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Turkey Is Preparing A Road Mobile Cruise Missile Launcher

October 12, 2021
Via Roketsan.

The IDEF 2021 arms show in August once again showcased Turkey’s military products to the world. As a longstanding NATO member the rapid technological advancement of its domestic weapon systems are unparalleled–a mere 10 years ago not a single combat drone was in service with the armed forces while today Turkey boasts the largest selection of combat drones in the alliance. In the context of the Middle East the advances observed among Turkish weapon systems helps Ankara’s aspirations to become a regional power. The evidence is far from secret and one aerospace manufacturer revealed its latest project via its social media activity. Roketsan’s ATMACA anti-ship missile is being adapted for a road mobile transporter-launcher.

The ATMACA is comparable to the US-made RGM-84 Harpoon, which is the most widely exported anti-ship missile in the 20th century, and has a range of 220 kilometers. Having undergone testing in 2020 the ATMACA is now in serial production and will soon arm Turkey’s new generation of surface combatants. Although a subsonic missile whose characteristics lag behind supersonic rivals such as the Chinese-made YJ-12E and Russian-made P-800 Oniks (the latter operated by Syria) the ATMACA’s success further advances Turkey’s goals for a self-sufficient military-industrial sector. Considering how it faces geopolitical threats from nearly all its neighbors it isn’t surprising the ATMACA is being adapted for a new role.

There are unconfirmed reports the KARA ATMACA will be a cruise missile with a range close to 300 km. Although Roketsan published concept art (see above) for its latest effort the exact type of transporter was obscured. Its appearance does inspire comparisons with the earlier variants of road mobile Harpoon AShMs and their carrier vehicles. The requirement for the KARA ATMACA seems to have been influenced by the recent episodes of ground warfare the Turkish armed forces have gotten involved in. So-called “long-range precision fires” is a concept that has seized the imagination of military planners everywhere even more so when the acquisition costs involved are a fraction compared to expensive strike aircraft. Having fought battles with the Syrian Arab Army, whose rocket and ballistic missile arsenal remains intact, and provided material support for Azerbaijan’s latest war against Armenia–where artillery and counter-artillery had a major role–the Turkish armed forces are undoubtedly aware their own aging US-supplied artillery won’t perform well against new threats.

Owing to its efficient military-industrial sector Turkey’s Roketsan has assembled a selection of rocket artillery weapon systems that now stand as the largest in NATO. It’s also just as formidable in the context of the Caucasus and the Middle East. Thanks to Roketsan’s perseverance, the Turkish army have short, medium, and long-range rocket artillery at its disposal. There’s also a growing arsenal of ballistic missiles under the designation Bora Khan. When the first batteries of KARA ATMACA’s do enter service these allow the Turkish army to add ground-based precision strikes in their war planning for specific theaters (the Eastern Mediterranean, Northern Syria and Iraq) apart from their usual air support. Turkish air power is undergoing its own evolution with an aging fleet of legacy fixed wing fighter aircraft contrasted by multiple armed drones that have earned a notorious combat record in the last two years.

With the exception of Israel road mobile cruise missiles have been scarce in the Middle East and North Africa. Not even the record military spending of oil-rich Arab states brought these weapon systems into the region. Iran broke this trend in 2019 when the IRGC orchestrated waves of drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil processing infrastructure. (The faction known as Ansar Allah in Yemen also boast having land attack cruise missiles.) The Saudis blamed Iranian-made “Ya Ali” cruise missiles for almost destroying their targets in the Khurais oil plant. This is why Turkey’s own advances in missile technology should give its rivals pause; its state-owned aerospace sector and successful military R&D makes it easier for the ATMACA and its variants to “graduate” into even more lethal weapon systems.

Turkey has an active space program now focused on sending payloads into orbit. Its homegrown expertise in fabricating aerospace parts with composite materials, as well as access to global suppliers, paves the way for future efforts at long and intermediate-range cruise missiles and, sooner rather than later, orbital delivery vehicles and hypersonic projectiles.

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