Jon Lake takes a look at Roketsan Missiles Industries, one of Turkey's top 500 industrial concerns.
On June 15 this year, Roketsan Missiles Industries and Airbus Helicopters signed a memorandum of understanding to integrate the Turkish company’s Cirit 2.75in laser-guided rocket on the Airbus Helicopters H135M and H145M for marketing in Turkey and the international market.
This was only the latest in a long and growing list of integration contracts for the Cirit, which is one of Roketsan’s best-known and most widely used products.
Having started operations in 1988 with little more than a skeleton team, Roketsan today is a global defence company with more than 1,900 personnel, 52 % of whom are engineers, with an invested capital of TRY4 billion ($1,38bn) and an accumulation of technologies and engineering experience.
The company is currently widening its product range to cover the land, air and sea weapon domains, and has already branched out to provide systems to a wide range of international customers.
Roketsan started out by manufacturing the propulsion system of the FIM-92 Stinger man-portable air-defence system (MANPADS) infrared homing surface-to-air missiles produced within the framework of the international Stinger European joint production project.
The composite-fuelled launching and flight motor was one of the critical subsystems of the Stinger missile, and Roketsan was established because the required composite solid fuel technology was not available in Turkey at that time, but would clearly be a cornerstone of any indigenous rocket and missile industry.
The company rapidly gained an enviable reputation within the Stinger programme, routinely making shipments with zero defects before the required deadline.
Participation in the Stinger project allowed Roketsan to gain experience, confidence and credibility, providing the foundations for subsequent solo projects and further collaborative ventures.
Between 1992-1995 it carried out an ambitious missile design infrastructure development project, training personnel and developing design tools necessary for a new design-focused era for the company. This led to the development and production of the composite-fuelled, 11km-range TR-107 rocket and the 40km-range TR-122 rocket, as well as the Sakarya multi-barrel rocket launcher (MBRL) weapon system. All were produced for the Turkish Armed Forces before the Stinger project was completed in 1999.
Towards the end of the 1990s, the company’s attention focused on the production of long-range rockets and missiles, which were intended to increase the firepower of Turkey’s land forces. New technologies were acquired, and the company produced the Kasırga (Hurricane) and Yıldırım (Lighting) missile and weapons systems.
The first export contracts for rockets and weapon systems were signed in 2004, and the Cirit 2.75in laser-guided rocket project was initiated by the Ministry of National Defense the same year. The weapon incorporated a number of advanced technologies including laser guidance, intermediate stage guidance, and an insensitive rocket motor and warhead.
From 2005, Roketsan built up an extensive industrial structure and began the development of a number of original missile systems, including the UMTAS long-range anti-tank missile, OMTAS medium-range anti-tank missile and HİSAR-A low altitude air defence missile system.
These weapons introduced further new technologies, including on-board radio frequency (RF) data links, imaging infrared (IIR) seeker heads, multi-stage propulsion systems, and insensitive tandem warheads. They required more complex platform integration.
More recently, the company has produced the SOM-J air-launched cruise missile, already in service on Turkish Air Force F-4 Phantoms and F-16 Fighting Falcons, and offered to equip the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.
A production contract for the Cirit rocket was signed in 2011 and the weapon was introduced to service with the Turkish armed forces in May 2012.
Roketsan strengthened its position in June 2012 by merging with Tapasan AŞ (Fuze Industries Inc), which had been established to meet the fuze requirements of the Turkish Armed Forces as an affiliate of the Turkish Armed Forces strengthening foundation (TSKGV).
In 2013, Turkey Roketsan began the construction of its first satellite-launching centre, initially for low Earth orbit satellites.