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Interview

OUR PRIORITY PURSUIT OF TURKEY`S NATIONAL INDEPENDENCE IN DEFENSE TECHNOLOGIES

In our exclusive interview with TÜBİTAK SAGE Director Gürcan OKUMUŞ we discuss significant steps taken to eliminate foreign dependency in various subsystems and material technologies, future export opportunities stemming from products developed for the TAF, thermal battery technologies and what the future may hold for TÜBİTAK SAGE in terms of the National Space Program.

Issue 106

Defence Turkey: Can we start our interview by getting information about the establishment, purpose, vision, and work carried out by the TÜBİTAK Defence Industries Research and Development Institute (SAGE)?  

Gürcan OKUMUŞ: The events in Cyprus, which started in the 1960s, made Turkey deeply feel the difficulties of being dependent on foreign countries in the defence indsstry. In this context, TÜBİTAK SAGE was established in 1972 to carry out R&D studies in the defense industry as an institute of TÜBİTAK to make Turkey independent in defense technologies and to develop its own indigenous products.

TÜBİTAK SAGE continues its activities with the mission of "providing globally competitive and high value-added national technologies, products, and services to the Turkish Armed Forces and Defense Industry through R&D" and with the vision of "making Turkey fully independent and active in the international arena with innovative technologies in the Defense Industry." 

In line with this mission and vision, as of 2021, nine different products, which are developed by TÜBİTAK SAGE and produced by our Defense Industry companies, are actively used by the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF). 

Defence Turkey: What can you say about the history of SAGE? 

Gürcan OKUMUŞ: TÜBİTAK Defence Industries Research and Development Institute (TÜBİTAK SAGE) was established in Beşevler, Ankara, in 1972 under the name of the Guided Vehicles Technology and Measurement Center (GATÖM) to meet the needs of the Turkish Armed Forces and national defense industry organizations. Renamed the Ballistic Research Institute (UAE) on January 19, 1983, the Institute finally was named TÜBİTAK SAGE on November 29, 1988, and started to operate with its current structure. 

Continuing its activities in Beşevler, Ankara until 1993, TÜBİTAK SAGE moved to the Lalahan campus, 30 km from the Ankara city center, in 1993. The institute's campus in Beşevler is used as the Ankara Wind Tunnel, and there is another campus at Middle East Technical University (METU) where SAGE conducts guidance control tests. 

Defence Turkey: Are all of SAGE’s financial resources provided by TÜBİTAK? The industrialization process of the products that you have designed and developed is carried out by Turkish Defense and Aerospace companies selected by the Presidency of Defence Industries (SSB) after the qualification process. Do you receive any "royalties" for these products? 

Gürcan OKUMUŞ: With its approximately 1,100 employees and nearly 3 million m2 campus area with an indoor area that spans 70,000 m2, TÜBİTAK SAGE continues its studies with a very high level of self-sufficiency as a large R&D-focused institution. In recent years, our self-sufficiency rate has exceeded 80%. SAGE covers current expenses, especially the large part of personnel expenses, with its own resources. The financial resources of the projects carried out are primarily dependent on the SSB, the Ministry of Defense, Defense Industry companies, and the private sector, and a minimal part of the current expenditures is covered by TÜBİTAK. In addition to all these, the sales of the subsystems developed by TÜBİTAK SAGE (Thermal Battery, Pyrotechnic Systems, GPS Receiver, and Antenna, etc.) and the revenues obtained from offering SAGE's infrastructures to defense sector companies through industrial services are among the financial resources of TÜBİTAK SAGE.

The products developed by TÜBİTAK SAGE are produced by various defense industry companies, as you have stated, and generate a considerable financial return by eliminating foreign dependency. However, these products also require design updates and improvements over time. A mechanism is needed to develop new product variants for changing needs and ensure the continuous development and improvement chain, which is indispensable from the product life cycle. Unfortunately, this mechanism has not been fully established yet and affects the development pace of the products. TÜBİTAK SAGE has not earned any royalty income through technology transfer so far. However, we see very positive approaches to this issue, and we hope that a mechanism will be established for this in a short time. We recently signed protocols with some significant defense industry companies. We will see that the "royalty" model will come to life soon with the sales of the products covered by the protocol.

