BEFORE Turkish Land Forces in The Republican Era


The Hun Emperor Mete Khan’s accession to the throne in 209 B.C. is recognized as the foundation of the Army.


The largest unit in the Turkish Regular Army under Mete Khan was named a “division,” comprising 10,000 horsemen; which were further divided into units of thousands, hundreds and tens. Each division was assigned a Division Commander, Major, Captain or Corporal who was interconnected within the chain of command.


This organization model initiated by Mete Khan existed within the other old Turkish states, among which the Turkish Army was one of the most prominent in the world, especially during the era of the Kök Turks, Uighurs, Seljuks and Ottomans.


After defeating the Ghaznians at the Battle of Dandanakan in 1040, the Seljuks declared independence, and continued to secure Anatolia as the new homeland of the Turks with the defeat of the Byzantines at the Battle of Malazgirt (Manzikert) on 26 August, 1071.


In the Seljuk Empire, the organization and training of the army was based on sound principles, and this was passed on to the Anatolian Seljuks and the Egyptian Turkish Mamelukes, who would also go on to create great armies.


The Ottoman Empire, after being established in 1299, expanded and gained strength very rapidly. The Ottoman army left the Anatolian territory in 1363 and went on to win great a number of great victories: in the West, with the battles of Maritsa, Kosovo, Nicopolis, Varna, the conquest of Istanbul and the battle of Mohacs, and in the East in the battles of Chaldiran, Marj Dabiq and Ridaniya.


The Ottoman Army became a regular organization during the reign of Sultan Murat I, and was the first army in history to have cavalrymen. At first, the Ottoman Army comprised only mounted raiders, but later dismounted units were also included. The army was transformed into a permanent force named the Janissary Corps that would go on to play a crucial role in the victories that saw the rise of the Ottoman Empire.


Janissary Corps lost its vitality with the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and was abolished after the suppression of the Janissary riot on 15 June, 1826. A new army, called the “Asakiri Mansurei Muhammediye,” was established to replace the Janissary Corps, and was based on battalions named “detachments.” Under this new organization, in 1834 the Army War Academy was established under the name “Mekteb-i Harbiye-i Şahane” for the education of officers to command the army.


In 1843, four years after the declaration of the Political Reform Manifesto, five armies were assembled, with personnel subject to five years of service. In 1848, the manifesto was modified, increasing the number of armies to six. A War College, known as 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 were opened at the high school (lycee) level 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, and of them, only Kuleli Military High School in Istanbul is still active today.


With the proclamation of the Second Tanzimat (constitutional monarchy), in parallel to the innovations in the administrative field, a new arrangement was made in the organization of the army, and the procurement of weapons and materials was increased. These ongoing improvements to the Turkish Army were interrupted by the battles in Tripoli and the Balkans.


Shortly after these battles, the Turkish Army entered the World War I and recorded partial successes at the fronts in Galicya, Yemen and the Caucasus; while its victory in Gallipoli granted it an unforgettable place in world history. Despite its accomplishments on various fronts, the Turkish Army was subjected to severe sanctions under the Armistice of Moudros, signed on 30 October, 1918.


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


The Turkish nation formed a strong resistance against the invasions, with volunteer militia groups being established all over the country.


General Mustafa Kemal and his friends understood that the desired success could not be achieved solely with the efforts of small and dispersed units, and in 1920 they made the first steps towards the establishment of a regular army, leading to the creation of West Front Command.


The Army, which was assembled under great hardship, despite all of the impossibilities of the situation, emerged victorious in the First and Second İnönü Battles; while inspiration at the Battle of Sakarya came in the form of the slogan “There is no line of defense, only a territory of defense; and that territory is the whole of the motherland”.


The Great Attack was launched against the Greek Army on 26 August, 1922, with the Turkish Army under the command of Mustafa Kemal Pasha. The Turkish Army was triumphant 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, and was driven out of the country on 9 September, 1922. Anatolia was saved from the invaders and the Turkish nation was saved from captivity. Subsequently, 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 in the War of Independence under the leadership of ATATÜRK, the Turkish Land Forces (TLF) was organized into three army inspectorates, comprising nine corps with two divisions and three cavalry divisions.


1923–1939 Period:


After the War of Independence, the remaining arms, weapons and equipment spread across the country were collected, and those found to be inoperative were put back into working order and subsequently sent back into service. A “Science and Arts Department” was established to monitor and analyze the continuous development of weapons and equipment technologies.


In a period of 16 years, national capabilities had reached such a level that they were able to 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 training activities.


