History of Turkish Land Forces

Turkish Land Forces before the Republic Era 

The Hun Emperor Mete Khan had acceded to the throne in 209 B.C. and this date was taken as the foundation of the army.


In the Turkish regular army which was established in 209 BC. by Mete Khan, the largest unit comprising of 10.000 horsemen was named “division”. Divisions were broken down into units of thousands, thousands to hundreds, hundreds to tens. Each were assigned a Division Commander, Major, Captain or Corporal as a commander and interconnected within the chain of command.


This organization model initiated by Mete Khan has existed with the other old Turkish states and Turkish army was one of the most prominent armies in the world, especially during the era of Kök Turks, the Uyghurs, the Seljuks and the Ottoman.


After defeating the Ghaznians at the Battle of Dandanakan in 1040, the Seljuks declared independence. They then went on to make Anatolia the new homeland of the Turks through defeating the Byzantines at the Battle of Malazgirt (Manzikert) on 26 August 1071. The Seljuk Empire established the organization and training of its army very effectively.


After the Seljuk Empire, the Anatolian Seljuks and the Egyptian Turkish Mamelukes also created great armies.


The Ottoman Empire which was established in 1299 was expanded rapidly and became strong. Parallel with this strength, Ottoman army left Anatolian territory in 1363 and won great victories: in the West the battles of Maritsa, Kosovo, Nicopolis, Varna, in the conquest of Istanbul and the battle of Mohacs, in the East: Battles of Chaldiran, Marj Dabiq, Ridaniya. 

The Ottoman army became a regular organization during the reign of Sultan Murat I. It was the first army in the history that had cavalryman.  At first, the Ottoman army consisted of mounted raiders. Later dismounted units were included and the army was transformed into a permanent force named Janissary Corps.  The Janissary Corps had a crucial role in the victories won in the rise of the Ottoman Empire.

Janissary Corps lost its vitality in the fall of the Ottoman Empire and was abolished after the suppression of the Janissary riot which began on 15 June 1826. A new army called the ‘Asakiri Mansure-i Muhammediye’ was established as a substitute for the Janissary Corps. Asakiri Mansure-i Muhammediye was based on battalions named ‘detachment’.  Under this new organization, in 1834 the Army War Academy was established under the name ‘Mekteb-i Harbiye-i Şahane’, to educate officers who would command the army.


Asakiri Mansure-i Muhammediye was re-organized in 1843, four years after the declaration of The Political Reform Manifesto. Five armies were constituted with personnel subject to 5 years of service. In 1848 a modification was implemented and the number of armies was increased to six.  War College called Mekteb-i Funun-u Harbiye-i Şahane, was established in Istanbul on 20 July 1848. The number of military schools was also increased and new military schools at high school (lycee) level were opened in Istanbul and Bursa (1845), in Edirne and Manastır (1846), in Damascus (1847), in Erzurum (1872) and in Baghdad (1875). These schools formed the basis for the War Academy. From amongst these, only Kuleli Military High School in Istanbul is active today.


With the proclamation of the Second Tanzimat (constitutional monarchy), parallel to the innovations in the administrative field, a new arrangement was made in the organization of the army. The amount of weapons and materials was increased. However the improvements in the army were interrupted due to the battles in Tripoli and the Balkans. 

Shortly after these battles the Turkish army entered the First World War and won partial success in the frontiers in Galicya, Yemen, Caucasus. The success of Gallipoli Victory granted Turkish army an unforgettable presence in world history. Despite the accomplishments on various fronts, Turkish army encountered the severe provisions of the Mondros Armistice signed on 30 October 1918. 


According to the provisions of the Mondros Armistice, homeland was diminished by supposedly victorious states, the number of ground forces was reduced, weapons of the grounds forces were taken, and the territory was invaded. 


Turkish nation did not accept the invasions and Turkish people put up a strong resistance. Voluntary and militia groups formed in different places of the country began to operate. 

General Mustafa Kemal and his friends understood that the desired success could not be achieved solely with the efforts of the small and dispersed units. In 1920 they initiated a work on establishing a regular army. Eventually, West Front Command was organized.


