Azerbaijan Displayed Mock-Up of SOM-B1 Missile at Parade

by İbrahim SÜNNETÇİ

 On June 26, the Azerbaijani Air and Air Defense Force displayed a mock-up of its SOM-B1 long-range, high-precision, Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) which is being produced by the Turkish firm Roketsan. The SOM missile mock-up has been demonstrated (it has been crossed the front of a tribune on a tactical wheeled vehicle) in the 100th anniversary parade of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces for the first time, which makes it clear that Azerbaijan has procured an undisclosed amount of SOM-B1 ALCMS, making it the first foreign user of the SOM (Stand-Off Missile) missile.

The SOM-B1 is designed for use against high-value, heavily defended ground and sea targets with a range of up to 280 kilometers and will allow fighter jets of the Azerbaijani Air and Air Defense Force (AAF) to destroy targets that are located behind the frontline with high precision and without becoming caught up in anti-aircraft warfare. 

The most likely launch platforms for Azerbaijan’s SOM-B1 ALCMs are the AAF’s MiG-29 multirole fighters. During one of the TurAz Falcon Exercises (probably at TurAz Falcon 2016) held in Turkey, SOM ALCM was integrated on an AAF MİG-29 fighter and a live firing test was performed at a test range in Konya.

According to a high-ranking Roketsan official the company has been working on SOM ALCM with Azerbaijan since 2014. In April 2018 Roketsan General Manager Selçuk YAŞAR disclosed that each SOM Missile has a price tag listed over US$1 Million and integration and final assembly of the SOM Missiles are being performed in a 300 square meter facility.

Speaking at a televised interview held on July, 2018 the then Turkish Minister of National Defence (MoND) Nurettin CANİKLİ announced that Turkey has started SOM Missile exports without disclosing any specific country name.

Designed, developed and manufactured by TÜBİTAK-SAGE, the Defence Research and Development Institute of Turkey, under a US$80 Million valued contract awarded by the Turkish MoND on March 31, 2006, the SOM is a family of new generation, air launched non-nuclear, long range, fire-and-forget type precision strike missiles capable of defeating both fixed non-hardened and hardened land targets as well as moving sea targets. The 1,300 lbs (610 kgs, B2 version weighs 1,400 lbs [660 kgs]) SOM ALCM’s airframe is designed with stealth capability provided by the shape of the airframe and the materials used in its construction, to give the missile a low detection probability and allow it to penetrate enemy air defence systems.

Under the project prototype missiles were manufactured in 2008 and following extensive wind tunnel and systems tests, captive-carry and release trials were performed from a F-4E 2020 aircraft in 2010. On August 9, 2011 first live firing test of SOM-A (INS/GPS + TRNS guided version) from a F-4E 2020 aircraft was performed in Black Sea. During the test performed SOM-A missile, not carrying warhead, flew more than 100 nm (185km) before hitting its determined target with high accuracy. During third firing test performed on September 27, 2011 once again from a F-4E 2020 aircraft in Black Sea, the SOM-A missile flew around 26 minutes and hit its determined surface target (a floating platform) located at around 250km distance with high precision. SOM-A aircraft release tests were also performed on a F-16D Block 40 in 2011. SOM was first displayed aboard a TuAF F-16C Block 50 aircraft during the 100th year celebrations of the Turkish Air Force held at the 2nd MJB Command in Çiğli, Izmir during June 4-5 2011. SOM’s first international debut was took place during DSEI Exhibition in London UK, where the full-scale mock-up of the missile was displayed at TÜBİTAK-SAGE stand in September 2011.Following the completion of the Development and Qualification Phase (covering design, development, prototype manufacturing, live firing test and qualification activities) by TÜBİTAK-SAGE in 2012, the Turkish MoND selected Roketsan for the Series Manufacturing Phase and awarded an undisclosed amount of contract in early 2013. Under the contract following the production line qualification activities Roketsan started Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) of SOM ALCMs in July 2013 and delivered the first batch of the series production SOM-A missiles to the TurAF during the second half of 2015. On January 4, 2018 Turkey’s Defence procurement agency, the SSB, announced with a tweet that under a big pack order Roketsan has completed delivery of first 7 SOM-B1 missiles to the TurAF.

Powered by a Safran Power Units (former Microturbo TR40 turbojet engine (in the 2.5 kN to 3.4 kN [560 lbf to 750 lbf]) thrust class, the SOM is an indigenously developed high-subsonic cruise missile designed to meet Turkish Air Force requirements. Though it is smaller it shares several features with LFK KEPD-350 Taurus and MBDA Scalp/Storm Shadow missiles. SOM ALCM has four versions; SOM-A, SOM-B1, SOM-B2 and SOM-J. SOM-A is equipped with INS/GPS guidance system plus a Terrain Referenced Navigation System (TRNS/TERCOM) coupled with radar altimeter and has 230 kgs HE-type unitary warhead. SOM-B1 version also has HE type unitary warhead, whereas SOM-B2 is armed with dual-stage tandem penetrator and in addition to GPS/INS they both also employ Imaging Infrared Seeker (IIR, has cooled type 640x512 pixels detector) for enhanced terminal guidance plus TRNS/TERCOM, radar altimeter and an Automatic Target Recognition/Acquisition system. It carries a single 350 lb (around 140 kgs) blast-fragmentation/semi-armor-piercing warhead the SOM-J, air launched anti-ship missile, is also equipped with an IIR seeker with Automatic Target Recognition/Acquisition capability. Having a range of 150+nm the 1,000lbs (around 500 kg) class SOM-J is an air-to-surface missile designed for use against heavily defended, high value maritime targets and land targets. Roketsan has been cooperating with TÜBİTAK-SAGE and Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, the Prime Contractor of the JSF Program since 2014 for the integration of SOM-J on F-35. SOM-A and SOM-B1 have been certified for the F-4E 2020 and F-16 platforms and already entered the service of the Turkish Air Force (TurAF). Qualification and certification flight tests for the SOM-B2 are currently ongoing.

Currently, SOM ALCM supplies the selection among pre-planned missions and controllable impact points and parameters. Meteksan Defence is working on a two-way encrypted RF data-link capability under KEMENT Project, which will allow in-flight re-tasking against moving targets, for SOM B1/B2 missiles and planned to complete its studies until the missile enters the serial production phase. Meteksan Defence successfully completed the Prototype Demonstration phase in May 2018. Following the completion of the currently ongoing Design Verification Phase, Factory Acceptance Tests (FAT) and Site Acceptance Test (SAT) phases will be initiated. The company is expected to be ready for prototype deliveries by the end of 2018. SOM-J, on the other hand, is equipped with the Link-16 tactical data link system.