Erdogan: Turkey Will Build Its Own Aircraft Carrier
On Saturday, at a ceremony at a naval shipyard in Istanbul, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey would soon begin the design and production of a domestically built aircraft carrier.
"There isn't any obstacle to producing our own aircraft carrier. It is possible with this determined government and state," he said. "Turkey cannot fall into laziness in the defense and military issues. The strategic point of our country doesn't allow this."
The timeline is extended, however: Erdogan said that the yard would not begin work on a carrier until after the delivery of the high-specification amphibious assault vessel Anadolu, expected early next decade. The Anadolu will be based on the design of the Spanish multipurpose amphib Juan Carlos I, which has a ski jump for short take off and landing and a complement of Harrier II jump jets. The vessel could also accommodate the new F-35.
Turkey is a NATO ally and a strategic partner for the U.S. in the war against ISIS. Its government allows American forces the use of Incirlik Airbase in southern Turkey for bombing operations in Syria. However, the partnership is uneasy of late: Erdogan is engaged in an active anti-insurgency campaign against the Kurdish nationalist group PKK within Turkey's borders – he says that his troops have killed as many as 7,500 of its members since last year – while the U.S. supports PKK-linked Kurdish forces in Syria, where they comprise the majority of ground troops in American-backed efforts to fight ISIS.
Additionally, Erdogan is increasingly perceived in the West as an authoritarian, anti-democratic ruler: he has recently ousted his prime minister, who was the architect of a landmark immigration deal with the EU, and he has cracked down on domestic criticism over the past few years, filing nearly 2,000 criminal cases against journalists, politicians and others for the offense of insulting the president.