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Interview

`NAZAR Was Designed as A Directional Infrared Countermeasure System Compatible with the TF-2000 From the Beginning of The Project!`

The Phase-I Critical Design Phase of the NAZAR Project, the contract of which was signed between the Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB) and the Main Contractor METEKSAN Defence in 2016, was successfully completed in July 2019. The production of the first land based NAZAR System has been completed, and Acceptance Tests are currently ongoing. The system is expected to be delivered to the Turkish Naval Forces Command (TNFC) by the end of 2021. During the IDEF `21 Fair, we conducted a special interview with Özgür CANKARA, Vice President of METEKSAN Defence, on the technical features of the NAZAR Directional Infrared Countermeasure (DIRCM) System and the current situation of the Project.

Issue 110

Defence Turkey: Could you briefly introduce the NAZAR Naval Directional Infrared Countermeasure (Naval DIRCM) System, which you will deliver in three different versions: Land, Sea, and Lite (Light) under the contract?

Özgür CANKARA: Electro-optical (EO) and Infrared (IR) seekers are used, especially in 3rd and 4th generation missiles. Recently these seekers have become a severe threat to both land facilities and naval platforms. The NAZAR System was developed to neutralize such threats and munitions without damaging critical facilities and platforms. In fact, various defensive countermeasure systems are currently used on Turkish Navy platforms against these threats. However, the use of laser technology in this field is a very, very new concept. When this Project started in 2016, we heard about this technology from several open sources, but an actual product did not exist back then. The countries we call Superpowers are now gradually installing these products (such as the USA's HELIOS and ODIN Projects) to their own platforms.

Currently, the production of the land-based version of the NAZAR System has been completed. The land-based version can counter the seekers of EO and IR-guided missiles at five different wavelengths. We define NAZAR as a Soft Kill system. Unlike Hard Kill, we dazzle the seeker, preventing it from seeing the target. The dazzled missile misses its target thus ceases to be a threat to the platform we protect. This is how the NAZAR system works. When the tests of the land-based version of this system are completed, it will serve to protect a strategic facility of the Turkish Naval Forces. Right after that, we will produce the naval version of this system in about 1.5 years. After the production is completed, this system is planned to be installed on a sea platform of the Turkish Navy. 

Defence Turkey: Is this 1.5-year period for the production or the delivery of the naval version of the NAZAR System?

Özgür CANKARA: In fact, it's like the Naval version is also completed after the development of the Land version is completed. But we will install the system to a naval platform and integrate it with the onboard Combat Management System (CMS). Then we will conduct sea trials with the system. Therefore, we consider the NAZAR Naval only as a production and integration activity.

Defence Turkey: You mentioned that NAZAR Naval would only be suitable for large and powerful naval platforms in our previous conversation at IDEF’21. Could you tell us whether the naval platform you have mentioned before will be a warship (Like the LHD Anadolu and the TF-2000 Destroyers) or a logistics ship (TCG DERYA DIMDEG)?

Özgür CANKARA: Considering the size of the system, I'm just saying as an example; we believe that the ship should be a big platform like the LHD Anadolu. Therefore, we consider that it will be installed on such a platform. While this project is still ongoing, an addition has been made to our contract to produce a lighter version of the NAZAR system. The Lite version will operate in perhaps only a few wavelengths and will be lighter, so it would also be used on smaller warships. NAZAR was actually considered as a Directional Infrared Countermeasure System suitable for the TF-2000 from the beginning of the project. Therefore, from the design stage, the NAZAR System was planned to be used in TF-2000 Destroyers. On the other hand, NAZAR Lite can be used on smaller surface platforms such as Fast Attack Crafts, Corvettes, or Frigates.

Defence Turkey: Then, considering the 1.5-year period also coincides with the BARBAROS Mid-Life Upgrade (MLU) calendar, can it be installed on BARBAROS Class Frigates if required?

Özgür CANKARA: We plan to launch the NAZAR Lite version around mid-2023 and be completed in 2024, so it can catch up with the project. It can be used in Modernization Projects and New Shipbuilding Projects. One advantage of this system is that it is highly cost-effective because it's laser-based and doesn't use any munition. Another advantage is that it provides protection from much longer ranges, perhaps two times the distance, compared to the conventional Close-in Weapon Systems (CIWS) or countermeasure systems currently in use. It's part of a layered defense; each layer has tremendous value. As the threat approaches, every layer must step in to neutralize that threat. Using this system, we will have created a brand-new layer at the top to protect that valuable platform. We can think of it as a kind of electronic protection umbrella. In this sense, it will be a very worthwhile project. Furthermore, since laser-based electronic attack/countermeasure systems are not very common, EO/IR guided missiles are more vulnerable to this type of countermeasure system.

Defence Turkey: What can you share about the results of the tests performed with the NAZAR System?

Özgür CANKARA: We did well in our own tests. Of course, we will have tried the system performance in the following stages, with field tests to be carried out in the coming days.

Defence Turkey: What can you say about the range of the NAZAR DIRCM System?

Özgür CANKARA: More than the effective range of the Phalanx CIWS. It may not be right to give an exact range at this time, so I emphasized that the effective range is higher than the current CIWS Systems.

Defence Turkey: So, does the interception distance change according to the threat? For instance, does the system have different ranges for an ATMACA-sized missile and a HellFire II type threat? Also, does the size and diameter of the missile and seeker matter?

Özgür CANKARA: No, it doesn't change; it all depends on our detection capability. We need to detect the threat quickly; after detecting it, we can perform functions related to dazzling the seeker. Regardless of munition type, as long as the threat has EO or IR seeker, we can neutralize it.

