Operation Mediterranean Shield Part I: an Introduction - Ercan Emre Çelik

Almost every day, we are hearing news coming from Cyprus island concerning the drilling operations conducted near the island and its surrounding exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Although the international political dispute on the island goes back as early as the 1960s, the current maritime disputes on EEZs go back for at least a decade. And ever since then, the Turkish companies are enjoying the protection provided by the Turkish Navy (DZKK). But the Navy’s jurisdiction is not limited by escorting Turkish drilling efforts, but also it covers the prevention of the opposing side’s efforts to drill for natural gas near the island. Here’s a brief look at the Turkish Navy’s efforts in the region.

For those of you who are familiar with naval warfare, you would say that this is a textbook Anti-Access and Area Denial (A2/AD) operation where the goal is to prevent an adversary from occupying or traversing an area of land, sea or air. In our case, it is the disputed EEZs, rich in natural resources located near the Cyprus island. Turkish Navy has launched its operation of this kind dubbed as Mediterranean Shield, on the 1st of April in 2006, with the participation of 2 Task Groups.

As per the DZKK, the operation has the following objectives; to have situational awareness on Turkish maritime jurisdiction and to protect the rights and interests of the Republic of Turkey on its maritime domain. The operation is currently being conducted by two Task Groups stationed out of four naval bases, one in the Cyprus island and the other three located in the Turkish mainland.

Even though the operation initially started as an effort to provide maritime security in Eastern Mediterranean in conjunction with the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan petroleum pipeline becoming operational in July 2006, today, it has evolved into an attempt to maintain Turkish energy interests near the Cyprus island. Today the operation is supported by multiple frigates, corvettes, fast attack crafts, submarines, helicopters, and maritime patrol aircraft to form an integrated, up-to-date naval picture in the area with forces ready to intervene at a moment’s notice. And as part of the operation;

- Protection and support are being provided to research vessels operating in the Eastern Mediterranean on behalf of Turkey.

- Research vessels conducting unauthorized research on behalf of other countries inside Turkish maritime jurisdiction are warned and denied access if they continue to operate despite warnings.

As of October 2019, within the scope of Operation Mediterranean Shield, one frigate, two submarines, and two patrol boats conduct reconnaissance and surveillance on the disputed areas, whereas several corvettes and frigates provide close escort duties to Turkish research and drilling ships Fatih, Yavuz and Barbaros Hayrettin. These deployments are supported by aerial patrol and UAV surveillance.

On the next issue, we will be covering what particular tactics and exercises are being carried out by the Turkish Navy to support Turkish energy interests in the region. The last and the third part of this mini news series will have an in-depth focus covering Greek and Cypriot efforts to counter Operation Mediterranean Shield and how Greek military planning aims to counter Turkish efforts.