The army which was formed despite great hardship and all the impossibilities brought on by the situation emerged victorious in the First and Second İnönü Battles.  Battle of Sakarya was won by means of the slogan “There is no line of defense; but a territory of defense and that territory is the whole of the motherland.” 


The Great Offensive was started against the Greek army on 26 August 1922. Subsequently, Mustafa Kemal Pasha himself commanded the Battle of the Commander-in-Chief. The Turkish army triumphed in both battles. 


On 1 September 1922 Mustafa Kemal Pasha ordered “Armies your first target is the Mediterranean. Forward!”  This order was intended for the enemy who was defeated and fled. The enemy was driven out of the country on 9 September 1922. Anatolia was saved from invasion and the Turkish nation was saved from captivity. Thus, the entire world recognized the integrity of the nation and the unconditional independence of the Turkish state.




Turkish Land Forces in the Republican Era


After victory was won in the War of Independence led by Ataturk, Turkish Land Forces was organized in three army inspectorates comprising nine corps with two divisions and three cavalry divisions.


  The period between 1923-1939:


After the War of Independence, the remaining arms, weapons and equipment all around the country were collected. Those found to be inoperative were put back into working order and subsequently sent back into service. A ‘Science and Arts Department’ was established in order to monitor and analyze the continuous development of weapons and equipment technologies. 

In a period of 16 years, national facilities had reached such a level of capability that they could supply the entire clothing needs of the army, in addition to the other Quartermaster and Ordnance requirements.


In Ankara, military facilities were established and activated in order to maintain and improve the weapons and equipment of the TLF.


In 1934 the first Tank Unit was formed in Lüleburgaz.

In 1936 the Military Academy and Army War College resumed its training activities.

The period between 1939-1945:

1939 was an important year for the development of Turkish Armed Forces and Turkish Land Forces.  With the danger of World War II, the requirements had to be met in accordance with the operational organization.  The following changes were made to strengthen the Land Forces:


  • As Land Forces got into a wartime state, the number of Corps was increased from ten to fifteen in peacetime, and the Divisions were rearranged.
  • Parachute units were formed.
  • The units in western Anatolia were reinforced.
  • The units on the eastern border were reinforced.
  • In order to increase their strength equally in the east and the west, all branches were mobilized. Available cadres in Engineering and Communications units, armored brigades and measurement regiments were filled. Heavy machine gun companies, horse-drawn and fixed artillery batteries and transportation units, which could not have been formed in peacetime due to lack of funds, were established.


The period between 1945-1952:


In 1949, the Land Forces Command was established. Prior to this, Army Commands were placed under the control of General Staff for operations and training, and under the Ministry of Defense for personnel and logistic support. From 1950, Land Forces Command brought all branch schools and training centers together under its control.

In 1950, at the outbreak of the Korean War, a brigade from the TLF was sent to Korea in support of the United Nations Peace Force.


The period between 1952-1992:

Turkey became a member of NATO in 1952.

Following the accession to NATO, all branches of the TLF were equipped with modern weapons and equipment, in compliance with NATO standards.

Air Defense Artillery units were established and equipped with Nike missiles.

The Army Aviation School was established in 1957.

The 4th Army Corps Command was established in Ankara in 1966.

The Cyprus Peace Operation was executed in 1974 and a corps-level Turkish Peace Forces Command was established in Cyprus. 

The Aegean Army Command was established in İzmir in 1975.

Other developments of this period were as follows:

• The TLF Training Command was established on 25 July 1985. It was renamed as the TLF Training and Doctrine Command in 1994.

• The establishment of the Land Forces Logistics Command was completed at the end of 1988, in a move to handle the logistics activities of the Land Forces in a more streamlined manner between Land Forces Headquarters and the individual armies and corps, as dictated by modern warfare requirements.

• Under Law no 3497 which defined the defense and security of the land borders, enacted on 10 November 1988, the responsibility for the protection of land borders was given to Land Forces Command.

• Starting in 1986, Mehmetçik Exercises were held in a different army region every year. This provided a combat environment for Commanders and troops in a bilateral operation, improving the training levels of commanding and participating units.


