ANKARA — In what is viewed as a vital test of indigenous industrial capability, a Turkish defense electronics company has been tasked with developing a sophisticated strategic radar.
Aselsan, Turkey’s biggest defense firm, said it signed a $103 million contract with the government’s procurement agency, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries, to develop a multimission, phased array radar under a program dubbed CAFRAD Faz-1.
The CAFRAD will be similar to the ALPHA multimission M-2258 advanced lightweight phased-array naval radar developed by Israel’s IAI and Elta for blue water and littoral warfare support.
Industry analysts said Aselsan’s venture was quite ambitious and marks a first time in testing Turkey’s local capabilities.
“No doubt this is a challenge for Aselsan,” said one London-based Turkey specialist. “If the Turks succeeded in this program, they will certainly have passed a critical threshold in radar technology.”
A senior Aselsan official was “realistically optimistic” about success. “We are perfectly aware of the technological challenges our engineers will be facing. And we are definitely confident that Aselsan has the capabilities to develop this radar in line with the specified timetable.”
In a written statement, Aselsan said that deliveries under the program would be completed between 2014 and 2018. The company will cooperate with the state scientific research institute, TUBITAK, for the CAFRAD.
Under the plan, a first phase will contain the development of an illumination radar and a non-rotating identify friend or foe (IFF) system. The second phase will involve the development of long-range surveillance and multifunctional radars.
According to the Aselsan official, the CAFRAD demonstrator will define the primary antenna mast architecture for the TF-2000, an air defense frigate Turkey has been developing, and for the vessel’s combat management and area air defense missile systems.
He said the work would focus on more sophisticated tests and development after 2014.
“I think that will be the critical period,” he said.
Earlier this year, Aselsan announced that it developed the country’s first indigenous IFF system and delivered the first prototypes to the Turkish military. Aselsan had signed a contract with Turkey’s Ministry of National Defense in December 2006 to design, develop and manufacture the prototypes.
The Aselsan prototypes passed a final round of performance tests in November. They will be installed on Turkey’s F-4 fighter jets and air defense radars and, at later stages, other aerial and naval platforms, except F-16 fighters. IFF enables military and national interrogation systems to identify aircraft, vehicles or forces as friendly and to determine their bearing and range from the interrogator.
In 2011, Aselsan inked an approximately $1 billion contract to sell low- and medium-altitude air defense systems to the Turkish military. Under that contract, Aselsan is developing all radar, fire control, command-and-control and communications systems for the program. Aselsan also will develop and produce missile heads and data links.