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Turkish Plethora of 'First National Systems' at Full Speed

Development of 'National Systems' Moves at Full Speed

Apr. 22, 2013 - 03:45AM   |  
By BURAK EGE BEKDIL   |   Comments
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ANKARA — Hardly a day passes without a Turkish defense company proudly announcing that it has designed, developed and produced a weapon system the country would normally buy off-the-shelf from a foreign supplier. The most recent indigenously developed Turkish weapon is an anti-tank missile, the UMTAS.

Turkish military officials are anxiously awaiting the first serial production and delivery of the UMTAS.

“After years of going from one foreign supplier to another, we are happy to have our companies providing us with national solutions,” a senior Army official said.

Procurement officials said the UMTAS has recently undergone several successful field tests.

“This system can quickly find foreign buyers and mark an impressive transformation [of Turkey] from an import-dependent country into an exporting one,” one procurement official said. “It is relatively low-cost and reliable.”

State-owned missile maker Roketsan initiated the long-range anti-tank UMTAS missile project in efforts, first, to meet local demand from the Turkish Armed Forces, and later to export it, especially to countries in the region.

The UMTAS, with its infrared imaging and laser-seeker options, is an anti-tank missile with a range of 8 kilometers to be used in air-to-ground and ground-to-ground operations.

Roketsan officials said the system is going through further tests for technical properties and compatibility with environmental conditions. Thus far, the system has completed ballistic-missile tests and controlled-missile tests, and its sub-system design has been finished, they said.

The UMTAS is considered the official anti-tank system for the T-129, the helicopter gunship Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) is co-producing with Italian-British AgustaWestland in a US $3.2 billion project. It also can be integrated into the Anka, Turkey’s first locally developed unmanned aircraft. Other potential platforms to be outfitted with the UMTAS are armored land vehicles and naval vessels.

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Roketsan officials said they plan to develop the L-UMTAS, the same anti-tank missile with laser seeker warheads and missiles using high-explosive particles.

In February, Roketsan said it won a contract from the United Arab Emirates to sell its laser-guided rocket system, known as the Cirit, under a contract worth $196.2 million. The deal comes as Turkey seeks to boost arms exports to Arabian Gulf countries. The Emirati Army is the first foreign customer for the Cirit system.

The Cirit is one of several programs launched by Turkey to equip the Army’s T-129, AH-1P Cobra and AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters with low-cost precision strike capabilities. The 70 mm rocket has a range of 8 kilometers.

French-German company Eurocopter selected the Cirit for a test and integration program to equip the Eurocopter EC635. Roketsan is also producing canisters for Lockheed Martin’s Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile.

Analysts say the commercial development of the Anka boosted Turkish defense manufacturing.

“The Anka is the first aerial platform totally designed, developed and manufactured by Turkish engineering. It has a symbolic importance,” said Ceyhun Ozguven, an Ankara-based analyst.

The Anka has a 56-foot wingspan, a top speed of 75 knots and a maximum altitude of 30,000 feet. It completed military testing in late January and is set for serial production. Turkey aims to export the drone around the region, with the Egyptian government reportedly considering an order.

With the Anka headed for serial production, TAI has already begun developing an armed version of the drone called the Anka +A that will be outfitted with Cirit missiles .

On March 6, Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul showed the Anka to Jordan’s King Abdullah, along with other military products, such as the T-129 and the Hurkus, a basic trainer aircraft TAI is developing. In 2012, Turkey exported about $1.2 billion worth of defense equipment, a 35.7 percent rise over 2011. The main export destinations were the US, UAE and Saudi Arabia. The industry is aiming for $2 billion in exports by 2016.

Turkey’s procurement office, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM), has a regional office in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for overseeing and coordinating export activities in the region.

Other Turkish weapons include the Altay tank, a $400 million project developed and produced by privately owned armored vehicles maker Otokar. South Korea’s Hyundai Rotem and Turkey’s Roketsan and Aselsan, a state-owned military communications and electronics company, are among the project’s sub-contractors. Also, last month Aselsan said it successfully developed the country’s first indigenous identification friend or foe (IFF) system and delivered the first prototypes to the Turkish military. ■

Email: bbekdil@defensenews.com.

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