The Turkish Land Forces is due to receive the first of six Karayel tactical UAVs following a series of improvements implemented by manufacturer Vestel Defence.
The company expects to deliver the first example of what had been known as ‘Version II’ but is now the baseline version of the Karayel by mid-year, with the following five by the end of 2013.
Now 6.5m in length and featuring a 10.5m wing span, the upgraded Karayel has a maximum take-off weight of 550kg, doubling its payload and endurance, to 70kg and 20 hours respectively.
Speaking at the IDEF exhibition in Istanbul on 7 May, a company spokesman said after the earlier version had been demonstrated to the Turkish armed forces, the army determined it needed a slightly bigger, more capable aircraft and placed an order instead for six of the upgraded aircraft.
Vestel is confident that should the army determine it needs additional platforms, it has the capacity to be able to increase production to one aircraft per month.
The spokesman noted that while there was early interest from international customers, the company was ‘trying to keep everyone calm’ until the testing regime had finished and the current deliveries are made to the Turkish armed forces.
Vestel also used the exhibition to publicly unveil the smaller Bora UAV, which it is using to derisk the avionics, autopilot and datalink communications of the Karayel.
The company spokesman said many of the critical technologies were first demonstrated on the Bora before being integrated with the larger airframe.
However, the Bora will also be offered to the Turkish Armed Forces as a training aircraft for operators moving onto the Karayel as well as being marketed as a stand-alone product.
Sikorsky is still yet to sign a contract with Turkey for the license-manufacture of 109 T-70i Black Hawk helicopters, more than two years after the airframe was formally selected for the Turkish Utility Helicopter Programme.
In an instructive example of the pitfalls of doing business with a country that wants to maximise its domestic work-share, negotiations between Turkey’s Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM) and Sikorsky for a contract are only now gathering pace.
Sikorsky was originally announced as preferred bidder for the contract with a derivative of the Black Hawk helicopter at the end of April 2011.
However, a MoU setting out the broad terms and conditions of the agreement was only recently signed between the two organisations, and the final terms and conditions are now being resolved.
Speaking to Shephard at the IDEF exhibition in Istanbul, a Sikorsky spokesman said despite the protracted negotiations, the company felt that contract award was ‘close’.
As well as heavily involving Turkish industry in the manufacture of the helicopters for the Turkish military and government agencies, Sikorsky has committed to buying Turkish-produced S-70i helicopters on a ‘one-for-one’ basis for export.
‘The larger issues have been resolved and we are working on the final terms of conditions of the contract,’ the spokesman said on 7 May.
As if to reinforce his optimism, the SSM released a statement the same day stating it ‘intended to finalise the negotiations that will result in a contract award to build Black Hawk utility helicopters in Turkey’.
‘Estimated at $3.5 billion, the total programme value to Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), as the prime contractor, is inclusive of work to be performed by Sikorsky and other programme partners,’ the statement said.
Aircraft components such as blades, the cabin and the cockpit will be manufactured and aircraft will be assembled in Turkey by TAI. The avionics suite is being designed by Aselsan; the engine will be manufactured by TEI under the license of GE; while the landing gear and transmission will be manufactured by ALP Aviation, which is 50% owned by Sikorsky.
Under Sikorsky’s original industrial plan for the programme, the Aselsan avionics package, which features four 8×10 inch multi-function displays, a new man-machine interface and modern software architecture, will be the baseline suite for all S-70i aircraft following its certification.
The Aselsan cockpit is not now expected to be ready until 2017-2018, raising questions over whether the project will be delayed further awaiting its integration.
A Geneva-based NGO starts training military and legal officials in the armed Free Syrian Army (FSA) on the basics of international humanitarian law in Turkey’s southeastern provinces.
Officials from Geneva Call, which aims to convince non-state actors to respect international humanitarian and human rights law, will conduct the three-day trainings for the Free Syrian Army members first in Gaziantep and then in Hatay province.
‘Fighter, not Killer’
The workshop, titled “Fighter not Killer,” will be held between May 10 and 12 in Gaziantep. The same workshop will take place in Hatay’s Reyhanlı district May 13 to 15. A source from the Syrian National Coalition told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday that the workshop would not be military training but rather would draw attention to international humanitarian law, stating that some of the FSA fighters had not been soldiers before the uprising in the country.
The fighters will be told not to allow children become fighters even if they demand it. The workshop aims to teach the fighters that they are not killers, and how to treat captured soldiers from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
The workshop revolves around 15 rules of international humanitarian law that represent the basic standards of military conflicts.
The brochures for the training the Syrian Coalition sent to the Daily News show drawings such as a fighter using civilians as human shield, labeling it an incorrect practice. The drawings urge fighters not to risk the lives of civilians. It also shows that fighting in a vehicle disguised as humanitarian relief is an incorrect practice as it puts real relief workers at risk. One of the videos that will be shown at the workshops shows that tying the hands or feet of captured soldiers or blindfolding them in prison is an incorrect practice.
A Syrian source told the Daily News that they had already organized the first of these workshops in Hatay two months ago.
