ATMACA’s First Naval Launch Conducted Successfully from TCG Kınalıada Corvette

Date: Issue 96 - December 2019

Speaking at the 9th Naval Systems Seminar, which was held on October 14-15, Turkish Naval Forces Naval Technical Commander Rear Admiral Dr. Ramis AKIN, announced that the ATMACA Surface-to-Surface Guided Missile (SSM) would be test-fired from the TCG Kınalıada Corvette in early November this year. Colonel Erkan ÜLKÜ, Acting Director of the Turkish Naval Forces Command's Design Project Office (DPO), also made a presentation at the Naval Systems Seminar and pointed out that there are 4 ATMACA (SparrowHawk) missiles on the port side and 4 Harpoon (Block II) Surface-to-surface Guided Missiles on the starboard side of TCG Kınalıada Corvette. 

As expected the first naval launch of ATMACA anti-ship missile was conducted in early November at an undisclosed location in the Black Sea. On November 3, 2019 Turkish Naval Forces marked history by firing an ATMACA Surface-to-Surface Anti-Ship Guided Missile from a surface vessel for the first time. The vessel in question was TCG Kınalıada, ADA Class Corvette. The first ever live-fire of ATMACA from a surface platform was reported as successful. Also, on November 4, the Presidency of Defence Industries (SSB) shared a short video film of the launch test on its official Twitter account. 

Before the ship-launched live-fire in 2019 two land-based live-firing tests of ATMACA missile were also carried first in May and then in September at Sinop Missile Test Range towards the Black Sea. On September 25, the SSB had shared information on its Twitter page about the firing test, which was conducted in September and released a short video of the test. 

In the video which was shared by the SSB on November 4, the moment of the ATMACA Missile (I believe that this missile is one of the 20 or so prototype missiles produced for the testing process without real warheads) leaving one of the four launcher tubes on the port side of the TCG Kınalıada Corvette at 10:15 am during the firing test on November 3, 2019, can be clearly seen in slow motion. Five seconds after the launch, the booster separates from the ATMACA. Another noteworthy point in the video is that during the initial launch phase, the ATMACA missile has an Exocet-like flight profile rather than the Harpoon missile. After leaving the launcher, the Harpoon missile first climbs to an altitude of 600m and then descends toward its target. However, this concept is claimed to pose a higher risk because the ascending flight profile of the missile may reveal the location of the firing platform. On the other hand, the Exocet missile heads towards its target at a lower altitude (100m and below) after launching.

In the first ship-launched firing of the ATMACA missile that was not fitted with a live warhead, a fixed floating net was used as the target. In the shared video, it is seen that the ATMACA missile turns left at the terminal stage with a sudden maneuver while cruising at a 5-10m altitude from the water surface (probably against the CIWS threat on the ship) and then maneuvers to the right again and returns to its previous course. The shared video clearly shows that the ATMACA missile passes just above the radar reflector (orange object) on the fixed floating target at the time of impact. This image proves that the ATMACA missile recorded a direct hit on the target with perfect accuracy (5m and under). As part of the project, a live-firing test using an ATMACA missile equipped with a warhead is expected to be carried out in the future.

The ATMACA missile test video shared by the SSB on September 25 showed that the booster of the ATMACA missile, which was launched toward the Black Sea from a land-based launcher at the Sinop Missile Test Range, separated from the missile approximately 6 seconds later, and the missile hit a fixed floating net target at sea. According to the screenshot of the firing test, which was conducted at noon on September 18, 2019, the ATMACA missile almost touched the surface of the sea (super Sea-Skimming mode) and went down to 0.93m altitude.

As it will be recalled, the Serial Production Contract for Surface-to-Surface Guided Missile Procurement (ATMACA) Project was signed between the Presidency of Defence Industries and Roketsan in the last quarter of 2018 and was announced to the public on November 2, 2018.

