Turkish missile manufacturer Roketsan is preparing to unveil a guided version of its popular TR-122 Sakarya multiple launch rocket system (MLRS), TR Defence sources confirmed on Tuesday.
The new version has the same range, composite rocket engine and warhead options as its unguided twin but also features a new passive laser seeker that allows the artillery rocket to home in on targets designated by a third party from a safe distance.
“We can now hit targets with pinpoint accuracy. All (that is) needed is someone to paint the target so that it knows exactly where to strike,” a Roketsan employee familiar with the program said on condition of anonymity.
Sakarya II can be guided to its target during the terminal stage of its flight by an UAV or another aerial asset, or an infantry element with a mobile target designator.
“It is now capable of engaging both stationary and moving targets… a world-leading technology in its class,” added the employee.
TR Defence has learned that field tests of the new version are underway and results so far have been promising. Roketsan is expected to officially unveil the new product later in the year and offer it for both TSK use and export.
Turkish military electronics giant Aselsan has unveiled a new active protection system, dubbed AKKOR (short for Aktif Koruma) at the IDEF’15 international defense fair in Istanbul. The system is intended primarily to provide Turkey’s indigenous Altay tanks with a hard-kill self defense capability, but it can also be used aboard AIFVs, APCs and other armored vehicles.
AKKOR features an impressive reaction time of only 1/15th of a second, allowing it to effectively defend the host platform against rockets and missiles fired from a distance as close as 50 meters (164 feet). It consists of three main components: a central processing unit that functions as the brain of the whole system, four M-band radar sensors and, typically, two projectile launchers capable of firing four smart interceptors. Each radar sensor continuously scans a 100-degree arc, creating a full 360 degree detection capability with some overlap. AKKOR’s radar plates, in their current configuration, can detect incoming threats with an elevation of up to 75 degrees, but vehicles can be integrated with an additional sensor on the roof as well for protection against top-attack missiles such as the Javelin.
What sets AKKOR apart from its competition is its smart interceptor. Most other hard-kill active protection systems detect an incoming threat, calculate its trajectory, find out when it will arrive at a certain point in space, and then fire a bunch of projectiles, typically steel balls (like a shotgun pellets), toward that general direction hoping that at least one of the steel balls will hit the threat and destroy it before it can make contact with the host platform. This technique, while simple and efficient, doesn’t protect against the newer generation, variable-velocity rockets and missiles that are designed to trick an active protection system into firing too early or too late, and consequently missing.
AKKOR, on the other hand, goes one step further. First, just like a legacy active protection system, it detects a threat, calculates its trajectory and aims towards a point in its path to intercept it — within a deviation allowance of less than 1 degree. Then, instead of firing a swarm of steel balls like its competition, AKKOR launches a single smart interceptor with its own on-board sensor, jointly developed by TUBITAK SAGE, and a high explosive warhead. Once activated, the interceptor continuously measures the distance between itself and the incoming threat during its short flight, detonates the high explosive warhead when it determines that it’s closest to the threat and effectively destroys it, all within the span of about one to two seconds. This method ensures the highest hit probability and effectiveness against both older and the newest generation anti-tank rockets and missiles.
“We’ve begun AKKOR’s development back in 2008 and successfully demonstrated the core technology behind it in a prototype back in 2010.” an Aselsan engineer explained at IDEF’15. “At the time, AKKOR proved effective against a HAR-55 projectile, also known as the M72 LAW.”
Aselsan aims to finish the development of the AKKOR system in time to field it aboard Turkey’s Altay main battle tanks and other armored vehicles. A lighter version, dubbed AKKOR Lite, and a naval version, AKKOR Naval, are being designed for use aboard lighter vehicles and by the navy respectively.
Aselsan hopes to sign a contract in the second half of 2015 with Turkey’s Undersecretariat for Defense Industries, the SSM, for further field tests. Serial production is expected to start in 2017 so that the system be can made available for the country’s first batch of 250 Altay main battle tanks.
The US Navy’s frigate force is rapidly shrinking as the 1980s-era ships are taken out of service. The Navy wants to transfer the ships to friendly nations for further service, and several nations are eager to have them.
But in recent years, congressional politics have made some of the proposed moves overly controversial, and measures to approve the transfers have run afoul of partisan politics, particularly where Turkey and Pakistan are concerned.
