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With The T-300 MLRS Turkey Joins The Rocket Artillery Club

May 7, 2015
Turkish Roketsan T-300

The T-300 during a military parade.

Less than a dozen countries can boast having mature rocket artillery capabilities. Turkey is one of them thanks to the state-owned Roketsan, a defense contractor specializing in ordnance. In less than 20 years Roketsan expanded its R&D and product range until these reached parity with similar offerings from Russia, China, and the European Union.

During this week’s massive IDEF 2015 arms show Roketsan displayed the T-300, the heaviest rocket artillery system used by the Turkish armed forces, outside their booth in Hall 5 of the spacious venue. The T-300 is an exotic piece of hardware that’s uncommon among modern militaries and even the NATO alliance. Only Russia and China seem to have a requirement for such large rockets; their own 300mm multi-launch systems–BM-30 and PHL-03, respectively–come to mind.

A complete outlier is Iran whose military-industrial sector churns out large and very large calibers with ease. The Fadjr 5, for example, is a 333mm rocket with a range of almost 100 kilometers. A two-stage variant of the Fadjr 5 can reach targets twice farther. The Nazeat and Zelzal battlefield rockets aren’t just heavier but are able to strike within 200 kilometers.

Not letting itself fall behind an ambitious neighbor, Turkey seems to have allowed Roketsan to innovate by imitating a foreign system. A quick check of their surface-to-surface product line reveals their artillery rocket program originates with the lightweight 107mm rocket and its 12-barrel launcher mounted on a towed carriage. The system is better known as the Type 63, a Chinese product that was predictably crude but effective for asymmetric wars in the developing world, with a combat record dating back to the Vietnam War.

The Type 63’s reputation is still thriving in active war zones like Iraq where its Iranian copy the the Fadjr 1 is being used against the Islamic State, whose rockets are either salvaged from the enemy or assembled in workshops. Meanwhile, at some point in the last 30 years Turkey seems to have acquired a license for both the 107mm Type 63 and the 122mm Type 81 that were available from China’s military-industrial conglomerate Norinco and Roketsan made its own improvements on these originals. Each of Roketsan’s ground-based munitions were designated “T” hence the T-107, T-122, T-230, and the T-300.

Roketsan has been very successful with its fresh spin on the 122mm rocket whose caliber was popularized by the Soviet Union’s prolific Grad launchers. The T-122’s carrier vehicle supports two cells with 20 tubes each mounted on either a 6×6 or 8×8 MAN truck equipped with GPS. Operational by 2004 the T-122 has so far been exported to Azerbaijan, a major customer for Turkish arms, and has seen extensive use during the Turkish army’s forays into Syria. Each T-122 is part of a battery with six carrier vehicles accompanies by six ammunition supply vehicles and at least three command vehicles.

As an indirect fire system, T-122 batteries are fed data by either personal input over a communications network, a ground-based radar, or a UAV surveilling targets. For medium-range precision fires the TRG-122, whose rockets are converted to missiles by a warhead equipped with a new guidance system and canards, boasts a minimum range of 16 kilometers and a maximum range of 35 km. Enemy fortifications and critical infrastructure are the most vulnerable to bombardment by massed battlefield rockets. Their effect on troop morale is considerable and the threat of sustained rocket attacks may slow down enemy movements in a theater.

The T-300 and its precision variants the TRG/TRGK-300 are far deadlier given their size. Loaded on a four-tube launcher on either a 6×6 or 8×8 truck like the T-122 the T-300’s rocket matches the Russian Smerch in terms of range and destructiveness. When upgraded with a guidance unit, however, the range extends to 90 km and as far as 120 km making the TRG/TRGK a ballistic missile. It’s worth noting that appearance-wise, the T-300 does resemble the Norinco A 100 albeit with a quartet of cylindrical tubes and a different carrier vehicle. The T-300’s cab, like the T-122, also supports a .50 M2 Browning secondary armament.

The T-300 and its guided variants are approved for export and Azerbaijan is the first known operator. It was later confirmed the UAE also acquired TRG/TRGK-300 missiles for its Jobaria mobile rocket launcher.