Eurocopter plans to test fire Roketsan’s Cirit laser guided missile from an EC635 by the end of the year, it has emerged.
The two companies are working under a MoU signed in 2011 to integrate the Cirit on the aircraft and aim to carry out a flight demonstration in September or October. It has yet to be determined whether this would take place in South Africa or Turkey.
Speaking at the IDEF exhibition, Eurocopter representatives said that following the demonstration, the Cirit would be offered as an optional addition to the EC635/645 weapons package.
Unlike similar weapons developed in the US, which are essentially guidance kits for 2.75 inch unguided rockets, Cirit has been developed to fill the gap between such weapons and larger anti-tank missiles.
Turkish Aerospace Industries is currently working to integrate the Cirit with the full ATAK-standard T-129, designated the T-129B, which will be delivered to the Turkish armed forces from 2014.
Eurocopter also used the exhibition to release details of the increased capabilities of the new EC635 T3/P3.
The upgraded variant features a revamped rotor design, rotor blades that are 10cm longer, an upgraded FADEC software suite, and lateral air inlets that are compatible with inlet barrier filter systems.
The improvements have increased the maximum take-off weight of the aircraft by 30kg to 2,980 kg.
Christian Fanchini, Eurocopter’s military operational marketing manager, explained that the increased payload becomes even more significant in hot and high conditions.
At an altitude of 2,134 m in ISA+20 conditions, the payload increase is 240kg while at altitudes above 914 m in ISA+35 conditions, the increase is 270 kg.
Eurocopter vice president of sales for Europe, Thomas Hein, explained that there was an increasing demand from armed forces around the world for lighter helicopters to be employed in the scout/light attack role.
‘Rather than the heavier transport helicopters, more and more military users are looking to introduce lighter aircraft, such as the [UH-72] Lakota with the US Army. More and more militaries are recognising the benefits of going to a lighter platform and the versatility that provides,’ Hein said.
As one of the two most credible contenders for the estimated $4 billion T-Loramids Turkish contract, Eurosam is taking part in the IDEF 2013 exhibition in Istanbul showing on its stand a Launch Module and an Engagement module belonging to the Italian 4th Air Defense Regiment, the Italian unit which is now operational with the consortium Samp/T system.
“We are happy of the strong support to our proposal given byFrance and Italy,” Antonio Perfetti, Eurosam Chairman delcared at the press conference organised on May 8th, “which materialised in the visit to our stand from the Ambassadors of the two countries.” Should Turkey chose the European system, a series of opportunities should arise, that might go well beyond the simple participation of the Turkish industry into the programme. Eurosam does not foresee a simple transfer of technology to Turkey, but looks at the co-development of future upgrades. Full transparency was given to Turkish authorities regarding the three anti-ballistic missile tests conducted until now, both by the consortium and by the current customers of the system.
Turkish companies would eventually provide subsystems to the consortium, and they would become full partners in any other export contract. Eurosam would also transfer simulation capabilities to Turkey, which would allow the nation to fully exploit the system. “The Turkish industry has shown in recent years an extraordinary learning capacity” Perfetti said, “and it possesses a high technical quality.” As for a potential participation of Turkey into the Eurosam consortium the chairman said that the consortium was the result of a MoU between French and Italian governments, and that a solution will have to be found at governmental level.
However a new instrument aimed at protecting intellectual property would be needed. No forecast on a date for the decision was made, “but we are sure that Turkeywill take a decision,” Perfetti said.
The Turkish Land Forces is on the verge of taking delivery of their first T-129 ATAK attack helicopters as the production of the aircraft gathers momentum.
Speaking at the IDEF exhibition in 2013, company representatives stated that the army is expected to take delivery of its first aircraft in the coming weeks.
Four T-129A aircraft are now ready to be formally handed over to the army and will be used to train the initial batch of pilots and maintenance staff. In addition to these first four, three production aircraft are currently undergoing factory acceptance tests.
Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), the programme’s prime contractor that is assembling the aircraft, has increased production to one aircraft per month, which will be the ongoing rate through until deliveries of the 59 aircraft are completed in 2018.
Company representatives also revealed that TAI is looking at future upgrades of the aircraft, potentially including the installation of a millimetre wave radar and development of a manned-unmanned teaming capability.
Two prototypes have been manufactured and will be used to investigate the various upgrade options. In total, the programme has now done more than 2500 flight hours.
The initial deliveries will be of the T-129, which is described as a combat support aircraft and includes rockets, guns and integrated electronic warfare suite.
Development continues on the ATAK standard configuration, designated as the T-29B and includes integration of the Cirit and UMTAS missiles. The first T-129B will start qualification tests in mid-2013 – tests of the IR-guided UMTAS are scheduled to take place in July – and full production of the fully capable version is expected to start in 2014.
With the ATAK now the baseline for all future international sales of the A-129, AgustaWestland and TAI have developed a mechanism for the joint marketing of the aircraft and any specific sales drives.