But on April 7, the House passed a bill approving the transfer of eight frigates — four to Taiwan, two to Thailand and two to Mexico. Two of the ships named in the bill already have left service, with the other six set to leave the US fleet in 2015.
The bill now lies with the Senate, where it might have come to a vote before the body adjourned for a two-week recess. As of April 10, however, it appeared the opportunity for quick action would pass, leaving the measure to be taken up at a later date.
The House-sponsored bill eliminated a Senate bill introduced in November that included the same ships, plus three more for Pakistan — along with a series of conditions that country has recoiled from meeting.
Forces in the Senate have balked as well at providing Pakistan with the ships, and a hold — reportedly from Sen. Rand Paul R-Ky., — has been placed on the bill.
Similar squabbles led to another frigate transfer bill dying with the previous Congress. That bill would have provided more frigates for Turkey, which already operates eight ex-US frigates.
The latest House bill avoids those questions and centers the move on Taiwan.
“The transfer to Taiwan of retired US Navy frigates is an important part of the US commitment to Taiwan’s security,” Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. “The administration and Congress must continue to find ways to enhance Taiwan’s self-defense capabilities.”
The bill would only approve a ship’s transfer should the specified nation and the US reach agreement. It does not indicate such a move is a done deal.
Pakistan on Thursday strongly denied it had any plans to send weapons to Syrian rebels, following reports that Saudi Arabia was holding talks with it about arming the opposition.
Pakistani foreign ministry spokeswoman Tasneem Aslam said at a regular briefing that Islamabad did not supply arms to “entities”, meaning rebel groups, and respected Syria’s sovereignty.
“The policy guidelines for the sale of arms that we have are in line with the adherence to the purposes and principles of the UN charter,” she said.
Pakistan recognized the right of all states to protect their security, she said, and wanted an end to the bloodshed in Syria.
She stressed that “regime change from outside by any means is something that Pakistan has persistently and very strongly opposed”.
“We also have what is known as end users’ certificate which ensures that our weapons are not resold or provided to a third country,” she said.
“Our position on Syria has been very clear and has been articulated again and again.”
A Saudi source said Sunday that Riyadh was seeking Pakistani anti-aircraft and anti-tank rockets for forces fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad.
Rebels have long sought anti-aircraft rockets to defend themselves against Syrian warplanes, which regularly bomb rebel-held areas with barrels loaded with TNT and other ordnance.
The United States has opposed arming the rebels with such weapons, fearing they might end up in the hands of extremists.
But Syrian opposition figures say the failure of peace talks in Geneva seems to have led Washington to soften its opposition.
The nearly three-year conflict in Syria has torn the country apart, killing more than 140,000 people including some 50,000 civilians, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Aslam said Pakistan had taken note of the humanitarian situation in Syria and wanted to see the Syrian people getting the supplies they needed.
Russia, a key ally of Syria, on Tuesday warned Saudi Arabia against supplying the rebels with shoulder-launched rocket launchers, saying it would endanger security across the Middle East.
On Wednesday, Syria shipped out a consignment of mustard gas for destruction at sea under a disarmament deal approved by the UN Security Council to dispose of its chemical weapons.
TR Defence’s North America correspondent and acting editor-in-chief Hasan Karaahmet has interviewed Mr. Mike Boots, Patriot Turkey Program Manager at Raytheon Defense Systems, to shed light on some of the most common questions Turkish defense enthusiasts ask regarding Turkey’s T-LORAMIDS long-range air defence program.
Hasan Karaahmet: Mr. Boots, thank you for agreeing to talk to our readers. As a time-tested, battle-proven system, many countries around the world depend on the Patriot, both NATO and non-NATO. What is the driving force behind Patriot’s huge commercial success to this day?
Mike Boots: No other existing system has the proven combat experience of Patriot to engage evolving threats; and no other air and missile defense system has demonstrated the reliability and lower cost of system ownership. Patriot is the backbone of NATO’s lower tier defense, and as you know, Patriot is currently deployed in Turkey by NATO members Germany, the Netherlands and the United States.
Hasan Karaahmet: What is the current level of deployment around the world?
Mike Boots: There are currently over 200 Patriot fire units deployed around the world with Raytheon’s 12 Patriot partners. More than 40 Patriot fire units are now in construction or are undergoing modernization.
