Air Weapons: Bozok The Giant Slayer

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June 22, 2022: Tubitak SAGE, a Turkish government defense research institute has been trying to compete with Roketsan Corporation by announcing that its Bozok lightweight laser-guided missile was finally entering production. There was a similar announcement back in 2014, but that was soon canceled as it was realized that the rival Mam-L was a success when carried by the then-new TB2 UAV. The 2022 Bozok missile has more range (15 kilometers) and is smaller than Mam-L. Until there are production models of Bozok in use by customers, no one. including the manufacturer, will know if Bozok is competitive with Mam-L.

SAGE was founded half a century ago to develop ballistic and other types of missiles. Fifteen years after SAGE was created the government decided to try the market approach and took the lead in establishing Roketsan, which was a much more productive and innovative operation than SAGE. During its first two decades Roketsan concentrated on developing and producing Turkish versions of most of the weapons and munitions Turkey had to import. This was done without stealing patented tech from other nations, as Russia and China have long done. Turkey wanted Rokestan to be able to freely export its munitions, especially the innovative or less-expensive ones. The next phase was to do the same with more complex systems like guided and ballistic missiles. Bayraktar, another Turkish company, did the same thing with UAVs that Rokestan had done with munitions.

Early Turkish efforts to develop effective and affordable UAVs using government institutes and companies were not working. This gave Bayraktar, an entrepreneurial company, an opportunity to fill the government's need for UAVs and in 2014 introduced the affordable and successful TB2 UAV. Similar to successful Israeli and American UAVs, Roketsan already had suitable missiles and guided bombs for the TB2. The most used weapon was the Mam-L laser guided missile. This was a lightweight version of the American Hellfire missile that had been around since the 1980s and non-American versions could be developed using a lot of off-the-shelf tech. Rokestan had done this with its Mam-L missile that weighed half as much as Hellfire but had similar range (8 kilometers) and laser guided accuracy. The 25 kg (55 pound) Mam-L is an unpowered version of the larger (37.5 kg/83 pound) UMTAS rocket-powered laser-guided missile. Both have a range of eight kilometers but the Mam-L glides to the target and its range is less if the UAV is at a low altitude. UMTAS is much faster and has a “fire and forget” feature where, once the UAV laser designator identifies the target, the UMTAS will home in on it while the UAV seeks other targets. Mam-L is used against smaller, unarmored and stationary targets. UMTAS is described as an anti-tank missile and effective against tanks whereas the Man-I will usually only damage a tank. Most of the targets Turkish UAVs attacked were troops in the open, bunkers, buildings, or unarmored vehicles. In this respect MAM-L excelled and thousands of them have been successfully used.

Mam-L was light enough for smaller UAVs like the TB2 to carry two of them. Mam-L and the larger UMTAS are the principal weapons of Turkish armed UAVs and are used regularly against PKK separatists in Turkey and Syrian forces and rebel groups in Syria. Mam-L and UMTAS are available to all customers for Turkish UAVs large enough to carry them and a growing number of countries, including Ukraine and Poland, have bought them. Ukrainian TB2s have been particularly effective, making the TB2 and Mam-L even more attractive to export customers.

Which brings us back to the SAGE effort to develop and sell Bozok, a competitor to the Mam-L. One reason for that is the two other Mam missiles now available. One is the 6.5 kg 70mm Mam-C, which is based on the American World War II vintage 2.8-inch unguided rocket. This weapon is still in use but for over twenty years developers in many nations have added laser-guidance to the 70mm rocket. Then there is the 94 kg Mam-T that can be used on UAVs as well as helicopters and jet fighters. Mam-T has a range of 30-80 kilometers depending how high and fast the launching aircraft is. Mam-T uses both laser and GPS guidance.

 


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