiencies in the army's ability to respond to crises that could erupt suddenly in distant regions. The army was even less prepared for a situation requiring the deployment and logistical support of forces in operations beyond Turkey's borders.
Prior to the army reorganization, the principal tactical units consisted of sixteen infantry divisions and one armored division, plus twenty-three independent brigades, of which six were armored and four mechanized. Under the reorganization, all divisions except three were dismantled. The existing nine corps were retained, with brigades directly responsible to the corps commands. The brigades were reconfigured as seventeen mechanized infantry brigades, fourteen armored brigades, nine infantry brigades, and four commando brigades. Each armored brigade consisted in late 1994 of six battalions: two armored, two mechanized, and two artillery. The mechanized brigades consisted of one armored battalion, two mechanized battalions, and one artillery battalion, plus a reconnaissance squadron. The infantry brigades consisted of four infantry battalions and one artillery battalion. Each commando brigade consisted of three commando battalions and one artillery battalion.
The Military Balance, 1994-1995 also lists a Presidential Guard regiment, an infantry regiment, five border defense regiments, and twenty-six border defense battalions. The fate of these independent units under the reorganization remained unclear in early 1995.
General Hikmet Bayar, the commander of Turkish land forces in early 1995, operated from headquarters in Ankara. The capital is also the home of the Ankara garrison and of the training and logistics commands. The country is divided into four military sectors on the basis of strategic conditions of terrain, logistics, communications, and the potential external threat. The sectors are assigned to four field armies, the first three of which would come under NATO command in the event of a NATO reinforced alert.
The First Army, with headquarters in Istanbul, is widely deployed in the European part of Turkey known historically as Thrace, with responsibility for the defense of that province, the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits, and the Kocaeli Peninsula. The Second Army, headquartered at Malatya, is deployed in southeastern Anatolia with a defensive mission facing Syria, Iraq, and Iran. The Third Army, with headquarters at Erzincan, is deployed throughout the rugged mountains and deep valleys of eastern Anatolia, covering the borders with Georgia and Armenia and the historical invasion routes from the east. During the buildup preceding the Persian Gulf War, the Second Army was deployed along the Iraqi border along with some units from the Third Army. Under the new structure, most of the armored, mechanized, and commando brigades are located in the central region with the mission of rapidly reinforcing brigades in each theater as required.
The Aegean Army (sometimes called the Fourth Army) was organized in the mid-1970s in response to tensions with Greece in the Aegean Sea. Headquartered in Izmir, it is responsible for the vast area facing the Aegean coast from the Dardanelles in the north to the southernmost Greek offshore islands. Turkish commanders describe the Aegean Army as composed simply of training elements from which the major army units are supplied. They presumably would have the mission of defending the Aegean coast and keeping lines of communication open in the Aegean district in an emergency, although their capability for this mission seems highly limited. The Turkish corps on Cyprus is within the Aegean Army command structure. Known as the Cyprus Turkish Peace Force, it is said in The Military Balance, 1994-1995 to consist of 30,000 troops, equipped with 235 M-48 tanks, 107 armored personnel carriers (APCs), and numerous pieces of towed and self-propelled artillery.
In late 1994, in addition to 1,500 troops who served with the United Nations Protection Force in Bosnia, a contingent of about 300 Turkish soldiers had participated in the UN operation in Somalia. The overall commander of the UN force in Somalia in 1993 was Turkish general Cevik Bir.
Accompanying the reorganization of the land forces was a significant upgrading of weapons systems, armor, and transport. Under the NATO harmonization program adopted under the CFE Treaty, considerable equipment subject to removal from the central front was passed on to other NATO armies, notably those of Greece and Turkey. Turkey's share included more than 1,000 United States M-60 and German Leopard main battle tanks and some 700 armored combat vehicles, as well as self-propelled howitzers and United States Cobra attack helicopters.
Under the CFE Treaty, NATO and Soviet Union/Warsaw Pact countries also were to reduce the size of their conventional forces. Russia has sought to change this commitment on the grounds that it needs forces for "police" actions and to assist former member states of the Soviet Union, such as Armenia, where Russian troops are stationed. Turkey has endeavored to prevent Russia's backing out on its commitment because, among other reasons, Turkey shares a border with Armenia.
In addition to the arms received as a result of the CFE Treaty, Turkey's arsenal of more than 3,000 M-48 tanks was being upgraded with advanced fire controls. By 1994 deliveries had begun of armored infantry fighting vehicles, large numbers of which were to be supplied under a Turkey/United States coproduction program. Procurement of a multiple-launch rocket system was proceeding under a similar program.
Turkey acquired 300 Russian BTR-60 APCs for use in the struggle against the Kurds because weapons of NATO origin were not approved for this purpose. In spite of the fact that the engines and transmissions of the BTR-60s had to be replaced after brief use, Ankara announced in 1994 that it had acquired 110 BTR-80s. These APCs were assigned to the gendarmerie, who were actively engaged in the war against the Kurds.
More effective employment of commando and infantry units would become possible with the United States UH-1H Iroquois (of which Turkey had ninety-six in 1994) and other modern troop-lift helicopters entering the army aviation inventory. The addition of missile-armed Cobra AH-1 (Bell 209) assault helicopters and five Super Cobras promised by the United States was expected to improve antitank capabilities.