ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s state-controlled missile maker, Roketsan, has set out to an ambitious program to produce the country’s first surface-to-surface, laser-guided missile.
The 230mm TRGL-230 will largely be used in Turkey’s overseas military operations, officials said. The missile is expected to complement Turkey’s unarmed TB2 Akinci drone fleet, with the UAV designating a target and the TRGL-230 launching from the ground to hit the target.
The TB2 is a medium-altitude, long-endurance, tactical UAV developed and built by Kale-Baykar, a joint venture of Baykar Makina and the Kale Group. It can perform reconnaissance and intelligence missions, and recently Baykar Makina launched a naval version of the TB2. The Turkish military is currently operating 75 TB2 drones, mainly in its fight against Kurdish militants in Turkey and along its borders with Iraq and Syria.
Turkey keeps troops in northeastern Syria and northern Iraq to combat Kurdish separatist guerrillas holed up in mountainous terrain in Iraq and flat terrain in Syria. Turkey, the United States and the European Union have designated Kurdish fighters as a terrorist organization. The group has been fighting Turkey for autonomy. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the violence that began in 1984.
Turkish drones are also widely used in the Libyan civil war. Turkey sends military equipment and personnel in support of the Tripoli-based government of Fayez al-Sarraj, prime minister of the Libyan Government of National Accord.
Work on the TRGL-230 began in April 2020, Roketsan officials said, and it’s currently in the design phase. Company officials also said the missile will be locally developed without foreign involvement.
“Turkey does not have in its military inventory a missile in that class [23mm and surface-to-surface],” an industry source said. “This will be a ‘cheap-to-maintain/operate’ option for the military, as the planned missile can be launched from any land platform.”
Turkey has operated laser-guided missiles launched from manned or unmanned aircraft, but the TRGL-230 will be its first such missile with a surface-launch capability.
Laser designators on the TB2s were developed and built by military electronics specialist Aselsan, Turkey’s largest defense company (and 48th on this year’s Defense News Top 100 list).
Visiting Roketsan headquarters near Ankara on Aug. 30 to inaugurate a Space Technolgoies and Advanced Technologies Research Center along with a facility for producing raw explosive chemicals material, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan praised the company’s efforts to “nationalize critical technology.”
“We [Turkey] are now in the space league in terms of domestic and national projects. I would like to announce the good news that we are set to begin the first space trials of our domestically developed liquid-propellant rocket engine technology,” Erdogan said.
Roketsan plans to produce RDX (research and development explosive) and HMX (high-melting explosive), two critical elements used in conventional warheads, at its explosive chemicals plant. Turkey is highly dependent on warheads in its routine air raids on Kurdish outposts in Iraq and Syria.
A procurement official said Turkey previously procured both elements from European suppliers. But as some European countries imposed arms embargoes on Turkey after a cross-border operation into northern Syria in October, Turkey has turned to suppliers like China, South Africa and countries of the former Soviet bloc in Eastern Europe.
Roketsan officials say Turkey needs 80 tons of chemical explosive raw material per year. “Of that, 55 tons will be supplied from our new raw material plant,” a company official said. “We want to end our dependency on foreign suppliers.”
Roketsan posted $515.18 million in defense revenue in 2019, ranking 91st in Defense News’ Top 100 list.