While TAI took the lead for the recent campaign in South Korea, an effort that saw the T-129 lose out to the AH-64E Apache, which company takes the lead role in the future will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Meanwhile, with the Italian MoD currently carrying out preliminary studies to determine the future upgrade of its A-129 fleet, an AgustaWestland spokesman said the company’s approach would be to offer new aircraft rather than developing retrofit options to bring the fleet up to T-129B standard.
Turkey has a vibrant and increasingly capable defence industry that is determined to boost its export earnings up to $2 billion a year, a goal that the Defence and Aerospace Industry Exporters Association says is well within reach.
Broadly based and innovative, its products include aircraft, land vehicles, warships, weapon systems ranging from small arms to guided missiles, C4ISR systems, RF and EO and electronic warfare systems. Other efforts are focused on logistics and support systems and services. A large home market and government policy to build a rounded indigenous industry underpins all of them.
Evolution in the country’s defence procurement has progressed in four distinct stages. Before 1990, the policy for major platforms and weapon systems was essentially one of direct procurement. The next decade focused on coproduction of systems, such as armoured combat vehicles, light transport aircraft, the COUGAR battlefield helicopter, mobile radar systems and High Frequency Single Side Band (HF SSB) radios. The first decade of the 21st Century saw growing confidence manifest itself in local design of big-ticket items such as the ALTAY MBT, the MILGEM National Corvette, the ANKA MALE UAV, and the HURKUS training aircraft.
Under the guidance of the Undersecretariat for Defence Industries (SSM), the industry today is also engaged in several other ambitious development programmes including the NEB bunker buster bomb, the TOROS truck based rocket artillery system, the GÖKTÜRK reconnaissance and surveillance satellite, the 105mm air transportable light towed howitzer project, the GPS/INS based HGK guidance kit for 2,000lbs bombs, the KGK wing adapter kit for long range smart bombs, plus smaller yet still vital items, such as thermal batteries for munitions.
Projects under contract to the SSM for the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) has grown over the last decade or so from $5,448 billion to $25,397 billion in 2012, although it peaked at around $27 billion in 2011. The total turnover of the defence and aviation sectors has grown strongly from around $1,855 billion in 2006 to $4,381 billion in 2011.
Growing Local Content
Local content in TAF projects is also growing steadily from 25% in 2003 to 54% in 2011, which is the last year for which the SSM has released figures. Alongside this figure, possibly not coincidentally, defence and aviation exports have grown from $331 million to $1.09 billion over the same period.
Today, co-production dominates the SSM project budget, taking 53%, while development takes 27%. Direct procurements still take a substantial share at 11%, engagement with international consortia taking 8% and R&D one percent. Major co-production projects include several F-16 efforts and the T129 attack helicopter programme, in which Turkish weapons and avionics will be integrated into the AgustaWestland A129 MANGUSTA airframe.
Turkish Land Systems Innovation
Turkey’s armoured vehicle sector is particularly strong, with four companies able to design, develop, produce, test and qualify them. These companies, Otokar, FNSS, BMC, and Nurol, dominate the home military and security vehicle market.
ALTAY and MBT Upgrades
SSM’s biggest development project is the ALTAY MBT. The Turkish government describes ALTAY as a “Generation 3 Plus” MBT. The programme was launched in 2008 with Otokar as prime contractor. The conceptual design was completed and approved by the SSM in September of 2010, giving the green light to the detailed design phase. ALTAY has successfully come through its critical design review and two prototypes have been built, the first having completed its mobility trials and the second now undergoing firepower testing, with two more set to be produced during 2013 for qualification testing. The declared budget for these stages, according to the SSM, is $500 million.
Levent Senel, Head of SSM’s Land Platforms Department, said in February that the tank will be ready for serial production by 2015, but that is not anticipated to begin until 2017 or 2018. Plans call for an initial production run of 250, which may be increased.
ALTAY ticks all the boxes to be a thoroughly modern MBT in the western idiom, its four-person crew dictated by the choice of manual loading for the 120mm L55 smoothbore main gun, which occupies an electrically driven turret. This weapon is one of the vehicle’s technological imports, the know-how having been transferred from Korea’s Hyundai Rotem, although the gun that arms the ROK’s K2 has an autoloader, reducing that MBT’s crew to three. Drawing on Russian practice, however, the gun can be used as a launcher for laser guided missiles.
The new-generation fire control system, with hunter/killer functionality, plus the C3 systems are designed and built by Aselsan. Integrated with it will be a battlefield target identification system.
Supplementing the main armament will be a Remotely Controlled Weapon Station (RCWS) able to mount both 7.62mm and 12.7mm machine guns, in addition to the 7.62mm coaxial machine gun.
The first production ALTAYs will be fitted with a 1,500hp engine from MTU coupled to a transmission from Renk, but later vehicles are slated to receive a 1,800hp diesel designed and manufactured in Turkey. Automotive R&D organization OTAM, which is associated with Istanbul University, is responsible for design studies intended to lead to the first prototype ‘national tank engine’ and is working with other R&D entities and with Turkish engine manufacturers. ALTAY also has that other modern tank essential – an Auxiliary Power Unit (APU).