Hasan Karaahmet: How about the US? How long does the US military itself plan on using the Patriot air defence system?
Mike Boots: The US Army has committed to fielding Patriot beyond the year 2048.
Hasan Karaahmet: What’s Raytheon’s policy on investments in Turkey?
Mike Boots: Raytheon has a long history working in Turkey — from ground based air defence systems like Stinger and Hawk to tactical radars like Firefinder and Sentinel. From our family of air-to-air missiles like AMRAAM and AIM-9 to naval command management systems like Genesis. Raytheon is committed to partnerships with Turkish industry.
Hasan Karaahmet: Any cooperation prospects in regards to Patriot?
Mike Boots: We are already working closely with several Turkish defence companies to produce Patriot components for export to other countries. For example, Aselsan is a key strategic partner for Raytheon on the Antenna Mast Group for the UAE Patriot system. Roketsan is also a key strategic partner, producing components of GEM-T missile for the UAE and Kuwait. Also, Pagatel is producing command and control shelters, and AYESAS is working on the command and control integration.
Hasan Karaahmet: Turkey’s Undersecreteriat for Defence Industries, the SSM, has adopted a procurement policy favoring local production and technology sharing. What are Raytheon’s views on this?
Mike Boots: Both Roketsan and Aselsan have been awardedRaytheon’s prestigious Supplier Excellence awards for the past two years for the excellent work they have performed on these programs. We anticipate increased global Patriot work share for Roketsan and Aselsan and have recently signed long-ter, agreements with these great companies for collaboration on advanced technology co-development projects in the area of high altitude missile defense. In addition to these strategic partner companies I mentioned, many other Turkish defence companies have the experience and skills we look for in our suppliers. As we win in other countries, they will get the opportunity to compete for additional work for those programs.
Hasan Karaahmet: Can the Patriot system be operated in conjunction with an Aselsan radar or launch a Turkish-made missile with comparable capabilities?
Mike Boots: Patriot can use data and information from a wide variety of sources and can interface with a variety of equipment, including missiles. We would need to know the specific sensors or effectors we are talking about in order to adequately answer that question.
Hasan Karaahmet: Does the US government or certain laws restrict the transfer of know-how on any subsystem or component of Patriot to Turkey?
Mike Boots: No! Turkey is a valuable ally of the United States and a NATO partner. Turkey’s T-LORAMIDS program fulfills an important NATO air and missile defence commitment.
Hasan Karaahmet: Certain reports appeared in the Turkish defence media indicate that the Patriot procurement has been tied to Turkey’s being granted access to F-35 source codes and the SM-2/Aegis technology for TF-2000 class frigates. What can you tell me about this?
Mike Boots: Intellectual property (IP) rights, such as software source codes, are often an issue to be negotiated in any sale of new technology. A customer’s desire for IP rights must be balanced with the rights of the inventor and owner of those rights through the negotiation process.
Hasan Karaahmet: Mr. Boots, how does Patriot compare to the other Western contender in T-LORAMIDS, Eurosam’s SAMP/T? What makes Patriot the better of the two?
Mike Boots: As I mentioned at the beginning of the interview, no other existing system has the proven combat experience of Patriot to engage evolving threats. No other air and missile defence system has demonstrated the reliability and lower cost of system ownership. Patriot is NATO’s lower tier defense with 200 Patriot fire units deployed around the world.
Hasan Karaahmet: In the past, we’ve published statements from mainly US sources that if Turkey opts for a non-Western solution, integration of the SAM system into NATO networks can be problematic. Can you explain to our viewers as to why this is the case?
Mike Boots: We have read and heard similar statements from various sources. NATO is very serious about protecting critical technology from falling into the hands of potential enemies. Patriot is a key element of NATO air and missile defence capability and works seamlessly with the NATO command and control architecture and other NATO defence systems. NATO would be very careful about what other systems might be connected to the architecture.
Hasan Karaahmet: What’s the future for Patriot? Is it going to continue to evolve with new capabilities beyond the GEM=T and PAC-3?
Mike Boots: The Patriot modernization roadmap will ensure Patriot remains the most advanced air and missile defence system in the world. If Turkey chooses Patriot for their long-range air and missile defense system, Turkish industry will have opportunities to participate in co-developing new technologies to help keep Patriot on the leading edge of technology.
