nCa News and Commentary
Ashgabat, 11 October 2015 (nCa) — After more than two years of planning and work, the Turkmen Navy started taking a definite shape on Friday, 9 October 2015, when President Berdymuhamedov led the opening ceremony of the naval institute at the Caspian shore. It coincided with the Navy Day.
Addressing the armed forces officers at the opening ceremony, the Turkmen president said that according the military doctrine of Turkmenistan, which is purely defensive in nature, the security of the country is an important area of the state policy. He said that for the first time in the history of our motherland, we are establishing the navy to ensure peace and security at our sea borders.
Berdymuhamedov said, “You have to prove your competence in the art and science of naval warfare, devotion to the duty, and protection of the maritime borders of the motherland.”
He congratulated everyone on the Navy Day, the opening of the naval institute and the launching of the first naval ship assembled in Turkmenistan.
Lieutenant General Yailym Berdiev, who was recently moved from the ministry of national security and appointed as minister of defence, was promoted to Colonel General, which is equivalent to a 4-star general in the US-NATO system.
The Turkmen Navy is configured to meet the challenges it may face in its Caspian zone. There may be many challenges but aggression from any of the Caspian littoral states is not one of them.
The Caspian countries – Turkmenistan, Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia and Kazakhstan – have a whole range of economic, social, cultural and spiritual interdependence. Additionally, there are several mechanisms to resolve any disputes that may arise. There is no reason for any of them to resort to any kind of armed conflict.
That said, the present times carry a mix of old and new threats mostly from the non state actors.
Drug smuggling, human trafficking, cross border crime, extremism, and terrorism are some of the challenges facing all the Caspian states including Turkmenistan. To deal with them, there is the need of an agile, swift and suitably armed fleet and Turkmenistan is building just that.
The launch of the first ship assembled in Turkmenistan took place on 9 October 2015, just two days after Russia fired Kalibr cruise missiles from its Caspian float. Even though these two events took place so close together, there is no connection between them.
The naval ship that was launched on Friday, was being built since last year under a contract signed in June 2014. Its launch date was decided well in advance to coincide with the Navy Day, which is an established working holiday in Turkmenistan.
By twining the launch of the ship with the opening of the naval institute, Turkmenistan has reached an internal milestone in shaping up its navy.
This was evident last week when Major General Begench Gundogdiev, the defence minister of Turkmenistan, was transferred to head the naval fleet. His long experience in managing the armed forces will help put the navy in order. This will give the navy an appropriate start.
In his place, Lieutenant General Yailym Berdiev was appointed as the defence minister. His experience in previous jobs including the head of the migration service and the ministry of national security makes him a perfect fit for the job.
Berdiev was promoted to Colonel General on Friday. This is equivalent to 4-star general in the US-NATO system. There are apparently two objectives for this promotion: 1. To streamline the command structure; and 2. To create space for future promotions that would be inevitable when the air force, the navy and the special forces grow further.
Currently there are two lieutenant generals in Turkmenistan – the minister for national security and the head of the border guards. In a year or so, there would possibly be the need to have at least two more lieutenant generals.
The nature of the armed forces is such that they work better as a pyramid rather than plateau i.e. the man on the top should be higher in rank. With the creation of slot for a 4-star general this need has been met.
The policy of permanent neutrality and the growing need to protect the geographical frontiers need to be balanced. It is a dynamic mix. On one hand, through the practice of active neutrality, Turkmenistan contributes hugely in maintaining peace and stability in the region, and on the other hand, it gathers essential strength to safeguard its own peace and stability. The regional situation keeps changing all the time and so must change the strength and capability of the armed forces of Turkmenistan.
Navy is an expensive enterprise and it will take a while for Turkmenistan to build its naval fleet.
In 2011, Turkmenistan placed orders for two Tuzla-class NTPBs (New Type Patrol Boats) with Dearsan of Turkey. The first vessel was delivered in October 2011 and the second one was received in early 2012.
These boats are all-steel mono-hull in design, displacing 400 tons at full load and 57 meters in length. Equipped with two MTU 16V 4000 M90 diesel engines, fixed-pitch propellers along twin shafts, the boat can achieve maximum speed of 25 knots. Its endurance on full load is minimum 1000 nautical miles at 14 knots.
Subsequently Turkmenistan ordered 6 more vessels from Dearsan with provision to assemble them at the Turkmenbashy dockyard. The contract was signed in June 2014. These are smaller vessels, 33 meters in length with light armament. These boats will be delivered at three months intervals, completing the order in 2017. The first one was launched during the ceremony Friday.