Better known for its rocket and missile expertise, Roketsan is responsible for ALTAY’s modular composite armour package, which it is developing in its Ballistic Protection Center, the focus of its armour systems infrastructure personnel. The company has expertise in light and heavy composite armour for vehicles, ceramic and hybrid armour, design, development and production facilities for reactive armour and ballistic testing.
A laser warning system, standard on all modern MBTs, will be one contributor to a 360° situational awareness system that will include front and rear thermal and day TV cameras for the driver, who also gets an integrated display.
Helping protect the crew in the event that the tank takes a hit, is a combined fire extinguishing and explosion suppression system, with the life support system combining air conditioning with CBRN protection.
New Wheeled AFVs
As well as new and upgraded MBTs, Otokar also develops wheeled armoured vehicles, a sector in which it competes with both FNSS and Nurol.
Otokar and FNSS go head-to-head in the large 6×6 and 8×8 sectors with their respective and directly comparable ARMA and PARS vehicles, both of which are offered in both configurations and both have combat weights (for the 6×6 versions) between 18 and 18.5 tonnes. Nurol competes with both in the 6×6 sector and has had considerable success in the export market with its EJDER.
Otokar’s ARMA is a multi-purpose wheeled armoured vehicle designed to be flexible enough to be used with a variety of mission equipment and weapon systems. The FNSS PARS 8×8 AFV was shown for the first time in February 2005 during IDEX. As well as meeting the Turkish Land Forces Command (TLFC) requirements for a wheeled APC, the PARS family of wheeled AFV is also being aimed at the export market. In 2010, FNSS has signed an LoI for Malaysia’s 8×8 Armoured Vehicles Programme for 8×8 PARS vehicles to be manufactured locally in Malaysia. The total weight of the Pars vehicle depends on the weapon fit, crew and armour package. The 8×8 model has a typical combat weight of 25 tonnes. According to FNSS, the PARS is a new family of wheeled AFVs that incorporates numerous advanced, unique features. As the vehicle has an open electronics architecture, it is claimed that inserting new technology can be achieved more easily as it becomes available. The baseline 8 × 8 Pars vehicle has a hull consisting of a composite aluminum and steel armour that provides the occupants with protection from 7.62 mm armour-piercing attack through a full 360°. Higher levels of protection are available if required, using an appliqué armour package.
Innovation and R&D
Otokar displayed some of its expanding range of vehicles at February’s IDEX event in Abu Dhabi, where the company’s General Manager Serdar Gorguc emphasised, “R&D is one of our most important assets. Today Otokar is in leading position in designing and producing armoured combat vehicles and in due course making significant investments on the R&D studies. Reinvesting 5% of our turnover on R&D activities is the actual assurance of Otokar commitments in developing new vehicles.“
FNSS’ PARS 6×6 has a mid-mounted 482hp diesel engine driving three axles through an automatic transmission. The first and third axles are steerable. Suspension is independent all round and can use either hydraulic or air shock absorbers.
All PARS variants feature a removable roof to facilitate different equipment fits for role changes. Other features include a hydraulic rear ramp, water jets to clean the wheels and tires of possible CBRN contamination, central tire inflation, an IR suppressing exhaust cooling system, panoramic glass periscopes, a hydraulic trim vane for amphibious operations and a self-recovery winch and an APU.
Turkey’s third 6×6 armoured vehicle is Nurol’s EJDER, which is not operated by Turkey but has entered service in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Libya, Turkmenistan, and Zimbabwe.
Nurol emphasizes EJDER’s IED protection, saying that the vehicle protects its 12 occupants to NATO standards using real mines, crash test dummies and special test equipment. The vehicle can also accept modular add-on armour packages. Nurol also stresses internal ergonomics and space that enable soldiers to carry all the weapons and ammunition they need. All-wheel drive, independent suspension and a high power-to-weight ratio contribute to what the company claims is ‘superior’ off road performance, supplemented by the ability to enter water without needing preparation. EJDER can also be carried in a C-130, says Nurol.
Engineering vehicles FNSS also offers upgrades of the venerable M113 tracked armoured vehicle and is undertaking such a project for Saudi Arabia, as well as heavier specialist systems such as its Armoured Amphibious Assault Bridge (AAAB) and the Armoured Amphibious Combat Earth mover (AACE), a two-crew vehicle based on theM9 ACE.
The AAAB is a major SSM procurement project for 52 vehicles, half of which have been delivered with the other half set to be delivered this year. Offering ballistic protection (including transparent armour) and NBC protection for the crew compartment, each vehicle carries four ramps, removing the need for an additional ramp carrier vehicle.
In ferry mode, AAAB can be configured with two bays, enabling it to carry tracked vehicles with a NATO Military Load Capacity (MLC) rating of 70. It can also be configured with three bays, which allows it to carry wheeled vehicles with an MLC of up to 100. Two AAAB vehicles together can ferry an MBT. By linking 12 vehicles together, the system can create a 153.7 m bridge.
An 8×8 with all-wheel steering, it is also fitted with a crane and an emergency anchoring system and a self-recovery winch.