Defence Turkey: In the missile projects where you are involved in the development phase, the development process is completed when the products reach the serial production phase. Afterward, the qualified personnel who took part in these projects are naturally transferred to other R&D projects. Of course, as the technology advances, the development process is also in constant motion, and for product perfection, various parameters such as acquired capabilities, engineering experience, project management, teamwork must be in harmony and particular order. What can you share about SAGE's human resources and project management approach as far as keeping the same staff throughout projects and allocating permanent resources in the development processes for advanced versions of the systems, especially in special projects? 

Gürcan OKUMUŞ: This issue is a highly significant problem for institutions that only conduct R&D and not serial production. We have taken important organizational steps to solve this problem. With the matrix organizational structure, we gathered our projects under groups and established system and subsystem groups based on their areas of specialty. These specialized groups and program coordinators support both the existing R&D projects as well as the logistic and configuration management of the systems delivered to the TAF through the system engineering units. Another important step was the establishment of an integrated logistics support group. This group regularly provides information about the performance and use of the systems to the relevant coordinators. In this way, even after the R&D work is completed, we can preserve our knowledge of the systems in the TAF inventory and continue their development processes. In terms of Human Resources, researchers continue to specialize by working on new projects and receive support from systems engineering groups whenever retrospective knowledge is required. These are measures we can take within our own means. However, supporting the products with projects under a development roadmap is an indispensable part of our human resources approach in order to enable our teams to continue their work in a focused manner. 

Defence Turkey: What can you say about SAGE's work areas and capabilities? On February 9, 2021, Turkey's National Space Program was shared with the public, both Turkish and globally. What roles can SAGE play in the field of Space Technologies? 

Gürcan OKUMUŞ: TÜBİTAK SAGE has been working on defense technologies since its establishment. Since the 2000s, it has developed and produced world-class guided munitions and delivered them to the service of the Turkish Armed Forces. When we look at the technology breakdown of these guided munitions, many competencies are required, including system engineering, aerodynamic, flight mechanics, guidance and control, structural mechanics, thermal management, high-reliability electronics and software, solid and liquid fuel propulsion systems, material technologies, and warhead design technologies. TÜBİTAK SAGE has proven its worth in these fields and is ready for new duties to do more. 

TÜBİTAK SAGE's system engineering approach for system design, introduction, and maintenance can be directly applied to space systems. TÜBİTAK SAGE is a pioneering institution, especially in designing rocket propulsion systems used in space vehicles and launch systems. In the 1990s, Turkey's first indigenous solid-propellant rocket motors were designed and manufactured by TÜBİTAK SAGE and used in the TOROS artillery rocket system. Moreover, Turkey's first dual-fuel rocket engine and the first hybrid rocket engine were designed, manufactured, and ground tested by TÜBİTAK SAGE. Additionally, TÜBİTAK SAGE has approximately 15 years of experience in the design and production of thrust vector control systems that provide the directional control of launch vehicles. TÜBİTAK SAGE is an institution that can fulfill any task to contribute to the National Space Program with its trained personnel and experience in related systems. In this context, it continues to take an active role in the work carried out under the coordination of the Turkish Space Agency (TUA). 

Defence Turkey: What are Turkey’s long-term strategic goals, and what should they be? What role can SAGE play in this context? 

Gürcan OKUMUŞ: Considering the geopolitical position of our country and the recent conjuncture, having domestic and national systems, qualified human resources, critical technology, and infrastructures are of vital importance for our country.

In this context, TÜBİTAK SAGE has gained the ability to design and manufacture high technology munitions (SOM, GÖKDOĞAN, BOZDOĞAN, HGK, KGK, NEB, SARB-83, etc.) in line with the needs of the Turkish Armed Forces. Furthermore, awareness has been created, and significant steps have been taken to eliminate foreign dependency in various subsystems and material technologies. With the formulae we developed, we ensured the production of more effective and cheaper energetic materials and thermobaric explosives than their foreign counterparts. Again, thanks to our experience of many years, we have gained the ability to design effective warheads, which is very rare in the world. In line with our founding purpose, TÜBİTAK SAGE has realized and continues to realize important projects that will end foreign dependency. 

TÜBİTAK SAGE has created an economic volume of approximately US$1.5 billion in the defense industry with the munition systems it has developed and contributed to their industrialization.