The period between 1992- 2010:

With the collapse of the Warsaw Pact in 1990 and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, power balances were lost and a state of uncertainty arose. The Cold War era ended. This has consequently led many states to cut back their armed forces into smaller but more efficient units.

During this period, in view of the threats against Turkey, given the limitations brought forth by the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE Treaty) and the soft spots of the TLF, the aim has been to establish a force structure that will:

• Be adaptable to future combat environments.

• Have high mobility and firepower.

• Have the capability to detect and identify the enemy from distance.

• Have the ability to combat at night.

• Maintain high levels of survival.

• Be flexible and perform multiple roles.

• Be sufficient in size.

• Be easy to conduct.

• Provide the flexibility for cuts in numbers of personnel, based on an effective mobilization system.

• Be organized in Battalions, Brigades, Corps and armies.


As a consequence, Divisions were re-organized into Brigades and brought directly under the Corps. Additionally, to further improve mobility and firepower, Brigades have been organized into armored and mechanized units.


To improve reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition capabilities, beginning from 2007, unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Battalion, Company and Platoons including Tactical and Mini UAV systems were added to the organization of Army Commands.

            Within the scope of forming central capability pools, Communications Electronics and Information Systems units were reorganized, Communications Electronics and Information Systems Regimental Commands were formed within Army Commands and Electronic Combat Units were included into Communications Electronics and Information Systems Regimental Commands.

            With Logistics Management System (LYS), two-echelon supply and three-level maintenance systems started. Within this scope, the logistics organization of Land Forces Command was reorganized at every level from Land Forces Headquarters to Battalion/Independent Company.

Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Defense Units were re-organized in 1997.

Law no 4185 paved the way for the establishment of the Air Defense Branch as a separate branch from the Artillery. In parallel with this, Air Defense Units were re-organized and the Air Defense School established under the Artillery and Missile School was transferred to its own facilities in Çekmeköy Barracks, Istanbul, in 1998. Then the School was transported to Konya in 2008.

Established in 1999 in Ankara, The Land Forces Intelligence School was closed and combined with Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) Intelligence School in 2003. Until 2010 TAF Intelligence School continued its training and education activities and was connected to Turkish Land Forces. In 2010 the School became attached to Chief of General Staff. TAF Intelligence School still continues training and education activities in Ankara.

In order to establish command and control, and to adopt a wartime Command structure in peacetime in the army aviation units, Army Aviation Command was established on 15 August 2003 under the Land Forces Command.

Engineering units were reorganized in 2006. Within this scope engineering capability pools were formed as Engineering Regiment at 1st and 2nd Army and Engineering Battalion at 3rd Army and Aegean Army.

Service School, Training Centre Commands and Training Brigade Commands were attached to the Land Forces Training and Doctrine Command in 2007.

Turkish Land Forces has represented Turkish Armed Forces in the best manner both at home and abroad. Turkish Land Forces has made and is still making crucial contributions to peace support operations.  Within this role Turkish Land Forces has contributed to the following international operations:


  • Within the scope of the ALTHEA Operation performed in Bosnia and Herzegovina; based on a decision by UN Security Council, a Regiment unit participated in the operation firstly on 4th August 1994.  From that day on various units at levels of Regiment/Company were assigned.


  • Beginning from 13th July 1999; various units at the levels of Regiment/Company were assigned to contribute to the Kosovo Force (KFOR) Operation in order to prevent the conflicts in Kosovo.


  • Within the scope of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Operation, beginning from the date of 16th January 2002 various units were assigned to Afghanistan at the levels of Brigade/Company. Until 2011, Turkey was twice the leader of ISAF and Kabul Regional Command. Turkey is still the leader of Kabul Regional Command for the third time and participates at the Brigade level.


  • Turkey participated in UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Operation between 20 October 2006-
    1 September 2013 at Company level.


            To conclude; Turkish Land Forces is “. . . the projection of Turkish unity, Turkish strength and ability, Turkish love of country, inscribed in steel,” and a part of our Armed Forces.  TLF has the determination and will to always live up to the expectations of this great nation, as well as the pride and honor of being at the service of the nation.