Otokar’s KAYA is a 10-seat V-hulled 4×4 based on a Mercedes UNIMOG chassis and offers a large internal volume to maximize mission flexibility. KAYA combines high levels of protection from mines and ballistic threats with high mobility and manoeuvrability over rough terrain and in extreme climates, aided by a CTIS and air conditioning. Otokar offers KAYA in APC, C2, reconnaissance, CBRN recce, medevac and maintenance support variants. KAYA is also available as a mine protected cargo carrier based on the UNIMOG 5000 chassis, which can carry 4.5t for a gross vehicle weight of 12.5 tonnes. Its Mercedes OM 924 LA diesel engine produces 218hp at 2,200rpm and 810nm of torque between 1,200 and 1,600rpm and drives through a Tiptronic electro-pneumatic gearbox to locking differentials on both axles, giving the MRAP a top speed that’s limited to 100kph.
Offered for the same set of missions as the KAYA, the larger KALE MRAP will seat up to 13 people and is powered by a 300hp diesel engine with automatic transmission. The suspension is independent and uses helical spring/shock absorber units.
Otokar’s MRAP designs draw on experience gained in the development and fielding of the COBRA multi-purpose light armoured vehicle, which has proved its worth in several conflict zones and is in service with around 20 users in more than 10 countries, according to SSM.
The other Turkish vehicle maker to enter the MRAP arena is BMC, a major supplier of tactical trucks, logistic support and special purpose vehicles to the Turkish Land Forces. The KIPRI is a 16t selectable 4×4 with seating for up to 13 people including the driver, commander, gunner and 10 fully armed soldiers. KIPRI’s 350hp Cummins diesel generates 1,550nm of torque at 1,400rpm through an automatic transmission and a transfer case that enables the driver to choose either two-wheel drive or four wheel drive and either high or low ranges. The axles incorporate planetary reduction gears and feature differential locks front and rear and are suspended on leaf springs and telescopic shocks. At combat weight, KIPRI will climb a 60% gradient and cope with a 30% side slope and offers a range of 800 km. The standard tactical specification includes a cold-start kit, blackout and camouflage lighting, rail transportability and a NATO standard towing hook, along with electrical and pneumatic connections for towing and being towed. Air conditioning with heating and cooling capability and a windscreen defroster are also standard. KIPRI also features a 360° rotating roof hatch that can support a machine gun mount. There is also a long list of options for KIPRI, which includes a self-recovery winch, ABS braking, a CTIS, run-flat tyres, GPS, a rear view camera, automatic fire suppression and a powered turret drive.
Guided weapons development is another key area for Turkey and one of its most ambitious projects is the air launched Stand Off Missile (SOM) under development by the Defence Industries Research and Development Institute (SAGE), itself part of TÜBITAK, the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey.
SOM is a 600kg cruise missile with a low-observable airframe and a 230kg warhead conceived for use against heavily defended targets on land and at sea. A typical target set might include SAM sites, parked aircraft, command centres, aircraft hangars and shelters. With a stated range of more than 100nm, it outranges SAM systems and its guidance system incorporates GPS and inertial sensors with radar, terrain referenced navigation, and an imaging IR seeker plus automatic target recognition capability and selectable impact modes. The weapon has been integrated onto the F-16 and future plans call for JSF integration and compatibility with the NATO Universal Armaments Interface (UAI).
TÜBITAK SAGE is working with government owned MKEK and foreign partners on a deep penetration bomb known as NEB, an 870kg weapon with the same general external geometry as a Mk 84 general purpose bomb but containing a shaped-charge precursor warhead that makes a hole in a hardened target through which the main warhead passes before detonating about a second later. Compatible with GBU-10E/B systems, it can use laser guidance kits for these weapons, as well as SAGE’s own new HGK precision guidance kit, which uses GPS, probably combined with an inertial sensor, to provide a claimed accuracy of 6.3 metres. Plans called for NEB design studies to be complete by the first quarter of 2012.
While NEB is a specialised weapon for hardened and buried targets, the KGK is a winged guidance kit designed to transform 500lbs Mk 82 and 1,000lbs Mk 83 general purpose bombs into smart glide bombs. SAGE claims an accuracy of 10m from the GPS/INS guidance system and maximum ranges between 20nm when dropped from 10,000ft and 60nm from 30,000 feet. The impact angle can be set between 10° and 80° to maximize the weapon’s effect on the target. The maximum allowable flight speed is 600 knots.
Turkish National Sonar
In the naval sector, the first two MILGEM national corvettes have been built by the Navy itself and the Turkish government is now reported to be in negotiation with RMK Marine for the construction of the next six vessels, having apparently beaten the rival Dearsan shipyard to the $2.5 billion deal, according to a report on 05 January in the Turkish media.
The 2,300t corvettes have mission systems focused on ASW, and TÜBITAK has developed three key sonar system ‘wet end’ components. The TBT-01 transducer operates as an active/passive sensor over the 6-9kHz frequency range and as a passive sensor between 2-10kHz. The second major acoustic sensor is a ship-integrated sonar with a 288 element cylindrical array. The third system is national transducer cable.
