Air Defense: Turkey Struggles And Hustles

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April 28, 2020: Turkey is upgrading its air defense capabilities one way or another. Currently, the most modern system they have is the American developed Hawk. A sixty year old design, Hawk has been updated frequently but has now been, or is being, retired by most users.

In early 2020 Turkey sought to put some effective air defense capability into Syria and the best they could manage was to move at least one Hawk battery into northwest Syria (Idlib province). The Turks are believed to have brought a Hawk battery into Syria (north of Aleppo) in 2018 but the Hawk unit was soon sent back to Turkey. The recent arrival of Hawk is part of a major buildup of Turkish forces in Idlib and adjacent Aleppo provinces. Turkey has 16 Hawk batteries and is replacing them with the similar but more advanced and Turkish developed Hisar-O and Hisar-U systems.

Turkey already manufactures a licensed copy of the British Rapier 2000 short-range air defense system and is replacing these with the locally developed Hisar-A. The Rapier is a truck-mounted system developed in the 1960s and produced into the 1990s. The Rapier 2000 was the last and most modern version. It was mobile and could either be towed or mounted on a truck. The 49 kg (hundred pound) Rapier missile had a max range of 8,200 meters and was guided by the system radar and visually from the launcher. Each Rapier system had four missiles. Turkey built 515 launcher units used by 86 Rapier batteries. Hisar A is basically an improved Rapier 2000 with a longer range (15 kilometers) missile equipped with a better guidance system. It has successfully shot down rockets. Hisar A is mounted on a tracked vehicle and with four missiles and radar. Hisar-A is to enter service in 2021 but some of the development models are being sent to Syria to get some combat experience, which means it will enter service a year early. Hisar A completed its testing in 2019.

Hisar-O is basically a longer range (25 kilometers) system with a larger missile, better guidance system and will enter service in 2022. Hisar-O is mounted on a truck carrying six missiles in storage/launch containers. The Hisar-U will be a true Hawk replacement and will not be available until the mid-2020s or later. Hisar–U will have some ballistic missile defense capabilities.

Hawk uses a 590 kg (1,200 pound) missile carried on three missile launchers. The missile has a range of 50 kilometers. Hawk is a 1950s design that has been improved over the years. Turkey bought the latest, Improved Hawk, version.

Turkey already had its Korkut 35mm autocannon system in Syria. Korkut entered service in 2016 and is a track vehicle-mounted twin 35mm autocannon that can fire 1,100 rounds a minute. This comes out to 18 a second and most of the time Korkut will fire short (1-3 second) bursts. A Korkut battery consists of three 35mm gun vehicles and a command/control radar vehicle. The radar has a range of 70 kilometers while the 35mm guns are effective up to four kilometers. The 35mm gunner has an optical (visual) sight that aided by the radar vehicle which also coordinates the fire of all three gun vehicles. Turkey is building enough Korkut equipment for 40 batteries. About half of this has been completed and all 40 will be in service by 2022.

Turkey has also purchased S-400 air defense systems from Russia, choosing it over the American Patriot or similar European or Chinese systems. Turkey is having second thoughts about S-400 and is again discussing Patriot with the Americans.

 


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