Air Defense: Turkey Makes Its Own


April 15, 2023: Turkey recently told Russia that they would not need the second S-400 air defense system battery it agreed to receive from Russia. That was not a binding agreement and Turkey exercised its cancellation option. There were several reasons for this and the most obvious one was that, after over a decade of effort, Turkey had developed a full range of air defense systems and the last one, Siper, did what the S-400 did and, according to the Turks, did it better and cheaper. While Russia has exported S-400 to several countries, Russian air defense systems have a reputation for being effective but flawed. Even the Turks have exposed and exploited flaws in modern Russian air defense systems. The Turkish developed systems seek to be more reliable and less exploitable than Russian systems.

For several years Turkey has been testing its new Siper SAM (Surface to Air Missile). Siper is somewhat like the American Patriot, the Israeli David’s Sling and the Russian S-400 systems. Siper is one of four SAM systems that comprise the new Turkish developed Hisar (Fortress) air defense system. Two Turkish firms have been developing this since 2007. With the completion of testing, Hisar provides Turkey with a modern air defense system for domestic use and export customers.

Hisar consists of Hisar A, with a missile range of 15 kilometers, Hisar O with a range of 25 kilometers, Hisar U with a range of 100 or more kilometers and Siper with a range of 150 or more kilometers. The first two were in development from 2007 and Hisar A entered service in 2021 with Hisar O in 2022. Hisar U and Siper were the last to complete testing.

Hisar A batteries, each with four-to-six launcher vehicles, were sent to Syria and Libya several years ago for some combat experience. Hisar A is mounted in a tracked vehicle that carries four ready-to-fire missiles plus with an electro/optical (visual) sensor and an FCS (fire control system) that can also operate with a radar each battery has. Hisar A is a heat seeking missile with a proximity fuze that detonates the warhead if the missile is close enough to do damage. Max altitude is five kilometers. The Hisar A missile uses INS (inertial guidance system) to get close enough to the target for the heat-seeker to take over.

Hisar O uses the same tech as Hisar A but has a larger missile carried in a heavy truck with six missiles. Each battery has three launcher vehicles plus another vehicle with an AESA radar and FCS. Hisar O missiles have a max range of 25 kilometers and max altitude of ten kilometers. Each launcher vehicle also has its own visual FCS like that used on Hisar A. The battery AESA radar has a max range of 60 kilometers but is most effective at 40 kilometers or less. The battery has several vehicles to carry the radar, FCS and communications system. The radar FCS can track up to sixty targets at a time and assign targets to each of the launcher vehicles.

Hisar U missiles are also truck mounted but use longer range radars and an FCS that does not support optical sensors.

Siper missiles are larger still and only use a battery radar and more complex guidance system in each missile.

Turkey will have all four systems in service this year or 2024, depending on manufacturing capacity. Compared to earlier development projects using complex tech, that may be optimistic and the Hisar A/O systems use tech that has been around for decades. Turkey has made this work, especially with their UAVs and the laser guided missiles they use.

The other two air-defense systems are Korkut and Sungur. Korkut entered service in 2016 and has been used in Syria for nearly as long. Korkut is a tracked armored vehicle armed with 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 aided by the radar vehicle which also coordinates the fire of all three Korkut vehicles. Turkey is building enough Korkut equipment for 40 batteries and some are now in service. So far, Ukraine is the only export customer.

Finally, there are Porsav and Sungur. Porsav is similar to the American Stinger, which the Turks currently use. Stinger is a 14.3 kg (31.5 pound) shoulder fired anti-aircraft system that fires its 10.1 kg (22.2 pound) missile out to 4,500 meters. Sungur is heavier and carried and used from a vehicle. Sungur is similar to the French Mistral, which uses an 18.7 kg (42 pound) missile with a max range of 6,500 meters. Porsav and Sungur have many common components and differ mainly in weight and range. Sugur and Porsav were both in service by 2022.

Turkey is offering all five systems (Hisar, Siper, Korkut, Sugur and Porsav) to export customers. Turkish air defense systems are the latest addition to a large selection of weapons, ranging from small arms to armored vehicles, helicopter gunships, artillery and warships. Turkey gains a lot of favorable attention, and orders, from other Moslem nations.


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