Turkey has selected Saab to help shape its plans to design, develop and manufacture its first national fighter jet.
Ankara has already drafted three models, one of which likely will become its first indigenous fighter, although some analysts said Turkey should have opted for an unmanned model.
“After lengthy negotiations with Saab, we have come to the conclusion to go ahead with this company to finalize our feasibility studies,” a senior procurement official familiar with the national fighter program said.
He said that the Swedish aerospace and defense group already has assisted with the three models Turkish engineers have drafted, and these would be presented to top management at the country’s arms procurement agency, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM), as well as to the Air Force.
“We are working to make that presentation in September or October,” the official said.
The Saab group’s office here did not respond to questions by press time.
An official from Tusas Aerospace Industries (TAI), the local prime contractor for the program, said that one of the three drafts is a twin-engine stealth aircraft and the other two are single-engine models, also stealthy.
The procurement official said the program has two problems to overcome.
“We need to pick up the right engine manufacturer with which we should be able to work out a long-term relationship. That will be essential. Also, we need to know that a meticulously devised cost-benefit analysis should prove this is a feasible program,” he said.
A government official said the final decision on whether to launch the manufacturing phase would be made by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“A lot will depend on the findings of the cost-benefit analysis in progress now,” the official said. “We would accept a certain margin that will make the Turkish fighter reasonably more expensive than available options. But if we find out that we could only manufacture a fighter, say, [at a cost] 40 to 50 percent more expensive than a proven, off-the-shelf buy option, then the prime minister would probably drop the idea.”
According to a draft plan, the country is aiming for a maiden flight for its national fighter jet in 2023, the Turkish Republic’s centennial. Production would commence in 2021, and deliveries to the Air Force are planned between 2025 and 2035. The aircraft would remain in service until 2060.
“This is a long-term plan, and given technological developments in the global aerospace scene, the Turks should perhaps have gone for an unmanned fighter,” a London-based Turkey specialist said.
Earlier, TAI signed a technical assistance deal with Saab to carry out conceptual design work. This followed an August 2011 deal signed with SSM to begin the conceptual design work for the fighter and trainer jets that Turkey hopes to build.
Designing the first Turkish fighter, according to defense analysts, is a necessary but not critical step.
“What is crucial here is whether this project would enable Turkey to earn capabilities to successfully integrate avionics, electronics and weapon systems into the chosen platform,” the London-based analyst said.
Saab produces the JAS 39 Gripen, a lightweight, single-engine multirole fighter. Saab has cooperated with other aerospace companies in marketing the aircraft and has achieved moderate success in Central Europe, South Africa and Southeast Asia. More than 240 Gripens have been delivered or ordered.
In 2010, Sweden awarded Saab a four-year contract to improve the Gripen’s equipment, integrate new weapons and lower operating costs. Last August, Sweden announced it planned to buy 40 to 60 Gripen NGs. The Swedish order followed Switzerland’s decision to buy 22 E/F variants of the jet.
For its fighter program, dubbed TF-X, Turkey hopes to copy the method devised to co-produce T-129 attack helicopters with Italian-British AgustaWestland.
“We think this model has worked successfully and could be a template for our fighter program,” the TAI official said.
Turkey also plans to buy the F-35. But Turkish officials said they wanted to develop a fighter jet with another country to reduce Turkey’s dependence on Washington.
Turkey’s aviation industry has come a long way since it began building F-16 Fighting Falcons in the 1980s. Now it is confident that it can produce an aircraft in-country that will not only replace the F-16 but complement the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in years to come.
Turkish Aviation Industries (TAI) has been working quietly on ideas for a fifth-generation fighter, dubbed the F-X, for several years, but 2013 represents a critical year in the decision-making process for the project. A $20 million two-year concept phase, started in August 2011, will end this September, and a meeting of Turkey’s Defense Industry Executive Committee, which takes place at year-end, will define how the program will begin to take shape.