It is estimated that the economic value of foreign equivalents of the products developed by TÜBİTAK SAGE will increase from US$47.5 billion in 2021 to US$52 billion by 2025. In other words, while the products we develop eliminate the TAF's dependency on foreign countries, they will also be important export items that appeal to a significant market in the world.

Our country is rapidly advancing towards becoming a brand in the field of the defense industry. In today's world, warfare is now carried out with weapons that are precision-guided, innovative, equipped with up-to-date technologies, and they are getting cheaper. The Turkish defense industry gradually strengthens this position in tactical weapon systems, and institutions can manufacture their own products. Today, wars have turned into the struggle of the mind against the mind, and the information from the front has gained great importance. We believe that we can develop much better tactical weapon systems if we can combine the user experience with design experience more effectively. We all have some ideas about strategic systems and the needs for these systems. We must take firmer steps in these areas and quickly find solutions to our weaknesses. With its current knowledge and experience, TÜBİTAK SAGE is a capable institution that can participate in any project related to the development of innovative high technology and up-to-date strategic weapons. We think that we can successfully complete every task in this field.

Defence Turkey: It was stated that TÜBİTAK SAGE would start Turkey's first trisonic wind tunnel investment in 2020, and with this investment, highly critical infrastructure will be established to meet the needs of Turkey. What can you tell us about the Trisonic Wind Tunnel Project? 

Gürcan OKUMUŞ: We believe that a critical threshold was passed in 2020 to meet Turkey's high-speed wind tunnel needs. TÜBİTAK SAGE rapidly carries out design studies for the Trisonic Wind Tunnel. Preliminary design studies are ongoing at the current stage and functional design details are expected to emerge as of next year. While aiming to meet the primary needs of our defense and aerospace industry with the blow-down Trisonic Wind Tunnel (TSTT), TÜBİTAK SAGE also continues to evaluate the necessary features for TSTT to be competitive in the international arena by taking into account the budget and schedule targets in its design studies. When TSTT becomes active, it will be one of the most advanced blowdown wind tunnels in the world and will have higher test efficiency compared to similar ones. It will also completely eliminate Turkey's foreign dependency in trisonic wind tunnel tests. 

Defence Turkey: TÜBİTAK SAGE is taking part in several crucial air-to-ground munition projects such as SOM Air-Launched Cruise Missile (SOM-B1 ALCM, and C1 and C2 anti-ship missiles), SOM-J (F-16 integration), Penetrator Bomb (NEB), SARB-83, Precision Guidance Kit (HGK, HGK-2, HGK-3, and HGK-4), LGHK-84, and Wing-Assisted Guidance Kit (KGK). Could you briefly summarize the latest situation on these projects for our readers? 

Gürcan OKUMUŞ: The firing tests of the SOM-B2 variant with two-stage tandem penetrating warhead have been completed. The SOM-B2 variant will be able to destroy hardened targets such as bunkers and aircraft hangars with its concrete penetrating warhead, which is based on the tandem penetrating warhead technology developed by TÜBİTAK SAGE for the Penetrator Bomb (NEB). SOM-B2 missiles are expected to become operational in 2021.

Development activities are ongoing for the SOM-C1 and SOM-C2 variants, which will be capable of engaging moving surface targets and controlled by the pilot after firing with the national data-link solution. When SOM-C1/SOM-C2 variants become operational, it will be possible to engage surface threats such as enemy warships from stand-off distances.

SOM is a cruise missile system developed domestically and nationally in line with the needs of the Turkish Armed Forces. Studies for the nationalization of critical subsystems that cannot be acquired with domestic capabilities during the development phase were initiated with the support of the SSB and TÜBİTAK. The activities for integrating sub-components developed by national companies, especially the turbojet engine, for the SOM missile have also been projected. A significant part of these activities has been completed, and some of them are still ongoing.

We are currently working on the operational use of the SOM-J missile in F-16 aircraft. The SOM-J was initially developed for F-35 aircraft. Furthermore, the SOM-J missile has been designed to be carried in the internal weapons bay of the National Combat Aircraft (TF-X). We are also working on integrating the SOM-J missile into AKINCI UCAV. In this way, cruise missiles will be fired from Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to penetrate deep into the enemy line and will be directed by pilots at the Ground Control Station to hostile targets. As one of the leading countries in the world in UAV technologies, Turkey will also open a new page with the UAV-Cruise Missile concept. The ground tests of the SOM-J missile have been completed, and flight tests are ongoing as part of the F-16 integration studies. We are planning to conduct SOM-J firing tests from F-16 aircraft very soon. 

