35 surface ships and 5000 personnel from 10 countries (U.S., Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Qatar, South Africa, Ukraine), as well as NATO Standing Naval Forces (SNMG-2, SNMCMG-2), participates in the Dogu Akdeniz-2021 exercise.
After the deployment in Aksaz Naval Base, the participants attended the pre-sail conference for the exercise onboard TCG Bayraktar, a landing ship of the Turkish Navy. A Turkish Navy official, Lieutenant Commander Cüneyt Talayman, stated in the briefing that the goal of the exercise is to evaluate humanitarian aid and natural disaster response procedures with the participation of a multinational, joint force, and public and civil organizations, based on a generic scenario.
Talayman emphasized that the Turkish Maritime Force (TURMARFOR) will be activated during the exercise under the observation of the NATO Maritime Command observation team.
“Another significant goal of the exercise is to assess the readiness of the TURMARFOR, which is set to take on an important and respected task such as the Naval Component Command within the NATO Response Force (NRF) in 2023 and 2028.”Cuneyt Talayman, Turkish Navy Lt Commander
He also stated that the main and secondary events of the exercise scenario are an asymmetric threat at sea, CBRN incidents, evacuation of non-combatants, humanitarian aid, natural disaster support, counter-piracy, and terrorist activities at sea, saying “At the second phase, surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, anti-air warfare, maritime interdiction operations, submarine rescue operations and live firing drills will be carried out.”
Execution of Dogu Akdeniz 2021
According to the documents released by the Turkish Ministry of Defence, the exercise is being conducted in three phases.
- 1st phase: Harbour drills (01-02 November) – Force assembly in Aksaz, Pre-Sail Conference, Planning meetings
- 2nd Phase: Operational readiness training (03-07 November) – Combat enhancement training and force integration trainings, including assymetric warfare drills, live-firing drills, electronic warfare drills, ASuW/ASW/AAW drills, and PHOTEX.
- 3rd Phase: Tactical Training (07-10 November) – Crisis management free play phase, which includes crisis and wartime scenarios, to be carried out simultaneously in the East-Med
- On completion of the third phase, After Action Review will be conducted in Aksaz Naval Base on 11 and 12 November.
Dogu Akdeniz is an INVITEX that is held every two years. The Turkish Navy is hosting and leading the exercise to develop connections between friendly and allied states, as well as to improve collaboration, combined combat capability, and interoperability. The Turkish Navy regards the Dogu Akdeniz exercise series as critical not just for the Turkish Navy’s presence in the region, but also for assuming increasingly influential roles in NATO.
The evaluation of the Turkish Maritime Force (TURMARFOR), which was declared to NATO on July 31, 2018, to deliver a rapidly deployable and scalable headquarters capable of planning and executing full spectrum combined maritime operations, is one of the most important aspects of the exercise.
TURMARFOR will be a milestone for the Turkish Navy in order to take on more significant duties in NATO. Turkey, like the United Kingdom (UKMARFOR), France (FRMARFOR), Spain (SPMARFOR), Italy (ITMARFOR), the Netherlands (NLMARFOR), and the United States (STRIKFORNATO), will have an NRF headquarters after certification.
Turkish naval forces will have the headquarters structure and information systems necessary to command a possible joint operation conducted under NATO’s auspices, as well as the capability to command a joint operation involving air, sea, and amphibious operations, which are remarkable capabilities that serve as a deterrent.
Managing and directing a combined operation within the framework of NATO is a difficult task that necessitates knowledge, experience, and a high tempo. Through TURMARFOR, the Turkish Navy will be able to apply the knowledge and experience gained through NATO procedures and principles to its national planning and execution processes.
Before obtaining full operational capacity (FOC), TURMARFOR needs to be evaluated by NATO Maritime Command (MARCOM) in terms of NATO regulations. As a result, a MARCOM evaluation team attends the exercise to observe TURMARFOR’s command and control capabilities. According to the Turkish Navy’s program, which was published on the official website, TURMARFOR will have FOC in January 2022 and will assume the NATO Response Force (NRF) mission in 2023.
The initial plan of the Turkish Navy was to declare the future LHD Anadolu as the TURMARFOR command and control ship, but large amphibious ship TCG Sancaktar was declared due to the delay of commissioning of Anadolu.