Currently, Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) Phase studies are continuing in the project. Initially, a total of 64 ATMACA missiles (32+32) were expected to be supplied under the LRIP Phase for use in İSTİF Class Frigates. In fact, ATMACA missile was initially planned to be used on the İSTİF Class Frigates, but when the project was delayed, it was decided to be integrated into the ADA Class Corvettes equipped with ADVENT Combat Management System, and a contract change was made recently. Since the ATMACA missile will also be integrated into TCG Kınalıada and then TCG Burgazada (ADVENT CMS retrofit process is expected to be completed in 2020) Corvettes, additional missile production is expected. The TCG Kınalıada Corvette, equipped with ADVENT CMS with Network Enabled Capability and Integrated Data Capability, does not have a separate operator console (AN/SWG-1/1A) for the Harpoon missile, and the firing functions of the ATMACA and Harpoon missiles can be performed from all operator consoles in the Combat Information Center (CIC). Although there is not any AN/SWG-1A Harpoon Weapon System Console in TCG Burgazada Corvette, which is currently equipped with GENESIS CMS, there are two small cabinets placed under a desk in the CIC and other functions of Harpoon console are embedded in GENESIS CMS software. If the current studies proceed as planned, deliveries under the LRIP phase is expected to begin in 2019 and to be completed by 2020; however, I believe that this schedule may be postponed due to additional missile requirements and embargoes. As a matter of fact, the SSB official Twitter page announced on November 4 that the ATMACA missile is expected to enter the inventory in the second half of 2020. Although the first ship of the İSTİF Class Frigates, the TCG İstanbul (F-515), was planned to be put into service in 2021, the vessel is now expected to be launched in early 2021 and commissioned in the second half of 2023 according to the current calendar.

The prototypes of the ATMACA missile with Aselsan active RF Seeker, capable of anti-ship and land-attack capabilities, were highly successful in the fire tests performed in 2016, and it was stated that the prototypes reached ranges of over 200 km. ATMACA Guided Missile, which is currently powered by Safran Power Units (formerly Microturbo) TR40 Turbojet Engine, will also have fully encrypted two-way data link capability with the addition of ATMACA Data Terminal (ADT) to be developed under the KEMENT-A Phase of the KEMENT Project in addition to the active RF Seeker + GPS/INS Guidance System and Radar Altimeter. The ATMACA missile, which is believed to have a cruise speed of Mach 0.85-Mach 0.95, will also be able to attack coastal targets like the RGM-84L Harpoon Block II missile.

According to the data on the Roketsan website, the ATMACA missile with a length of 4.8m and a weight of 800kg can carry a high explosive penetrating warhead weighing 250kg over a range of over 200km. Equipped with Aselsan product active radar (RF) Seeker, the ATMACA missile can be used in all weather conditions and have low radar cross-section and three dimensional (3D) Mission Planning capability. At the terminal stage, the ATMACA missile will find its target with its highly accurate Active RF Seeker and will be able to engage the hostile targets by using one of the different attack modes such as the direct attack, top attack, and re-attack. For use in prototype missiles, Aselsan has delivered more than 20 Ku-Band RF Seekers (used in firing tests) with mechanically steerable gimballed antennas utilizing solid-state technology instead of Traveling Wave Tubes (TWT, used in Harpoon missiles). The Teledyne CAE J402-CA-400 Turbojet engine used in the Harpoon missiles provides 2.92kN of thrust and has a running time of 15 minutes while the TR40 Turbojet engine used in the ATMACA missile provides 2.5-3.4kN of thrust and has a running time of 25 minutes. 

In 2019, the ATMACA Phase II Project was also expected to be launched. In this context, the ATMACA Block II missile which can be launched from the 533mm diameter torpedo tube of submarines through a special capsule (Encapsulated ATMACA Block II, just like the Encapsulated Harpoon), is expected to be fitted with a more advanced seeker (dual-mode RF+IIR type seeker). In this context, the studies on submarine-launched missile capability have been started, and TÜBİTAK SAGE, one of the companies and institutions working on this subject, explained the underwater cruise missile launch mechanism at the International Load Certification Tests Symposium held on November 4. TÜBİTAK SAGE will also produce a torpedo tube replica with a diameter of 533mm as part of the development process. In the last phase, a launch test is planned to be carried out from a 533mm torpedo tube on a submarine