SARB-83's first production project contract has been signed with the SSB. It will enter the inventory of the TAF in 2022.

The production of the HGK-1 system has been stopped. Currently, ASELSAN produces and delivers the HGK-84, which is an advanced version. The optional laser seeker is also used effectively with HGK-84s. 

The multi-rack phase of the HGK-82 Development project continues. Initial production was conducted by TÜBİTAK SAGE, and the serial production will be carried out by ASELSAN and ASFAT. Laser seeker integration studies are also ongoing.

Development of the HGK-83 single-rack version has been completed, and the initial production is being carried out by ASELSAN. Studies for the multi-rack version continue as part of the development project.

KGK-82 and KGK-83 production is being carried out by KALE AVIATION, and they are successfully used in critical operations.

Defence Turkey: It was claimed that KGK-83 munitions were used to destroy a Syrian SA-17/BUK-M2 SAM System during Operation Spring Shield in 2020. Have you received any information on this incident? Is it possible to share it with the public? 

Gürcan OKUMUŞ: Considering it is the TAF's responsibility to make such statements, we cannot share any information on this matter.

Defence Turkey: Can we get information about the KAŞİF National GPS Receiver developed for Air-to-Ground munitions and successfully tested on HGK-82 in July 2020? What can you tell us about its similar and superior features compared to its competitors? Has KAŞİF started to be used with other munitions? Is KAŞİF a military standard GPS receiver? Does it have an anti-spoofing feature or Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Module (SAASM)? 

Gürcan OKUMUŞ: KAŞİF is a precision GPS receiver developed by TÜBİTAK SAGE for military platforms with high speed and high altitude. RF, digital, and analog electronic hardware, mechanical, software, and algorithm designs were carried out by TÜBİTAK SAGE. 

With KAŞİF, SAGE aims to eliminate the foreign dependency of the Turkish Defense Industry on the GPS receivers and create the necessary laboratory and human resources to develop advanced technologies that will make a difference in GPS technology. 

Developed by TÜBİTAK SAGE, KAŞİF is the first and only domestic and national GPS receiver, which has been integrated into guidance kits within the scope of the HGK-82 MB project. The system's high accuracy was verified with the firing test carried out on July 10, 2020, in Karapınar, Konya.

KAŞİF is a high-accuracy GPS receiver that is designed in line with the development of advanced navigation technologies. Its integration studies continue in our other projects. KAŞİF was designed in accordance with the MIL-STD-810 standard and has been qualified according to this standard. 

KAŞİF does not have an anti-spoofing feature. However, we are still working on the interference detection feature. KAŞİF does not have the Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Module (SAASM). This module is subject to US approval and is not for sale. However, KAŞİF provides more precise positioning information than many of its counterparts in the world.

Defence Turkey: As SAGE, you were also working with TUALCOM Company on Anti-Jamming GPS/GNSS System. Was this product named KAŞİF, or are there two separate products? 

Gürcan OKUMUŞ: As TÜBİTAK SAGE, we attach great importance to the success of our products on the battlefield. Especially, HGKs have been used in numerous operations in recent years, and their success is very high. To maintain this success, we are working to ensure continuous product development for the changing operational environment. One of them was the development of an Anti-Jamming antenna. The idea of developing an Anti-Jamming antenna against GPS jamming on the battlefield has been going on at TÜBİTAK SAGE for about three years. Although our systems feature Inertial Measurement Units (IMU), it is inevitable to use high-accuracy GPS for cost-effective and high-precision strikes. Here we decided that this technology is a necessity to minimize this jamming effect. TÜBİTAK SAGE has always sought competent technology companies with the motivation to include SMEs in the defense sector as much as possible in its projects. At this point, TUALCOM, believing in this technology and its future potential, has started to work with TÜBİTAK SAGE by adding its own resources to the project. A business model was established for the antenna part to be developed and produced by TÜBİTAK SAGE and the signal processing unit by TUALCOM, and the Anti-Jamming antenna family was successfully created in a short time. KAŞİF is the receiver part of the weapon systems that we developed and will develop, while the anti-Jamming antenna system is the part to be used in jamming suppression. These products complement each other. Although systems using off-the-shelf chips seem to be a solution at a certain scale, the speed at which these chips can be used is limited. In addition, they do not contain some features required for munitions. KAŞİF is an important achievement in this part because it was developed by our own teams at the Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) level with all its algorithms and software without any limitations. Almost all chip-level receiver integrations are limited to 550 m/s (meter per second). The KAŞİF GPS receiver developed by TÜBİTAK SAGE does not have such a limitation. It can work together with the anti-jamming antenna in every system we designed. The development of both products continues. The Anti-Jamming antenna series is getting smaller to become suitable for munitions. The world's smallest Anti-Jamming antenna system has emerged after these studies. Both KAŞİF and Anti-Jamming antennas were developed without any support from the procurement authorities and turned into world-class products. Our expectation from the procurement authorities is to initiate the necessary integration projects to use these products. We will continue developing these products, and we will bring reliable high-tech solutions to our country by creating competitive and innovative systems. 

