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The Turkish defense industry has “no obstacle” to domestically build a full-fledged aircraft carrier “under the current government,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.
"There isn't any obstacle to producing our own aircraft carrier. It is possible with this determined government and state. Turkey cannot fall into laziness in the defense and military issues,"Yeni Safak newspaper quoted Erdogan as saying Saturday.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of Istanbul’s Naval Shipyard, Erdogan added that Turkey will be ready to begin construction after its amphibious assault ship TCG Anadolu is finished in 2021.
The Turkish leader noted that the nation’s defense industry has become increasingly independent from foreign suppliers and technology producers. He asserted that Turkey’s “strategic geographical location” does not allow it to waste time when it comes to developing its domestic defense industry.
Once completed, TCG Anadolu will be Turkish Navy’s largest and most expensive warship. Her key features have not been disclosed in full, but Spanish Navy’s Juan Carlos I, a warship of a similar class, is capable of carrying an air wing of up to 10 F-35s, around 900 troops, helicopters and armored fighting vehicles (AFVs).
NATO member Turkey has long harbored the ambition to become a leading naval power in the Middle East and beyond, particularly in areas that once were parts of the Ottoman Empire. The ambition has ruffled feathers, as Turkey’s naval plans could heighten tensions in a troubled region where Ankara has already been at odds with neighboring countries such as Syria, Iran and Iraq.
Middle Eastern tensions only add to the unresolved conflict in Cyprus, which Turkey invaded in 1974, as well as territorial disputes with neighbor and NATO partner Greece over the Aegean Islands.
Turkey also maintains a significant naval presence in the Black Sea, covering NATO’s southern flank in the region. President Erdogan has already called on NATO to boost its military presence in the region, promising to make Black Sea one of the main points in his keynote message he will deliver at the upcoming NATO summit in Warsaw.
Moscow maintains that the military build-up in the region will seriously damage security cooperation among Black Sea countries and prompt Russia’s response.