The Turkish Navy is on its way to becoming the Mediterranean’s preeminent maritime power. That is, if the construction of an amphibious assault ship goes smoothly. The contract signing was announced during last week’s IDEF 15 arms show, an event organized by the Turkish military and held in Istanbul.
The contract is between the SSM* and Sedef Shipbuilding Co., a local shipyard. The vessel itself, however, is a licensed-built Navantia Juan Carlos-class LHD. The Juan Carlos is already used by Spain and two were sold to Australia as the Canberra-class.
But the deal that culminated in May this year dates to 2013, when the news was first shared among discussion boards. By January 2014 most industry publications and military websites had run the story. The requirement then was for a single LHD and four landing craft for marines.
It’s apparent Turkey’s acquisition of an LHD was hardly secret. Its NATO membership and regional status meant little controversy surrounded the deal. A Juan Carlos/Canberra-class LHD is manned by a crew of 261. Space is available for transporting 1,000 marines and a dozen helicopters. A hundred vehicles can be loaded on two levels underneath the flight deck.
The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) published one of the most detailed briefs about its LHDs. The Juan Carlos/Canberra-class uses a conventional steel mono hull with four decks. At the bottom is the well dock to hold landing craft. Above it is the heavy vehicle deck. In the middle is the main accommodation deck that supports crew quarters, the aircraft hangar, and a hospital. The flight deck is the final section, supporting the superstructure on the starboard side.
The Canberra-class carries four types of defensive armaments. These are an anti-torpedo system, four 20mm CIWS, six .50 calibre machine guns, and active missile decoys. According to the RAN, the Canberra-class runs on an electric drive system that consists of one massive gas turbine and three diesel generators.
A Juan Carlos/Canberra-class LHD supports 12 medium-lift helicopters and a complement of attack helicopters. However, a scale model displayed in Sedef’s booth at IDEF 15 showed an LHD with F-35B’s on its flight deck, an inclusion that hints at the Turkish Navy’s own plans. Its commissioning is scheduled for 2021.
To date, the Turkish Navy hasn’t specified the deployment of its LHD, although analysts believe it will be for the Eastern Mediterranean.
* The Undersecretariat for the Defense Industry, better known by its Turkish acronym SSM.