Defence Turkey: Will KEMENT be used as a data link in SOM ALCM C1 and C2 versions? 

Gürcan OKUMUŞ: Development activities for SOM-C1/SOM-C2 variants continue with the KEMENT data link. In addition, SOM missiles are designed to be integrated into national tactical data link networks. 

Defence Turkey: Have you started to work on the powered Wing-Assisted Guidance Kit with a small turbojet engine? Will the TEI product TJ35 or TJ90 be sufficient for the propulsion system? A few years ago, a model named KGK-LR, which resembles the JSOW munition, was displayed. Will the production model of the powered KGK be named KGK-LR? 

It seems applicable as a concept. We believe that it can be used as a long-range, low-cost solution, especially in operations with heavy air defense threats. This is currently in the conceptual design phase and funded by SAGE's own resources. No official project has been initiated. 

Defence Turkey: It was announced that the KUZGUN Miniature Precision Guided Munition Family, which was exhibited for the first time by SAGE during the IDEF ‘19 Fair, will feature powered and non-powered versions equipped with laser, IIR and radar (RF) seekers. Could you please summarize the latest situation of the Project for our readers? 

Gürcan OKUMUŞ: Conceptual and preliminary design stages have been completed, and detailed design, platform integration, and test planning studies are ongoing. As a joint modular munition, KUZGUN will be able to meet different needs cost-effectively. As part of our studies, which we carry out with our own resources, firing tests of the first version will be conducted within this year. We place great importance on the KUZGUN project, but cost-effectiveness is also very important with this type of munition. We proceed by considering all these parameters in our studies.

Defence Turkey: Is there any official order for KUZGUN, which looks like the SPEAR III Missile? It was noted that thanks to its internal data-link capability, KUZGUN would be able to make mid-course corrections until the moment of hitting the target. Do you plan to use KEMENT as the Data Link system?

Gürcan OKUMUŞ: Since TÜBİTAK SAGE expects to use KUZGUN mostly with UCAVs, it conducts a different data link development study based on the platform requirements. Unlike the SPEAR III missile, the KUZGUN Weapon System family has been designed as a modular and cost-effective system. The national data link developed by TÜBİTAK SAGE under the Smart Weapon Network studies was selected as the data link. We aim to continuously improve the munition algorithms by acquiring all flight data and having capabilities such as instant video feed transmission (with IIR or CCD seeker), in-flight target selection, target update, and mission cancellation during free flight.

Defence Turkey: The serial production of the Miniature Bomb, or National SDB (Small Diameter Bomb), which is a TÜBİTAK 1007 Project carried out in cooperation with Aselsan and TÜBİTAK SAGE, was started with the Defense Industry Executıve Commıttee (SSİK) Decision taken on August 11, 2020. Is there a plan to develop a new version of the National SDB with a multi-mode seeker and data link capability like the GBU-53 StormBreaker munition (such as Laser Seeker with a four-level laser sensor similar to TÜBİTAK SAGE CAMGÖZ CG-178 + Imaging Infrared (IIR) Seeker)? 

Gürcan OKUMUŞ: The Miniature Bomb project was completed as a TÜBİTAK SAVTAG project, of which ASELSAN is the main contractor, and the "serial production order" phase has started. TÜBİTAK SAGE successfully designed the penetrating warhead in the project. We are conducting some studies in cooperation with ASELSAN for the next phases of the project. We will continue to support ASELSAN under the roadmap of the Miniature Bomb project.

