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Networking, UAVs Drive Turkey's Effort to Control Battlefield

Oct. 29, 2013 - 07:52AM   |  
By BURAK EGE BEKDIL   |   Comments
Turkish soldiers stand guard in 2012 in Akcakale, near the country's border with Syria. Turkey's military plans to buy new electronic systems to improve battlefield communications. (AFP via Getty Images)
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ANKARA — Turkey plans to manage combat communications among multiple networked platforms to give commanders the most comprehensive picture possible of the battlefield.

In the overall picture, the military command here wants to see full integration, with various assets effectively talking to each other, and allowing commanders to benefit from an all-electronic warfare management system.

“Better networking is essential, but not sufficient. We would need the UAVs, space assets and electronic systems like advanced jammers fully integrated with each other,” said a senior military official who deals with battlefield management.

A senior official from Aselsan, Turkey’s biggest military electronics company, said an increasing number of systems aimed at better battlefield management will be coming online.

“It is an established view that advanced electronic systems for better networking and [combat] management will gain further prominence. Aselsan presently is working on a variety of new systems to be presented to the government,” the senior official said, although details are still secret.

A procurement official said battlefield management will be a promising market for local firms.

“There is an increasing need [for such programs]. We will go for local solutions and encourage local companies to invest in innovative programs,” he said.

Turkey has made substantial progress in integrating its military command-and-control (C2) systems. The country’s C2-level information management system, HvBS (Air Data System), commands the Air Force’s strategic, tactical and managerial functions and is up and running. The Army and Navy are still building individual systems, but the long-range goal is the integration of the C2 systems of each service.

In the first phase of a national program to broaden networking capabilities, the Army and Navy are expected to synchronize C2 systems with that of the Air Force.

Turkey is striving to fully integrate all of its C2 systems, including drones, military satellites, airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft and radar systems, on a national level. Locally made drones will be part of the proposed management system.

Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), based here, has been developing the Anka, the country’s first indigenous UAV. Turkish procurement authorities are preparing to sign a contract to buy 10 Ankas.

The Anka passed acceptance tests in January, and has completed more than 150 flight hours. TAI could develop a satellite-controlled version of the Anka, company officials said.

The Anka is a medium-altitude, long-endurance drone; such UAVs usually operate for 24 hours at an altitude of 10,000 feet.

Meanwhile, Aselsan has been tasked with the integration of airborne systems that Ankara intends to buy from a foreign supplier to develop standoff jamming capabilities. This is an approximately US $1 billion program, including aircraft and subsystems.

The standoff jammers will enable Turkish military aircraft to conduct surveillance and jam enemy radars and communications networks during offensive airborne operations, according to the program’s official description.

In the mid-1990s, Aselsan produced and delivered the JAMINT-2U, a jammer system designed for the Turkish C-160 military transport plane. Under a 2009 contract, Aselsan produced its JAMINT 3 V/UHF tactical communications jammer system.

Analysts said VHF/UHF radio communications are an essential element in modern combat command and control, as the ability to disrupt enemy communications links in critical situations is an effective force multiplier.

Air Force Data Management

In the past, the Turkish Air Force carried out its operational processes either manually or by using nonintegrated individual applications. But HvBS, built by state-run military software firm Havelsan, allows the service to manage its strategic, tactical and operational planning, combining battle management and resource management systems.

The main functional areas of the battle management subsystem include operations, intelligence and flight training. It integrates the Air Force’s core business processes, including flight planning, the loading of flight data into the aircraft, and flight and after-flight processes. Fast access to geospatial information integrates the many processes with geographical components.

Another Air Force command-and-control system integrates radars and airspace control units, both national and NATO. This system will need to integrate additional assets, such as military satellites and a NATO missile defense radar system deployed last year in southeastern Turkey.

In terms of space communications, state-affiliated TURKSAT operates a three-satellite constellation that covers the entire Middle East, but officials said it is only for civil use. Two of the satellites were built by France’s Aerospatiale and the third by Thales Alenia Space.

TURKSAT is preparing to commission two more communication satellites under a contract awarded to Japan last year.

The Turkish military’s space-based assets are geared more toward intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions. Placed in orbit late in December was Gokturk-2, an Earth-observation satellite designed and built by TUBITAK-UZAY, the Turkish Scientific and Technological Research Institute’s space technologies institute, in cooperation with Turkish Aerospace Industries.

Gokturk-2 was launched from Jiuquan, China, on Dec. 18. Including 80 percent indigenously developed technology and 100 percent domestically developed software, Gokturk-2 provides daylight imagery of 2.5 meters’ resolution. It is Turkey’s second national satellite.

The ISR data gathered by national assets, including Gokturk-2 and an unknown number of operational and planned UAVs, will need to be integrated into Turkey’s C2 network for dissemination at strategic and tactical levels.

Meanwhile, despite major delays in a contract with Boeing for AEW&C aircraft, dubbed Peace Eagle, Turkey hopes it finally will commission its 737-based aircraft this year. This AEW&C system will be integrated into a broader national network, to include all military assets, according to the military official. Peace Eagle includes four AEW&C aircraft.

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