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Turkey Can Export Bespoke Rocket Artillery

May 14, 2022
Via Roketsan.

In the course of a single decade the state-owned aerospace manufacturer Roketsan built up an impressive catalog for its rocket artillery systems and surface-to-surface missiles. The result is what looks like the best selection of “long-range fires” in the NATO alliance and an arsenal that rivals Iran and Israel’s achievements in the same niche. But Turkey’s ground forces can only operate a specific number of rocket artillery systems and exports have been modest rather than highly profitable. It has now come to light that Roketsan repackaged the catalog it worked so hard to establish for potential sales abroad.

In a new brochure Roketsan shared through its website it’s offering four calibers of medium and long-range munitions in their own transportable launchers. These start with the common 122mm unguided and accurized rockets–otherwise known as Grads–that are manufactured in many different countries. The other two calibers are 230mm and 300mm munitions, either of them are available in accurized variants with improved guidance systems. The largest is an SRBM called the Bora whose maximum range of 280 kilometers is in compliance with the MTCR. The irony is the vehicle illustrated in the catalog Roketsan shared is a Russian-made Kamaz 8×8 truck. But Turkish politics being the way it is, conflicts of interest have never gotten in the way of pursuing national goals; becoming a major exporter in the global arms industry is such a goal.

If the reader is curious how come a longstanding NATO ally such as Turkey manufactures Eastern Bloc 122mm and 300mm munitions it’s because China–not Russia–was generous enough to transfer production in the 1990s. It was actually Norinco who helped Roketsan establish production lines for 107mm, 122mm, 300mm rockets and the 610mm Bora SRBM as well. It’s pure coincidence how the Bora SRBM shares nearly the same caliber and dimensions with the Iranian Zelzal-1 large diameter rocket artillery. Both are derived from a common design pioneered by a Chinese weapons program that repurposed an old HQ-2 SAM and made it into a surface-to-surface missile. A strange innovation, no doubt, but an unexpectedly successful one too.

Roketsan is now offering potential end users the freedom to select their transporter, whether a 6×6 or an 8×8 truck, and have it modified with four hydraulic jacks for holding up the bed and the launcher of choice. The 122mm launchers are arranged in the familiar 40 tubes that can be loaded manually or with a crane. The 122mm caliber is available in the TR-122, TRB-122, TRG-122, and TRLG-122 variants. The differences among them are slight improvements in accuracy and range. The TRG-230/TRLG-230 and the TRG-300 calibers are extremely destructive and are direct rivals to the Russian-made BM-30 Smerch. To improve its prospects in the market Roketsan gives end users the choice of having drones link targeting data to their launchers. Azerbaijan and the UAE have purchased the TRG-300 to augment their rocket artillery collected from other suppliers. Both countries have invested heavily in low and medium altitude drones as well.

A distinct advantage for Roketsan’s catalog of surface-to-surface precision ordnance are its strong prospects within the NATO alliance and beyond it, especially in Central Asia where Turkish arms exports are growing and the TR-122/TRB-122/TRG-122/TRLG-122 are welcome alternatives to old Soviet-era Grad launchers. Successful diplomacy in the Middle East and North Africa have paved the way for arms exports there as well and Roketsan’s 122mm, 230mm, and 300mm munitions are directly competing with their analogs from China and Russia. The rest of Africa is another significant market as regional militaries are still coming around to recognizing the value of rocket artillery. Hindsight and historical perspective are very useful when calculating the value of rocket artillery. In all the wars that swept Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East in the last three decades rocket artillery proved indispensable for ground forces whatever their size.

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