A helicopter launches a Roketsan-developed Cirit laser-guided missile. (Roketsan)
ANKARA — A host of regional symmetrical and asymmetrical threats, and their unusually swift rise in prominence, are leading the Turkish government to focus on smart munitions.
Turkey’s neighbors include countries with which it has limited or no diplomatic ties (Israel, Egypt, Syria, Cyprus and Armenia) and others with which relations are tense (Greece, Iraq and Iran). Along its southern and southeastern borders, Turkey faces a belt of irregular armies, from al-Qaida-style jihadist factions to Kurdish paramilitaries.
“We feel compelled to develop a new threat concept: multitude and rapidly changing prominence of present and future security threats that come in both symmetrical and asymmetrical flavors,” a senior military officer explained. “To counter all in the best efficient way, we think smart munitions programs will be essential.”
Analysts said the rapid advance in June of radical Islamists from eastern Syria to western and central Iraq and an attack on a Turkish consulate forcefully reminded Ankara that it must always be prepared for asymmetrical war. Since a Sunni militant group now calling itself the Islamic State took control of the Iraqi city of Mosul and seized 49 personnel at the Turkish consulate there, Ankara has engaged in silent diplomacy for the release of the captives.
A procurement official here said the military increasingly favors indigenous programs designed to maximize deterrence.
“We agree with the military to choose quality over quantity,” he said. “That leads us to high-tech local development programs that feature high firepower. That generic description will enable the military to counter both symmetrical and asymmetrical threats in our volatile region.”
The military official said, “The threats we must encounter are often too regional and sometimes country-specific. We need the sort of munitions that most of our NATO allies in Europe would not need. And we need them locally developed in order to minimize dependency on foreign suppliers.”
Turkish engineers, officers and procurement officials have been working on scores of smart munitions programs to minimize costs and maximize lethality, precision and firepower.
In February, state-run missile maker Roketsan said it won a $196.2 million contract from the United Arab Emirates for its Cirit laser-guided rocket system. 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.
Airbus Helicopters selected the Cirit for a test and integration program to equip the company’s EC635. Roketsan is also producing canisters for US company Lockheed Martin’s Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile.
Roketsan also developed an anti-tank missile, Mizrak-U, formerly Umtas. First deliveries are still awaited. The missile has had several successful field tests. Mizrak-O, the medium-range version, also awaits government go-ahead for serial production.
With its infrared imaging, laser-seeker options and range of 8 kilometers, the Mizrak-U can be used in air-to-ground and ground-to-ground operations.
Roketsan also has been tasked with producing and marketing the SOM cruise missile, a high-precision missile that can be land-, sea- or air-launched. Developed since 2006 by defense research and development institute TÜBÍTAK-Sage, the SOM is Turkey’s first domestic weapon to attack stationary and moving targets at a standoff distance of more than 180 kilometers.
“We think the SOM-J, a reduced size version of the SOM, could be ideal for inner carriage in the F-35,” a procurement official said. “Another version would carry a penetrating bomb [the Turkish-developed NEB].” ■