There continues to be a considerable amount of confusion about Turkish air defenses, its ongoing efforts to build a cruise missile, and its stocks of foreign supplied missiles. As part of the current government’s plan to improve the country’s domestic arms industry, Turkey has announced plans to develop its own cruise and ballistic missiles. A cruise missile uses an air breathing engine and does not leave the atmosphere. Typically, the missiles have a low trajectory, are relatively slow, and are designed to have a very low radar cross section. A ballistic missile uses a rocket engine and is capable of leaving the atmosphere, thus having a ballistic trajectory.
Israel sold Turkey 46 AGM-142A/Popeye-1 cruise missiles in 2002. The missile has an 80 km range and is designed for delivery by Turkey’s Israeli upgraded F-4s.
France sold Turkey 25 MM-38 Exocet anti-ship cruise missiles in 2000. They have a range of 40 km.
Turkey also has a large number of Harpoon anti-ship cruise missiles. The American made weapon has been the backbone of Turkey’s coastal defense. They are deployed on Turkish frigates.
The Stand off Munition (SOM)- The SOM is Turkey’s first indigenous effort to build its own cruise missile. According to TUBITAK, “the missile has a range over 180 km and it has a specially designed body to avoid detection from air defense radars. It is able to follow the waypoints and terrain contours and make route corrections accordingly. To aid with the missile’s tightly coupled INS and GPS mid course guidance system, a Terrain Referenced Navigation (TRN) system has also been incorporated. Even if the GPS signal is jammed or interrupted, with the help of this system, the missile can get position updates using the terrain data preloaded to its computer. On its terminal phase, the missile matches the image from its imaging infrared (IIR) seeker with the one loaded during mission planning, hits the target with a few meters accuracy and destroys it with its high explosive warhead. The missile has been developed to be used with F-4E 2020 and F-16 Block 40 aircrafts of Turkish Air Force. In addition, the work related with the certification of the missile to F-35 aircraft has recently been started.”
As is the case with the Popeye, the SOM is an air-to-surface missile designed to destroy land and sea targets. The range suggests that Turkey had the Missile Technology Control Regime Regulations in mind while designing the weapon. Thus, Turkey might try and export the SOM in the future. However, there has been little information released about the use of SOM in combat or the results of its tests.
Moreover, missile’s range should be taken with a grain of salt. For example, “the range may be understated depending on whether or not it’s calculated on the basis of a low flight profile all the way from launch to the target or a high altitude one, where fuel is more efficiently used due to thinner air. On the other hand, it has a rather small overall weight (600 kg), implying that only so much fuel can be stuffed into the missile, thus limiting its overall range.” (Information obtained from a private conversation with cruise missile expert – another side note – I have tried to talk to people from TUBITAK on multiple occasions about the SOM, but they have thus far refused to even answer my emails.)
Turkey does not have any long range ballistic missiles, though the government has announced that it has plans to develop one in the future. On the surface, the program makes absolutely no sense, considering that ballistic missiles have very little military value when armed with conventional warheads. Thus, I have no idea what the mission requirements would be for a Turkish ballistic missile.
However, the missile could be used as a platform for a satellite launch vehicle. I would assume that this is the ultimate goal of the project, though the Turkish government’s opacity makes this difficult to discern. If interested in reading more about the topic click here.
Turkey’s Roketsan has been working on the “J” program to develop short range ballistic missiles, though little information is available about the project. To date, Turkey appears to have developed the J-600 T Yildirim. The missile was a joint project between Roketsan and China’s CPMIEC. The missile is based on China’s WS-1 battlefield ballistic missile, and thus probably has a range of about 150 km. It is reported to use both an inertial guidance system and GPS. The exact weight of the warhead is unknown, though it has been reported to be either 150 kg or 450 kg. (Click here for more info). There are reports of longer range variants, though the information is inconsistent. I have a feeling the program is part of Turkey’s larger efforts to develop a longer range ballistic missile and not really driven by military need. As is the case with most of Turkey’s military programs, more information is needed.
Turkish surface-to-air defenses
Turkey has imported the American made FIM-43C Redeye from both Germany and the United States. The missile is a man portable device that preceded the development of the widely used stinger missile. I am not sure if the missile is still used. In any case, it has a range of 4500 meters.
Turkey first imported the UK made Rapier in the early 1980s. In the early 2000s, Turkey contracted with the suppliers to upgrade the SAM systems. They are now dubbed the Rapier 2000, which has a range out to 6,800 meters. The Rapier-2000 radar “has maximum detection range in excess of 15km. An optional range of 32km is available. The Blindfire tracking radar, supplied by Alenia Marconi Systems, is a differential monopulse frequency agile radar operating at F-band which provides fully automatic all-weather engagement. The output is sufficiently powerful to burn through most jamming signals and the radar uses advanced frequency management techniques to evade jamming and other hostile electronic countermeasures. The system incorporates a self-surveillance reversionary mode of operation. A dedicated missile command link provides dual firing capability. Turkey’s blind fire radars were also imported and upgraded along with the Rapier.”
Turkey also imported the American made I-HAWK MIM 23-B in 2005. While the U.S. has replaced the system with Patriot, Turkey continues to use the system. It has a range of 25 km and a ceiling of 17700 meters.
Turkey has made vague references to its missile future. However, I would assume that the next phase will likely be to extend the range of the SOM. For nonproliferation people, this should be of note because of the potential for export and the possibilities of undermining the MTCR. I would also assume that the SOM’s development will have implications for Turkey’s drone program. The turbofan engine could be of use for both programs. (The ANKA UAV does not have a turbofan engine). Lastly, Ankara appears intent on building both satellites and longer range ballistic missiles. As many of you probably already know, Ankara is building two military satellites. It appears as if Turkey wants the capability to launch the satellites itself. However, Turkish statements indicate that Ankara is interested in both an SLV and a long range ballistic missile. The missiles have almost no military value, thus Ankara should expect a lot of scrutiny about this project. Turkey should be more transparent about its missile plans. It loses nothing by announcing its plans and making more information available to the tax-paying public and the international community.
*Turkey has an impressive number of anti-tank missiles, as well as air-to-air missiles that I did not include in this discussion.
** UAVS will be discussed in a later post. Briefly, Turkey’s stockpile consists of the Heron, the Gnat, Aerostar (soon to be returned to Israel), the Searcher, and the ANKA (used in 100 undefined sorties since development).