TÜBITAK also built the infrastructure required to develop the technology in the form of the Marmara Research Centre Materials Institute’s Underwater Acoustic Laboratory. Opened officially on 14 March 2008, the UAL received accreditation from Germany’s DAP agency in April 2009. The UAL features a 15x10x7.5m test tank with a very accurate positioning system that can support sensors and arrays weighing up to 3,000kg.
Satellites and MALE UAVs
On 18 December GÖKTÜRK 2, a Turkish designed imaging reconnaissance satellite went into orbit successfully from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in China. The TÜBITAK-funded spacecraft’s declared purpose it both military reconnaissance and civil environmental monitoring.
From its Sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of around 700km, the 409kg GÖKTÜRK 2 circles the Earth every 98 minutes approximately and can collect imagery from anywhere in the world, revisiting any site on average once every 2.5 days, according to Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), who designed, integrated and tested the satellite at its own facilities, carrying out bus assembly and integration, payload integration, mass property measurement, system level functional and thermal vacuum testing. The spacecraft’s sensors offer resolutions of 2.5m panchromatic and 5.0m multispectral. GÖKTÜRK 2’s planned operational life is five years.
Launch of the higher resolution GÖKTÜRK 1 spacecraft was scheduled for this year, but is reportedly subject to a delay of around a year as a result of a dispute with Israel, source of some sensor components.
GÖKTÜRK 1 is in development by prime contractor Telespazio following a 2009 contract between SSM and the Italian company. TAI is directly involved in work packages in Italy and France and is manufacturing some components in house.
On 25 January, the TAI-developed ANKA MALE UAS successfully completed its acceptance test campaign. This followed the final flights in the programme that took place between 20 and 22 January.
With a wingspan of 17.3m and a length of 8m, ANKA is powered by a 155hp heavy fuel engine to a service ceiling of 30,000ft with endurance of up to 24 hours. ANKA is intended for day and night, all-weather ISR missions carrying EO/IR cameras with laser designation and range finding capabilities plus SAR/ISAR/GMTI sensors. Growth potential includes SATCOM, SIGINT and communications relay payloads and the ability to send imagery and data to remote video terminals. Of the final two test flights, the first lasted more than 18 hours. TAI says that this flight successfully demonstrated the aircraft’s full endurance and the data link’s 200km range in wind speeds that reached 45 knots. The second and final flight test on 22 January demonstrated the night capability of its automatic take-off and landing system.
The acceptance campaign began in the last quarter of 2012 and encompassed about 130 different ground and flight tests, witnessed by SSM and Turkish Air Force representatives. ANKA first flew in December 2010 since when it has accumulated more than 140 flight hours.
TAI reports that contract negotiations are already underway with SSM for the production of an initial ten ANKA systems for the Air Force.
TAI also rolled out its HURKUS turboprop primary and basic training aircraft in June. The company is also working on the conceptual design of an advanced jet trainer and light fighter under a contract signed with SSM in August of 2011, while TAI’s helicopter group submitted its proposal to SSM for the ‘Indigenous Helicopter’, having been appointed prime contractor for the programme in 2010.
Without doubt, Turkey intends to be a major force in the defence industry and is making the investments needed to make desire into reality.
Israel inaugurated its fifth nuclear-capable Dolphin-class submarine April 29 in Kiel, Germany, home of the shipbuilding division of Thyssen-Krupp Marine Systems (TKMS).
The INS Rahav, the fifth of six Israeli submarines built at the German shipyard with funding assistance from Berlin, is expected to arrive here sometime next year following weapon system integration and sea trials.
It follows the May 2012 inauguration of Israel’s fourth Dolphin-class submarine, the INS Tanin, which is scheduled for operational deployment in the coming months.
Like its predecessor and the sixth submarine now undergoing hull construction at the TKMS shipyard, INS Rahav features an air-independent propulsion (AIP) system that allows for extended mission range and endurance.
By mid-2017, the Israel Navy should have full operational command of its strategic undersea fleet.
The Israel Navy’s Dolphin-class submarines are the product of two decades of strategic cooperative program between Israel and Germany. Constructed in Germany according to Israeli design specifications, the submarines host Israeli-developed command, control and combat systems including, according to foreign reports, land-attack and cruise missiles capable of carrying tactical nuclear warheads.
German fully funded construction costs for Israel’s first two Dolphins, shared half the cost of Israel’s third submarine, and has underwritten about a third of the costs for the fourth and fifth vessels now undergoing sea trials. Under a government-to-government contract signed last year for Israel’s sixth and final Dolphin-class sub, Berlin agreed to underwrite some €135 million (US $175.8 million) on an acquisition that sources here say will exceed €600 million.
The April 29 inauguration ceremony was attended by Udi Shani, director-general of the Israeli MoD; Vice Adm. Ram Rothberg, Israeli Navy commander; and German counterparts.