At the IDEF defense show in Istanbul last month, TAI displayed three potential single-seat design concepts for the aircraft: two conventional monoplane layouts, one with a single engine, not dissimilar to the F-35, and one with two engines, while the third featured canard foreplanes and a large delta wing. Each of the concepts features elements of design associated with fifth-generation fighter aircraft, such as faceted fuselages to reduce radar cross-section, internal weapons bays, super-cruise capability as well as advanced avionics and an active, electronically scanned array (AESA) radar system. Engineers have received input from Saab, which was drafted to consult on the program.
TAI officials suggest that the two single-engine concepts will have maximum takeoff weights (MTOW) of 50,000-60,000 lb., while the twin-engine version will have an MTOW of 60,000-70,000 lb. Diagrammatic drawings of the twin-engine aircraft show two weapons bays, one located between the air intakes that can house a pair of small short-range air-to-air missiles, and the other in front of the engines housing four larger missiles around the size of the AIM-120 Amraam.
According to industry officials, the requirements defined by the Turkish air force have changed at least three times, with the specification narrowing to what TAI and Turkish industry will be able to achieve in the coming years. Of the designs shown at IDEF, the twin-engine concept meets the requirements set by the air force, say industry officials, but the service prefers a single-engine aircraft to reduce cost and complexity. Although envisaged as a multirole fighter, TAI officials say the air force may give the resulting aircraft more of an air-to-air/air-dominance role as a primary mission.
Under the current timetable, Turkey will develop the aircraft at the same time as it is paying for the F-35. TAI wants to achieve a first flight for the F-X within 10 years. While the F-35 is set to replace the F-4 Phantoms and early F-16s in the air force inventory, the service sees the F-X replacing later models of the F-16 fleet purchased through various iterations of the Peace Onyx program. The last F-16 produced by TAI was delivered to the air force in December as part of the Peace Onyx IV program.
Finmeccanica company Alenia Aermacchi is to supply eight new-generation ATR 72-600 maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft to the Turkish Navy under a contract amendment signed with Turkey’s Defence Industries Undersecratariat (SSM) at IDEF 2013 in Istanbul on 8 May.
The agreement – which is an amendment to a contract signed in 2005 for the supply of 10 ATR 72-500s – will see the delivery of two platforms configured as Turkish Maritime Utility Aircraft for personnel and cargo transport and six platforms configured as Turkish Maritime Patrol Aircraft (TMPAs) to fulfil Turkey’s maritime patrol requirements.
|The new -600 version of the ATR 72 replaces the now out of production ATR 72-500. Key features include a ‘glass’ cockpit and more powerful engines, which will provide better performance and long-term serviceability, according to the company.
Modification of the two ATR 72-600s is already well under way at Alenia’s plant in Naples-Capodichino, with delivery to the Turkish Navy set for June and July 2013.
Meanwhile, Turkish Aerospace Industry (TAI) has started conversion work on the first of the six ATR 72-600s at its Akinci facility following its delivery in April.
The Turkish military launched a 10-day exercise at a base near the border with Syria on Monday, where fears of a spillover of violence and of the fallout of any chemical weapons use have escalated in recent weeks.
The exercise at Incirlik, a NATO air base outside the city of Adana where U.S. troops are also stationed, will test the military’s readiness for battle and coordination with government ministries, the general staff said in a statement.
“(The exercise will) test joint operations that would be carried out between ministries, public institutions and the armed forces at a time of mobilization and war,” it said.
While the exercise in Adana province, some 100 km (60 miles) from the border, was described by NATO’s second-biggest military as “planned”, it comes at a time of heightened tension.
Turkey is sheltering nearly 400,000 refugees from Syria’s more than two-year conflict, has become one of President Bashar al-Assad’s most vocal critics, and has scrambled war planes along the border as stray gunfire and shelling hit its soil.
A Turkish border guard was killed and six others wounded last week in a clash with armed men at a border crossing along the 900 km frontier.
Turkish experts are meanwhile testing blood samples taken from Syrian casualties brought to a Turkish hospital from fighting in Syria to determine whether they were victims of a chemical weapons attack.
U.S. President Barack Obama last year said the use or deployment of chemical weapons by Assad would cross a “red line”.
Assad’s government and the rebels accuse each other of carrying out three chemical weapon attacks, one near Aleppo and another near Damascus, both in March, and another in Homs in December.
The civil war began with anti-government protests in March 2011. The conflict has now claimed an estimated 70,000 lives and forced 1.2 million Syrian refugees to flee.
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.