Defence Turkey: There are 11 optical windows on the NAZAR Naval. The system will also be integrated with the onboard CMS, so it will also receive information from the radars on the ship. However, because of the Earth's curvature, the visibility on the horizon line is limited to 25-30 km. For example, a ship radar placed 20 meters above the waterline can detect the Mach 2.8 (952m/s) Brahmos Anti-Ship Guided Missile only 27 kilometers away (can fly 10m above sea surface). This leaves only 28 seconds for interception (tracking, illuminating, engagement, and destruction). So how long will the reaction time be for a missile threat to be detected from 30km away? Is there a laser warm-up period before system activation?

Özgür CANKARA: The initial start-up time of the system is very short, like similar radar systems. As with other systems, the surface platform will have activated the NAZAR System before it sails. In this way, the system will always be ready for duty while underway. For example, let's assume that NAZAR detects an incoming missile at 30 km. First, the onboard CMS informs the NAZAR System about the threat. NAZAR has a tracking capability on its own, which is LIDAR (Laser Imaging Detection and Ranging), a laser-based detection/tracking system, which is highly accurate. The system detects the target with its own detection infrastructure using the direction information sent from the CMS then starts tracking it. While tracking its target, it first detects the operating waveband of the hostile threat's seeker.

Defence Turkey: So how does the system do it? After all, EO and IR seekers don't actively emit radio waves like RF-guided seekers?

Özgür CANKARA: NAZAR sends some laser beams towards the seeker, and based on the reflections coming from there, the system understands at which wavelength the 'seeker' is working. Then it continues this reflection and creates a glare there, which we call the 'cat's eye effect.' Then it begins to track this glow. While tracking, the system emits a directed laser beam against the threat in the proper modulation. After this beam, the seeker becomes blinded.

Defence Turkey: So, how long does this dazzling process take?

Özgür CANKARA:  In just seconds. That process does not take much time, as long as the threat can be detected.

Defence Turkey: Regarding interception time, I was curious about the performance of the NAZAR System in case of simultaneous or salvo attacks or swarm attacks. There is also the threat of supersonic anti-ship guided missiles against ships, and in that respect, time is very critical.

Özgür CANKARA: It can quickly deal with multiple threats by engaging in succession. After blinding the first threat, it can immediately engage the second. Since the seeker deviates from its target when it goes blind, the hostile missile lock is broken, and the missile usually self-destructs.

Defence Turkey: Can the NAZAR system be used against Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USV)?

Özgür CANKARA: If there is any EO/IR-based system on the USV, NAZAR can dazzle them.

Defence Turkey: Can it be used against humans?

Özgür CANKARA: NAZAR also has an aperture that operates in the visible spectrum but can only have negative effects at close range. For this reason, its use against humans does not seem meaningful. On the contrary, we place warning signs around NAZAR to protect people. In addition, a high-power laser is not used in NAZAR. Physical destruction is possible with high-power lasers. Our sole purpose is to dazzle and blind hostile seekers.

Defence Turkey: Do you have any information on how many NAZAR DIRCM Systems would be required in total? Can you give information about how many NAZAR Systems will be purchased or the number of options under the contract?

Özgür CANKARA:  Within the scope of the contract, we will manufacture one prototype of each system (3 different versions: Land, Naval, and Lite) and deliver it for testing. But of course, our goal is to use numerous NAZAR Systems both in critical facilities and on naval platforms.

Defence Turkey: What can you say about the domestic production rate in the NAZAR Project? I think the most critical subsystem is the laser system.

Özgür CANKARA: We can produce some of the laser sources locally, both at Bilkent University and in the defense industry ecosystem. We have cooperated with most of the companies that can produce laser sources of various wavelengths. However, we also procured COTS (Commercial off-the-shelf) laser emitters, which are not very critical, from abroad (such as Visible Spectrum). Therefore, our domestic production rate is quite high in this sense, so we will not have any export problems for strategic laser sources in the future. Additionally, we cooperate with our partners in the ecosystem to make the laser sources smaller. There may be some developments in this regard in the next few years.

Defence Turkey: So, if required, is it possible to produce a version of the NAZAR System with Hard-Kill capability?

Özgür CANKARA: Actually, as METEKSAN Defence, we did not enter that field. Currently, there are companies such as TÜBİTAK, ASELSAN, and ROKETSAN working on high-power lasers. But our expertise in this area is more valuable.

Defence Turkey: Is it possible to make a smaller version of NAZAR with similar dimensions to MILSAR and equip the UCAV platforms such as AKINCI or AKSUNGUR or Maritime Patrol Aircraft that are in the service of the Turkish Navy?

Özgür CANKARA: Yes, we have such a goal. We believe it might even be small enough to be used on the ULAQ USV. In fact, we have already started some conceptual studies within the scope of the NAZAR Project. With the conclusion of those studies, our target platforms will be shaped accordingly. In this way, perhaps we will be able to provide electronic countermeasure capability to unmanned surface vehicles. And if these unmanned vehicles, USVs, operate in close proximity to our valuable platforms to protect them, the NAZAR System may not even be needed on other manned surface platforms (it can be a surface platform as well as a strategic coastal facility or port/naval base).

Defence Turkey: NAZAR Land and NAZAR Naval can operate in 5 different wavelengths, and NAZAR Lite can perform jamming in several different wavelengths (it depends entirely on the Turkish Navy's request, whichever threat is considered more important, the appropriate wavelength will be used). Depending on the decreased number of wavelengths, the number of apertures on the stabilized turret (2-DOF) and the energy requirement will also decrease, correct?

Özgür CANKARA: Yes, both the number of apertures and the energy need will decrease. Accordingly, the system weight and dimensions will be reduced as well. So, it will have many positive effects.

Defence Turkey: Mr. CANKARA thank you for your time on behalf of our readers