Turkey’s navy and national intelligence organization MIT have agreed to jointly procure a high-tech ship for collecting electronic intelligence from newly arising regional threats in the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkish Undersecretariat for Defence Industries, or SSM, has been tasked for launching a local tender for the construction of the new ship using Turkey’s indigenous capabilities to their fullest extent.
“Turkey has earmarked $120 million for the construction effort of Turkey’s first large scale intelligence ship.” a TR Defence source familiar with the programs of the Turkish Navy reported on Friday. “This will be a dedicated SIGINT/ELINT ship that will bear a number of advanced electronic capabilities, but will lack heavy weapons.”
Several countries currently use similar electronic intelligence ships for spying on the military transmissions of target states, finding and exploiting secret radar installations, eavesdropping on and decrypting sensitive information as well as actively jamming compromised enemy communications during war time. The ship is said to be used in conjunction with Turkey’s new Gokturk series of surveillance satellites planned for launch in 2013 and 2014.
Project will be managed by SSM and follow the successful footsteps of the Milgem program. Once complete in 2015, the ship will join Turkish Navy inventory but will be partially operated by MIT in line with Turkey’s widely varying intelligence gathering needs.
It is also expected to actively participate in NATO missions and exercises around the world.
The unraveling of the al Assad regime in Syria will produce many geopolitical consequences. One potential consequence has garnered a great deal of media attention in recent days: the possibility of the regime losing control of its chemical weapons stockpile. In an interview aired July 30 on CNN, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said it would be a “disaster to have those chemical weapons fall into the wrong hands — hands of Hezbollah or other extremists in that area.” When he mentioned other extremists, Panetta was referring to local and transnational jihadists, such as members of the group Jabhat al-Nusra, which has been fighting with other opposition forces against the Syrian regime. He was also referring to the many Palestinian militant groups such as Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, which have long had a presence in Syria and until recently have been supported by the al Assad regime.
The fear is that the jihadists will obtain chemical weapons to use in terrorist attacks against the West. Israel is also concerned that Palestinian groups could use them in terrorist attacks inside Israel or that Hezbollah could use such weapons against the Israelis in a conventional military battle. However, while the security of these weapons is a legitimate concern, it is important to recognize that there are a number of technical and practical considerations that will limit the impact of these weapons even if a militant group were able to obtain them.
Militant Use of Chemical Weapons
Militant groups have long had a fascination with chemical weapons. One of the largest non-state chemical and biological weapons programs in history belonged to the Aum Shinrikyo organization in Japan. The group had large production facilities located in an industrial park that it used to produce thousands of gallons of ineffective biological agents. After the failure of its biological program, it shifted its focus to chemical weapons production and conducted a number of attacks using chemical agents such as hydrogen cyanide gas, phosgene and VX and sarin nerve agents.
Jihadists have also demonstrated an interest in chemical weapons. The investigation of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing found that bombmaker Abdul Basit (aka Ramzi Yousef) had added sodium cyanide to the large vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated in the Trade Center’s basement parking garage. The cyanide was either consumed or so widely scattered by the huge blast that its effects were not noticed at the time of the attack. The presence of the cyanide was only uncovered after investigators found a list of the chemicals ordered by conspirator Nidal Ayyad and debriefed Basit after his arrest.
In his testimony at his 2001 trial for the Millennium Bomb plot, Ahmed Ressam described training he had received at al Qaeda’s Deronta facility in Afghanistan for building a hydrogen cyanide device. Ressam said members of the group had practiced their skills, using the gas to kill a dog that was confined in a small box.
Videos found by U.S. troops after the invasion of Afghanistan supported Ressam’s testimony — as did confiscated al Qaeda training manuals that contained recipes for biological toxins and chemical agents, including hydrogen cyanide gas. The documents recovered in Afghanistan prompted the CIA to publish a report on al Qaeda’s chemical and biological weapons program that created a lot of chatter in late 2004.
There have been other examples as well. In February 2002, Italian authorities arrested several Moroccan men who were found with about 4 kilograms (9 pounds) of potassium ferrocyanide and allegedly were planning to attack the U.S. Embassy in Rome.
In June 2006, Time magazine broke the story of an alleged al Qaeda plot to attack subways in the United States using improvised devices designed to generate hydrogen cyanide gas. The plot was reportedly aborted because the al Qaeda leadership feared it would be ineffective.
In 2007, jihadist militants deployed a series of large vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices augmented with chlorine gas against targets in Iraq. However, the explosives in these attacks inflicted far more casualties than the gas. This caused the militants to deem the addition of chlorine to the devices as not worth the effort, and the Iraqi jihadists abandoned their chemical warfare experiment in favor of employing vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices without a chemical kicker.
There have also been several credible reports in Iraq of militants using chemical artillery rounds in improvised explosive device attacks against coalition forces, but those attacks also appear to have been largely ineffective.
Difficult to Employ
Using chemical munitions on the battlefield presents a number of challenges. The first of these is sufficiently concentrating the chemical agent to affect the targeted troops. In order to achieve heavy concentrations of the agent, chemical weapon attacks were usually delivered by a massive artillery bombardment using chemical weapons shells. Soviet military chemical weapons doctrine relied heavily on weapons systems such as batteries of BM-21 multiple rocket launchers, which can be used to deliver a massive amount of ordnance to a targeted area. Additionally, it is very difficult to control the gas cloud created by the massive barrage. There were instances in World War I and in the Iran-Iraq War in which troops were affected by chemical weapon clouds that had been created by their own artillery but had blown back upon them.
