Better Sensors: Aselsan is developing ASELFLIR-235, a multisensor electro-optical surveillance and targeting system, which it hopes will improve the capabilities of its Anka drone prototype. (Turkish Aerospace Industries)
ANKARA — Turkey is pushing toward self-sufficiency in radar and electro-optics technologies, with several programs underway to outfit fighter jets, UAVs and satellites.
A senior procurement official familiar with these programs said Turkey has a policy to support research and development (R&D) and investments in this field. “This is a priority area for us,” he said.
An industry source said that more than US $1 billion in combined R&D spending and business contracts could be invested in the next five years.
“There are numerous ongoing programs, and a governmental dedication to invest in new technologies,” he said.
One ambitious program involves efforts by military specialist Aselsan to develop a radar that the company hopes will be fitted to the TF-X, an indigenous fighter jet Tusas that Turkish Aerospace Industries has designed.
The Turkish fighter program awaits the government’s go-ahead to progress into the development phase.
“This radar can be based on gallium nitride technology,” one Aselsan official said. Developing gallium nitride technology is one of the defense-related R&D programs targeted for development last year by Turkey’s arms procurement agency, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM).
Gallium nitride is a next-generation semiconductor that promises smaller, more power radars. US companies have been leading its development.
“We are determined to invest in this field,” the procurement official said.
Aselsan also has been developing ASEL-FLIR-235, a multisensor electro-optical surveillance and targeting system. ASELFLIR- 235 features an infrared camera, spotter TV camera, dual-band laser designator, laser pointer and laser spot tracker.
Aselsan hopes that ASELFLIR-235 will prove to be a better fit than the ASELFLIR-300 series, outfitted on the Israeli-made Heron drones, the Turkish drone prototype Anka as well as to naval platforms, including two tank landing ships that are being built.
A radar specialist said the 235 model is about 30 percent lighter than the 300 and features better resolution and tracking. “It will mark a remarkable progress,” he said.
But SSM has insisted on tests for the 235 before a contract is signed to install the system on the Anka.
Aselsan also is developing ASELFLIR-135, a multisensor electro-optical surveillance system designed for tactical UAVs, helicopters and small naval platforms. It features an infrared camera, color TV camera, laser rangefinder and laser pointer.
Meanwhile, Turkey will soon receive the first deliveries of the DW110, a strategic reconnaissance pod developed by Goodrich, a US company. The pods will be outfitted on scores of Turkish F-16 fighters. The pods have an operational range of up to 150 kilometers.
“We may task Aselsan with developing an indigenous pod with a long range like DW110,” the procurement official said.
But industry sources said electro-optical technology may become a common component of Turkey’s numerous satellite projects.
“Most of these programs will feature electro-optical cameras for satellite applications,” one satellite industry expert said.
Tubitak-Uzay, a space unit of Turkey’s state scientific research institute, under a program called “Imece,” is developing electro-optical cameras for ongoing and future satellite projects.
According to a government road map for military and civilian satellites, Turkey plans to send into orbit 16 satellites by 2020.
A space industry expert based here said the next five years’ satellite contracts could amount to $2 billion. ■