1939–1945 Period:


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


• As the TLF entered into a wartime state, the number of Corps was increased from 10 to 15, 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 both the east and west, all branches were mobilized. Open positions in the cadres of the 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 had been neglected in peacetime due to a lack of funds, were established.


1945–1952 Period:


In 1949, the Land Forces Command was established. Prior to this, the TLF had been commanded by General Staff or operations and training, and the Ministry of Defense for personnel and logistic support. In 1950, Land Forces Command brought all of the branch schools and training centers 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.


1952–1992 Period:


Turkey became a member of NATO in 1952.


Following 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.


Aegean Army Command was established in İzmir in 1975.


Other developments in this period were as follows:


• Organization of training command (1985):


TLF Training Command was established on 25 July, 1985, and was renamed the TLF Training and Doctrine Command in 1994.


• Organization of Logistics Command (1988):


The establishment of the Land Forces Logistics Command, which is an executer command between the Land Forces Headquarters and army and individual corps, was completed at the end of 1988. Land Forces Logistics Command was established in order to handle the logistics activities of the TLF in a more rational and effective way, in line with modern warfare requirements.


• Border security:


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


• Exercises:


Since 1986, Mehmetçik Exercises have been executed in a different army region every year. These exercises provide Commanders and troops with the opportunity to engage in bilateral cooperation in a combat environment, providing higher levels of troop conduct training.


1992–2013 Period:


With the collapse of the Warsaw Pact in 1990 and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the balance of power was lost and a state of uncertainty arose. The end of the Cold War led many states to reduce their armed forces, and establish smaller but more efficient armies.


During this period, considering the threats against Turkey, the limitations of the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE Treaty) and the vulnerabilities of the TLF, the intention is 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 a distance,


• Have the ability to engage in combat at night,


• Maintain high levels of survivability,


• Be flexible and perform multiple roles,


• Be sufficient in size,


• Be easy to conduct,


• Provide the flexibility for economizing personnel, based on an effective mobilization system,


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


As a consequence, Divisions were re-organized as Brigades and subordinated to corps. Additionally, Brigades have been organized as armored and mechanized units to improve mobility and firepower.


To improve reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition capabilities, in 2007, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Battalions, Companies and Platoons, including Tactical and Mini-UAV systems, were added to the organization of Army Commands. Also, Mini-UAV system teams were added to the organization of the Brigade and Regimental Commands.


Signal units were reorganized in 2003. CIS capability pools were formed at Signal Regiments in 1st Army Command, 2nd Army Command, 3rd Army Command and 3rd Corps Command. Signal Units were transformed into CIS Units with the organizational modifications made in 2012.


With the establishment of the Logistics Management System, a two-echelon supply and three-level maintenance system was launched, under which the logistics organization of Land Forces Command was reorganized at every level, from Land Forces Headquarters to the Battalion/Independent Company level.


Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Defense Units were reorganized in 1997.


Act No. 4185 paved the way for the establishment of an Air Defense Branch as a separate branch from Artillery. Parallel to this, Air Defense Units were reorganized, and the Air Defense School established under the Artillery and Missile School was transferred to its own facilities in Çekmeköy Barracks, İstanbul in 1998. The School moved once again in 2008, this time to Konya.


Established in 1999 in Ankara, the Land Forces Intelligence School was closed and combined with the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) Intelligence School in 2003. The Intelligence School continued its training and education activities and was connected to Turkish Land Forces up until 2010, when it was subordinated to the General Staff. The TAF Intelligence School continues its training and education activities in Ankara.


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


The TLF’s Engineering units were reorganized in 2006, with engineering capability pools formed at the 1st and 2nd Army at the Engineering Regiment level and at the 3rd Army and Aegean Army at the Engineering Battalion level.


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


• Within the scope of the ALTHEA Operation in Bosnia & Herzegovina, based on a decision of the UN Security Council, a Regiment level unit participated in the operation firstly on 4 August, 1994. Since then, various Regiment/Company level units have been assigned to the task.


• Beginning on 13 July, 1999; various Regiment/Company level units were assigned to contribute to the Kosovo Force (KFOR) Operation.


• Within the scope of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Operation, beginning on 16 January, 2002, various Brigade/Company level units have been assigned to Afghanistan. Up until 2011, Turkey has twice taken the lead role in ISAF and Kabul Regional Command. Turkey is leading Kabul Regional Command for the third time and participates at the Brigade level.


• Turkey participated in the UN Interim Force in the Lebanon (UNIFIL) Operation between 20 October 2006-01 September 2013 at the Company level.


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