Delivering a lethal dose is also a problem in employing chemical weapons in terrorist attacks, as seen by the attacks outlined above. For example, in the March 20, 1995, attack on the Tokyo subway system, Aum Shinrikyo members punctured 11 plastic bags filled with sarin on five different subway trains. Despite the typically very heavy crowds on the trains and in the Tokyo subway stations that morning, the attacks resulted in only 12 deaths — although thousands of other commuters were sickened by the attack, some severely.
The Syrian regime is thought to have mustard gas as well as tabun, sarin and VX nerve agents in its chemical weapons inventory. Mustard gas, a blistering agent, is the least dangerous of these compounds. In World War I, less than 5 percent of the troops who were exposed to mustard gas died. Tabun and sarin tend to be deployed in a volatile liquid form that evaporates to form a gas. Once in gas form, these agents tend to dissipate somewhat quickly. VX, on the other hand, a viscous nerve agent, was developed to persist in an area after it is delivered in order to prevent an enemy force from massing in or passing through that area. While VX is more persistent, it is more difficult to cause a mass casualty attack with it since droplets of the liquid agent must come into contact with the victim, unlike other agents that evaporate to form a large cloud.
But there are other difficulties besides delivering a lethal dose. Because of improvements in security measures and intelligence programs since 9/11, it has proved very difficult for jihadists to conduct attacks in the West, even when their attack plans have included using locally manufactured explosives. There have been numerous cases in which plots have either failed, like the May 2010 Times Square attack involving Faisal Shahzad, or been detected and thwarted, like the September 2009 plot to attack the New York subway system involving Najibullah Zazi.
Because of the improved security, it would be very difficult for jihadists to smuggle chemical agents into the United States or Europe, even if they were able to obtain them. Indeed, as mentioned above, the chemical artillery rounds used in improvised explosive devices in Iraq were employed in that country, not smuggled out of the region.
This means that jihadists not only face the tactical problem of effectively employing the agent in an attack but also the logistical problem of transporting it to the West. This difficulty of transport will increase further as awareness of the threat increases. One way around the logistical problem would be to use the agent against a soft target in the region. Such targets could include hotels, tourist sites, airport arrival lounges or even Western airliners departing from airports with less than optimal security.
Another option for jihadists or Palestinian militants could be to attempt to smuggle the chemical agent into Israel for use in an attack. However, in recent years, increased security measures following past suicide bombing attacks in Israel have caused problems for militant groups smuggling weapons into Israel. The same problems would apply to chemical agents — especially since border security has already been stepped up again due to the increased flow of weapons from Libya to Gaza.
Militants could attempt to solve this logistical challenge by launching a warhead or a barrage of warheads into Israel using rockets, but such militant rocket fire tends to be very inaccurate and, like conventional rocket warheads, these chemical warheads would be unlikely to hit any target of value. Even if a rocket landed in a populated area, it would be unlikely to produce many casualties due to the problem of creating a lethal concentration of the agent — although it would certainly cause a mass panic.
The use of chemical weapons would also undoubtedly spur Israel to retaliate heavily in order to deter additional attacks. This threat of massive retaliation has kept Syria from using chemical weapons against Israel or allowing its militant proxies to use them.
Hezbollah may be the militant organization in the region that could most effectively utilize Syrian chemical munitions. The group possesses a large inventory of artillery rockets, which could be used to deliver the type of barrage attack required for a successful chemical weapon attack. Rumors have been swirling around the region for many months that Libyan rebels sold some chemical munitions to Hezbollah and Hamas. While we have seen confirmed reports that man-portable air-defense systems and other Libyan weapons are being smuggled into Sinai en route to Gaza, there has been no confirmation that chemical rounds are being smuggled out of Libya.
Still, even if Hezbollah were to receive a stockpile of chemical munitions from Syria or Libya, it has a great deal to lose by employing such munitions. First, it would have to face the aforementioned massive retaliation from Israel. While Israel was somewhat constrained in its attacks on Hezbollah’s leadership and infrastructure in the August 2006 war, it is unlikely to be nearly as constrained in responding to a chemical weapon attack on its armed forces or a population center. Because of the way chemical weapons are viewed, the Israelis would be seen internationally as having just cause for massive retaliation. Second, Hezbollah would face severe international repercussions over any such attack. As an organization, Hezbollah has been working for many years to establish itself as a legitimate political party in Lebanon and avoid being labeled as a terrorist organization in Europe and elsewhere. A chemical weapon attack would bring heavy international condemnation and would not be in the group’s best interest at this time.
So, while securing Syrian chemical munitions is an imperative, there are tactical and practical constraints that will prevent militants from creating the type of nightmare scenario discussed in the media, even if some chemical weapons fell into the wrong hands.