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Turkish Anti-Tank Missiles Are Extremely Sophisticated

August 27, 2021
The OMTAS is an ATGM with alternating guidance options. Via Roketsan.

With the exception of the United States no other NATO ally is advancing its military-industrial sector as fast as Turkey. At the recent IDEF 2021 arms show that took place in Istanbul from August 17 until 20 all the major state-owned companies under the SSB’s authority participated. The remarkable indigenization of Turkish aerospace and naval technology is hard to ignore. But even less scrutinized are Turkish missiles, especially the portable kind. Roketsan developed a new generation of anti-tank missiles tailored for ease-of-use and extended ranges. Once these are exported abroad and prove themselves the outcomes for belligerents in any conflict can shift dramatically.

Although Turkey’s ground forces are reliant on a variety of anti-armor and anti-bunker weapons these may soon be replaced by a more effective local solution. The OMTAS and UMTAS missiles, along with the shoulder-fired Karaok launcher, represent a new generation of smart weapons for Turkish soldiers. The OMTAS in particular is an improvement over the army’s older ATGMs such as the MILAN and the BGM-71 TOW. The army also has the Eryx, a French short-range ATGM, and the Russian-made Kornet in its arsenal. A distinct advantage of the OMTAS is its adaptability; armored vehicle manufacturer FNSS offers unmanned turrets for carrying OMTAS missiles.

According to Roketsan’s own product information the OMTAS missile is like the Raytheon TOW 2B in terms of function and flight characteristics. The OMTAS, however, is a larger missile (160mmx1800mm) in a container that’s easy to carry and mount. By comparison, the TOW 2B is a missile that’s manually loaded into a steel launch tube. When it comes to range the OMTAS flies a little farther, reaching 4,000 meters or 4 kilometers compared to the 3.75 km of the TOW 2B. Only the enhanced TOW 2B Aero surpasses the OMTAS in range. As for its guidance system the OMTAS is unique for its hybridized controls. The operator, who is crouched behind the command unit/control panel, selects whether the launch is fire-and-forget or if person-in-the-loop is maintained for directing the missile’s trajectory. This makes the OMTAS similar to other European ATGMs that emerged in the 2010s such as the Ukrainian Skif and the French MMP.

The OMTAS’ first public appearance on record was at an arms show in the UAE from 2015. The complete weapon system then became a part of Roketsan’s catalog. While it’s already approved for export the OMTAS has so far resisted success abroad. The same applies to its siblings the UMTAS and the UMTAS-L whose ranges were enhanced to as far as 8 km. Both UMTAS variants are analogous to the AGM-114 Hellfire whose use on fixed wing aircraft and helicopters shaped the Middle East’s history for three decades running.

If the OMTAS is described by Roketsan as a medium-range ATGM the Karaok is its short-range counterpart patterned after the well-known FGM-148 Javelin. The Karaok is a 125mm diameter missile with a cold launch and flyover or top attack trajectory for reaching its targets. Unlike the Javelin the Karaok still lacks a portable command unit/control panel. As far as can be ascertained the Karaok is a work in progress although, being a short-range ATGM, it may require smaller components and a lightweight mounting station. The Turkish army’s experience with the Eryx ATGM will certainly influence the Karaok’s handling.

When judged from a Middle Eastern perspective Turkey’s military-industrial sector–Roketsan in particular–is now able to mass-produce an entire range of anti-tank weapons. This puts it on par with Iran and Israel. But Roketsan’s ATGMs lack a combat record, a shortcoming that may soon be remedied when exports materialize to willing neighbors, and this works in Ankara’s favor since it has cultivated several allies who can afford new missile technology that are neither American nor Russian. The OMTAS ATGM in particular is a serious threat for opponents facing Turkish-backed forces. It’s the largest top attack missile developed by a NATO member state with a range surpassing the earlier generation of wire-guided ATGMs that have proliferated in the region.

From a European perspective the OMTAS remains a formidable weapon system; only France and Sweden have top attack ATGMs with similar characteristics. The OMTAS is clearly superior to the FGM-148 Javelin in every aspect and the fact it can be disassembled then transported with ease is a selling point for end users who want alternatives other than Soviet vintage ATGMs. The OMTAS will no doubt continue to be improved this decade and there are a handful of simmering conflicts where it might actually show up.

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