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Turkey hot to trot

Posted 16 September 2019 · Add Comment

Turkey came out fighting at this year’s biennial International Defence Industry Fair (IDEF), held in Istanbul from April 30 to May 3. Alan Warnes was there.

Turkey’s aerospace industry, harnessed by the Undersecretariat for Defence Studies (SSB), is in a rush.
The Turkish Government wants its military to be operating the latest indigenously designed weapons, and at the same time to offset the cost by exporting the non-international traffic in arms regulations (ITAR) systems.
The need is even more urgent with the US officially ending Turkey’s involvement in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programme on July 31.
More sanctions are likely to come after Turkey, a NATO country, would not back down from acquiring and taking delivery of Russia’s extremely capable S-400 surface-to-air (SAM) missile system.
At IDEF, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke of how important Turkey is to the Joint Strike Fighter programme. “The F-35 is doomed to fail if Turkey is expelled,” he told an invited audience, adding: “Turkey is accelerating its steps to manufacture its own fighters, which will be the backbone of our air forces in the future. Most of all, we are moving very fast to producing locally manufactured air defence systems.”
He later pointed out that four Turkish companies (Turkish Aerospace, Roketsan, Aselsan and Havelsan) were among the top 100 companies in the world’s defence industry, indicating his country would continue to support the policy of small and medium-sized companies in the area.
It wasn’t too surprising that all four companies took up more space than any others at the event – they have so many products to show off!
Turkish Aerospace was launching the new Anka-Aksungur unmanned aerial system (UAS) and multi-role heavy combat helicopter (MHCH) at the event. In addition, it had the T129 ATAK armed reconnaissance and attack helicopter, Hurkus trainer, Hurkus C counter insurgency (COIN) turboprop, Hurjet jet trainer/light combat aircraft, T625 Gökbey helicopter and Anka S UAS.
Also in evidence was a large scale model of the new Hava stand-off jammer (SOJ) jet, which is a Bombardier Global 6000 enhanced with a lot of Aselsan and Havelsan equipment. Turkish Aerospace is the systems integrator of the four Hava SOJs.
The Turkish Air Force has ordered and is now working on upgrading the first two Global 6000 executive jets. Under an agreement signed between SSB and Aselsan in August 2018, the first one should be delivered in 2023, with the final delivery taking place in 2027. “If successful, it will be the most complex jammer/electronic warfare aircraft in the world today,” a TAI source said. Work on the first example started on January 3.
Developing, manufacturing and selling so many platforms to the local customer, as well as allies, must be a demanding job. The man responsible for that is president and CEO, Temel Kotil, who was very active around the stands, talking and shaking hands with people.
Having realised the need to speed up the process of getting all these platforms into the market place, he has appointed Fahrettin Öztürk as the vice president, research and development.
It’s a new role that Öztürk admits is challenging. “I am head of a newly created division and my job is to handle the research and development process and get it to serial production quicker,” he explained.
Undoubtedly, Turkey’s indigenous new-generation fighter, the TF-X, will be taking up much of his time. “Our partnership with BAE Systems is going well. We are in phase one – the conceptual design and selection of major systems,” he said. “Then we will put [a model] through wind tunnel tests. We are using all the available wind tunnels around the world and will select the suppliers within six months.”
Öztürk, who has been with Turkish Aerospace for more than 20 years, continued: “In phase two we will start the detailed design, manufacturing and integrating of all the systems. We are expecting TF-X will have its first flight in 2026.”
While the new fighter is a big part of Turkey’s future, Öztürk has a lot of other projects to consider right now.
“The Hurjet [launched at Farnborough last year] is doing well and my team, working with the Hurjet prototype team, have started manufacturing the parts. The first flight will be in late-2022.”
When it comes to the prototypes, Öztürk said: “There will probably be four or five in different configurations, but not all will fly. There will be static rig tests, dynamic ground tests and one could be used for wind tunnels, checking systems and performance before flight. This is the minimum, there could be more.”
A mock-up of the Hurjet advanced jet trainer/light combat attack was shown at IDEF 19 with Tubitak SAGE HGK-82/83 bombs and Göktuğ air-to-air missiles on the wingtip rails. Tubitak SAGE is the research and development arm for the defence industries, tasked with engineering and prototype production, which starts with fundamental research and conceptual design.
The programme for the Hurjet advanced jet trainer/light combat attack was unveiled at IDEF 17, covering the Merlin beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (AAM) and Peregrin within-visual-range (WVR).
Since being launched, the Turkish Air Force has been carrying out the missiles’ captive carriage trials and opted to call both versions, rather confusingly, the Göktuğ.
The aircraft will be at the centre of the military’s celebrations when the Turkish Republic celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2023. Originally it was hoped the T-FX would make that date, but it is not expected to fly until 2026.
Two new launches this year were the 10t class MHCH, albeit in mock up form, and the twin-boom twin-engine Anka Aksungur UAS.
Turkish Aerospace believes the MHCH would benefit the Turkish Land Forces and, at the same time, take the company into yet another new area.
