Why the Turkish Navy does not have a destroyer

Set sails and get cannons ready

Germany is a sea power. This fact is hardly noticed even at the waterfront. The German container fleet is one of the largest on the oceans, one of three freighters in global trade is financed by local capital. The Port of Hamburg is one of the largest in the world and has left traditional transshipment centers such as London, Tokyo and New York far behind. And the world's largest inland shipping port pulsates in Duisburg.

The German shipbuilding industry, a high-tech sector on par with the aerospace industry, is a leader in Europe for multi-billion dollar cruise ships, submarines and luxury yachts. Not only shipyards are successful, but also suppliers such as MAN, Siemens or Mecklenburg Metallguss, which equip the majority of all large ships worldwide with engines, electronics and propellers.

In addition to these diverse maritime interests, the export vice world champion Germany is also dependent on smooth sea traffic, through which more than 90 percent of world trade is handled. The effects of Germany's dependence on raw materials, smartphones and frozen strawberries were shown by the excitement surrounding the traffic jam in front of the Suez Canal, in which the super freighter "Ever Given" was recently lying across, blocking a bottleneck in world trade.

Sea fleet as a power factor

Trade and sea power have been closely related for centuries. "Sails and cannons", as the economic historian Carlo M. Cipolla said in his pioneering book of the same name, were the basis of European expansion in America, Asia and Africa, which only ended with the decline of the British Empire after the First World War. The next superpower, the United States, also owed its rise to a strong navy.

Just as the German military strategist Carl von Clausewitz was for so-called land powers, so was the American Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan (1840-1914) for small and large sea powers. His main work "The Influence of Maritime Power on History" was the favorite reading of Kaiser Wilhelm II. His ambitious naval program was intended to make the German Empire the number one naval power, provoked Britain and contributed to the outbreak of the "great catastrophe" of the 20th century : the First World War.

A work from the Center for Military History and Social Sciences of the Bundeswehr in Potsdam tries to make clear that the topic of sea power is of the greatest importance for every state in the 21st century. »The essence of sea power« is an impressive book that illustrates the political implications of the naval institution, which is rather invisible to »landlubbers«.

NATO and the EU, the USA and Russia and the - also geopolitically up-and-coming - PR China have defined »strategic fields of action« for themselves. These move between two poles: on the one hand the internationally recognized "freedom of the seas" for trade and shipping, on the other hand the endeavor to secure or expand the "exclusive economic zone" which is also accepted under international law and extends up to 200 nautical miles into the sea. In this area of ​​tension, for example, the NATO partners Turkey and Greece are fighting over energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean.

The PR China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and Vietnam partly claim the same sea areas and islands in the Pacific. And climate change has sparked fresh interest in the Arctic in the United States and Russia, among others. Such geopolitical demands require the upgrading of all major national fleets, accompanied by modernization - keywords: cyber attacks, electromagnetic spectrum, swarm attacks by unmanned systems.

In any case, modern sea power is no longer aiming at colonial cruiser wars and decisive individual sea battles. The key term in military and political science today is "power projection," and this is what the navy is made for in a globalized world like no other part of the armed forces.

Three quarters of the earth's surface are covered with water, which is why frigates and submarines - in contrast to the air force, which constantly needs overflight rights from affected countries outside of their home country - go almost everywhere. Even in the exclusive economic zones or in straits like the Turkish Bosporus, the "freedom of the seas" applies (at least in times of peace).

NATO missions in the Mediterranean, the fight against pirates off the west coast of Africa or the fleet visit in the Black Sea also serve the German Navy to project German political and economic power. To this end, the Federal Armed Forces have been "upgraded" by the Federal Government for some time.

German armament after 1990

The number of ships originally intended for warfare in the Baltic Sea had drastically decreased after 1990. Dozens of units were scrapped or sold to third-rate navies in poorer states. After Russia captured Crimea in 2014, the assessment of the situation changed again. "We have to grow again!" - with these words the then Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) ushered in a trend reversal for the middle power Germany. Since then, German policy has pursued the goal of better equipping the navy materially, personally and financially.

The official mandate of the German Navy today includes the protection of maritime trade and transport routes as well as the control of defined sea areas. The radius that German warships cover is growing steadily. For example, Germany will send a frigate to the Indo-Pacific for the first time in the summer, in cooperation with the navies of "friendly" states. Japan, for example, proposed joint exercises in the second week of April 2021, which should be understood as a clear signal to neighboring countries.

In August 2020, the Federal Foreign Office issued “Guidelines on the Indo-Pacific” for the first time, which are intended to replace old Asia concepts. "The federal government wants to take into account the tectonic power shifts caused by the rise of China as a new global economic and military power," writes the journal "Europäische Sicherheit und Technik" (European Security and Technology). At the same time, the guidelines redefine the changed interests of economic, foreign and security policy in Germany and the EU in this area. "The essence of sea power" allows deep insights into the multi-dimensional maritime thinking, not only of the German military.

Power projection requires means of power. The German Navy will receive at least one new ship every year until 2030, explained the recently retired Navy Inspector Andreas Krause. These include new high-tech F125 frigates at a unit price of almost one billion euros, which - like the new corvettes, which are intended for global use in coastal regions - can cruise in foreign territories for two years. In addition, for the first time since 1945, the German fleet has »agents« to combat land targets. (Incidentally, six out of ten megacities are near the coast.)

Last year the German Ministry of Defense placed an order for the newly developed multi-purpose combat ship 180. This is to be reassembled from different modules depending on the order. The initial cost of four warships is over five billion euros, which Admiral Andreas Krause politely commented: "I would like to expressly thank the Bundestag for providing the necessary financial resources."

Torsten Albrecht, Carlo Masala and Konstantinos Tsetsos: The essence of sea power. International relations in the maritime environment of the 20th and 21st centuries. Center for Military History and Social Sciences of the Bundeswehr, 454 p., Br., 15 €.

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