Turkish soldiers walking on grass in duotone style
World

The Turkish Military: In Numbers

A rundown of the country putting the second-highest number of troops into NATO.

Turkish soldiers walking on grass in duotone style
With an attempted coup in 1916, the war in neighbouring Syria and the related refugee crisis in the region, Turkey has been in the news a lot in recent years.
 
Turkey is also a member of NATO, and contributes the second-highest number of standing troops to the organisation of all members, after the United States.
 
One of the reasons for this high number of personnel is that the country has military conscription. 
 
Though as the CIA World Factbook explains, for those to whom this is unappealing, the conditions of service have improved in recent years:
“(In 2019,) President Erdoğan … signed a new law cutting the men’s mandatory military service period in half … (reducing) the period of conscription … from 12 months to six months for private and non-commissioned soldiers (the service term for reserve officers chosen among university or college graduates will remain 12 months) … (and) under the new law, all male Turkish citizens over the age of 20 will be required to undergo a one month military training period, but they can obtain an exemption from the remaining five months of their mandatory service by paying 31,000 Turkish Liras.”
British sailors commemorating Gallipoli in Turkey
British sailors commemorating Gallipoli in Turkey

The Global Firepower website ranks Turkey 11th in the world for military strength (up from 14th in 2016.)

In terms of active military manpower, there are 355,000 active military personnel and 380,000 reservists in the country, from a population base of 81,257,239.) It, therefore, has the 15th-highest number of active soldiers in the world, and the 17th-highest number of reserve soldiers. 

The military is made up of the Turkish Land Forces (Turk Kara Kuvvelleri), Turkish Naval Forces (Turk Deniz Kuvvelleri), and the Turkish Air Forces (Turk Hava Kuvvelleri).

In terms of military spending, Turkey currently has an annual budget that is the equivalent of 19 billion US dollars, according the Global Firepower, and spent 1.89 per cent of GDP on defence in 2019, according to the CIA World Factbook. 

President Erdogan's party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) has worked to increase civilian control of the military since 2002, and the military's role in internal security has been reduced.

Turkish soldiers on exercise in Kosovo
Turkish soldiers on exercise in Kosovo (image: Sgt. 1st Class Michael Hagburg, 116th Public Affairs Detachment)

The Turk Kara Kuvvelleri, or Turkish Land Forces, have, according to Global Firepower, 2,622 tanks, 8,777 armoured fighting vehicles, 1,278 self-propelled guns, 1,260 pieces of towed-artillery and 438 multiple-launch rocket systems.

Meanwhile, the country has 206 fighter aircraft, 80 transport aircraft, 276 training aircraft and 497 helicopters.

The Turkish navy, or Turk Deniz Kuvvelleri, has 16 frigates, 10 corvettes, 35 patrol boats, 11 mine warfare vessels and 12 submarines. 

The main focus of the Turkish military today is on potential threats resulting from the adjacent Syrian civil war as well as from Russia's involvement in nearby Ukraine and any danger posed by the PKK insurgency.

According to the CIA World Factbook:

" ... an overhaul of the Turkish Land Forces Command (TLFC) taking place under the "Force 2014" program is to produce 20-30% smaller, more highly trained forces characterized by greater mobility and firepower and capable of joint and combined operations."

It has also been working on projecting power abroad, doing peacekeeping missions (such as to Afghanistan) and working on its navy's ability to operate effectively beyond its shores.

Sources: CIA World Factbook, Global Firepower.

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