A Turkish powerplant will power the large helicopter. A company official said: “TUSAS Engine Industries (TEI) is working with us to develop a new engine and transmission.”
Turkish Aerospace sees the MHCH as the ideal alternative to the Boeing AH-64 Apache.
Öztürk said: “We want it to be more manoeuvrable than the Apache, more functional and armed with more Turkish-designed weapons. Of course, we need collaboration with other countries, as we do in each project, because more partners bring better marketing options.”
Also making its debut was the Anka Aksungur medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAV, with a set of wings spanning a huge 24 metres. Its first flight, on March 20, lasted four hours and 20 minutes, and a second in April for two-and-a-half hours.
The twin-boomed UAS is powered by two locally developed TEI PD 170 turbo diesel engines, which flew for the first time on the smaller Anka on December 27, 2018.
A Turkish Aerospace source added: “Initially, we want to reach 40 hours flying duration with an electro optical/infrared (EO/IR) turret, then fly 12 hours with a maximum 750kg payload.”
There are six hardpoints on the massive wings to accommodate a diverse range of weapons.
A sonobuoy pod was also seen fitted under the wing to optimise maritime surveillance operations.
Weapons integration is expected to cover between 50 and 60 test flights before live firings in the last quarter of this year. Turkish Aerospace intends to hand it over to the armed forces to evaluate inside the first six months of 2020.
Turkish Aerospace and the Pakistan Army Aviation (PAA) are still optimistic that the US Government will authorise the export of the Honeywell/Rolls-Royce LHTEC 800 engine. The powerplant is part of the $1.5 billion deal for 30 T129s ATAKs ordered by the PAA, announced on May 24, 2018.
The T129 is powered by two LHTEC T800-4As, but an export license is required and the deteriorating relationship between the US and Turkey, as well as Pakistan, could sink the deal.
Another option could be TEI’s TS1400 turboshaft engine, which was powered for the first time in early January. However, it is still in the project phase and will not be ready for production until next year at the earliest.
A PAA delegation visited IDEF19 to view the technologies used on the attack and reconnaissance helicopter. They looked at the avionics system of the helicopter, as well as a demonstration of the ATAK’s Avci (Hunter) helmet-mounted display slewing the 30mm machine gun.
Meanwhile, 44 T129s have been delivered so far – 40 of 59 on order to the Turkish Land Forces and four of 21 ordered by the Gendarmerie. This includes five of the phase 2 variant, according to a TAI source, that includes a Aselsan laser warning receiver, radar warning receiver, jammer and Aselsan 9681 radio.
Of all the projects currently being worked on, there is a certain amount of excitement that the new six ton T625 Gökbey (Sky Lord) twin-engine medium helicopter could break Turkish Aerospace into the civilian market.
The first prototype is expected to fly in June, according to Turkish Aerospace officials.
While a first T625 did fly on September 6 last year, this was essentially an ‘iron bird’ – a ground-test vehicle that was modified with new avionics and engine. Its flight marked the fifth anniversary of the contract being signed to develop the aircraft.
Civilian certification will start in the summer and should be completed in 2021, when serial production is expected to begin.
Although the civilian prototype will use the LHTEC 800 powerplant, the military ones will be powered by the newly designed TEI TS1400.
Turkish Aerospace has already started work on a version to replace the military’s ageing UH-1H Hueys, AB212ASWs, and Sikorsky S-70B Seahawks. A company official said it could be flying by the end of the year. The same source added: “There will be two military prototypes, one in an attack configuration and another in a search-and-rescue (SAR) role fitted with a hoist.”
“We see a requirement right across Turkey’s military for up to 500 T625s.”
The Army is looking for up to 160 Gökbeys to fulfil the attack, SAR and utility (with 16 seats) roles, while the air force, Jandarma and Gendarmerie will have their own requirements.
At IDEF 2017, Turkish Aerospace signed an agreement with the SSB to launch the armed Hurkus C. The prototype, a converted civilian Hurkus, was seen parked in the outside display area armed with a Laser-UMTAS long-range anti-tank missile first fired in April 2017.
Four Togan 81mm mortar bombs, which Tubitak-SAGE has been developing for almost two-and-a-half years, were also mounted on the aircraft.
The first successful air drop tests were performed in February, using a locally built multi-carriage rack. Drop tests will continue to validate the proximity, point detonation and timing fuse.
The more familiar Cirit 2.75 laser-guided missile has also been integrated and, according to Turkish Aerospace, so has the Teber 81 and Teber 82.
The Turkish Land Forces are considering the Hurkus C for combat air patrols – fast response teams equipped with an Aselsan CATS EO/IR turret underneath. The development aircraft has flown 470 hours to date during its flight and evaluation programme.
The Turkish Land Forces have a requirement for 18, with a contract expected to be signed with SSB ‘within the next two months’.
While IDEF 2019 is hailed as an international event, and to its credit hosted more than 1,000 companies, most of the focus was on the big four mentioned earlier. As such, it provided an insight into the huge strides Turkey’s aerospace industry is taking in the government’s indigenous revolution. One wonders how the F-35 decision, and the possibility of further US export controls, may make it have to work even harder, particularly on the engine front, which remains Turkey’s Achilles heel.

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