Defence Turkey: Flight tests with members of the GÖKTUĞ Air-to-Air Missile Family, GÖKDOĞAN and BOZDOĞAN Missiles, began in late November 2020. What can you tell us about the latest situation in the tests? When will the missiles enter the inventory of the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF)? 

Gürcan OKUMUŞ: First, ground firing tests were carried out to check whether all systems worked together before firing from the aircraft, and even though it was the first firing test, it achieved success that made us very happy.  We are now focused on firing tests from the F-16 aircraft. Recently, we are verifying the capabilities of our missiles step by step by firing both missiles from the F-16. BOZDOĞAN tracked and destroyed the target with such accuracy that it can be considered "HIT TO KILL" in the first firing test from the aircraft, and this success was announced for the first time by our President, as you know. It was a significant step in Turkish defense history for our first air-to-air missile to score a direct hit on the target after being safely separated from the aircraft. We believe that achieving such success in the very first launch is an excellent result of TÜBİTAK SAGE's R&D culture, and we had similar success in ground tests as well. We expect to start additional work, nationalization studies, and first production activities for both missiles in the upcoming period. With this first production, we are planning to establish a production model where SMEs are predominantly used, and the design improvements of the products are carried out after the R&D phase. We will establish a system where we will make the final integration with qualified subsystem producers, and production will be spread to the industry. This stands out as a successful method that we have implemented in HGK and KGK projects before.

Defence Turkey: What can you tell us about the infrastructure you have for the ramjet propulsion system and your current studies carried out under the signed contract? 

Gürcan OKUMUŞ: Using our previously established test infrastructures, we continue our studies on the development of liquid fuel ramjet engines, and we have obtained very valuable results in a short time. Our current stage in this project encourages us to become one of the few countries in the world in liquid fuel ramjet engine and scramjet engine technologies in the future. Moreover, while improving the existing infrastructures, we are also establishing another infrastructure to perform ramjet engine tests and aerodynamic heating tests. When this infrastructure, which has been completed to a great extent, becomes fully functional, it will be one of the largest in Europe. Using the main elements of this infrastructure, we have also determined a roadmap for the construction of a hypersonic wind tunnel in our country. 

Defence Turkey: SAGE has been working on the Cold Vertical Launch Project for a while. What can you tell us about the G-40 Missile, which is the surface-launched model of the GÖKDOĞAN Missile with a 40,000ft altitude and 40km range? 

Gürcan OKUMUŞ: TÜBİTAK SAGE is not only developing the cold launch technology but also a similar technology called soft launch with some differences. In addition, we are also conducting studies on the divert attitude control technology that complements this, and we have already shared some test footage. We aim to develop alternative launching methods. Hot launch technology already exists in the industry, and we focused on developing a nonexistent capability instead of a developed technology. We started by evaluating what the present and future needs of the naval forces might be. We determine the alternative domestic counterparts of the Turkish Naval Forces' current short and medium-range/altitude air defense systems. Suppose you ask why we chose the cold launch system, it  is because this system is relatively safer for our ships. You do not ignite the engine inside the ship, and you can prevent possible accidents. We also believe that the system will take up less space and be lighter, enabling our ships to carry a greater weapon load. Our dream is to develop an air defense system based on proven systems such as GÖKDOĞAN and BOZDOĞAN that can be fired with the cold launch method, that orients itself towards its target with the Divert Attitude Control system, and flies directly to the target by firing its main engine. With this system, our naval forces will take important steps towards gaining a shield against supersonic or low-visibility missiles that are being developed. It is obvious that there is a need for a layered system here, too. Therefore, we believe that we can develop the G-40 missile based on GÖKDOĞAN. While one of the missiles is effective up to 20 km, the other can be effective up to 40 km. These are technologically advanced systems, and we carry out studies to develop the necessary technologies with our own resources. Thus, we demonstrate pre-feasibility. After a certain stage, we hope that it will turn into a vision project, of course, with the end user's request and the procurement authority's approval.

Defence Turkey: The Turkish Air Defense Systems Family Infographic previously shared by the SSB in 2018 featured the Hisar-G system with integrated Göktuğ missiles. What can you tell us about this concept? Are you working on a system that can intercept rocket and mortar munitions like Israel's Iron Dome? 

Gürcan OKUMUŞ: When we look at point air defense systems used in the world, the most well-known designs are developed from air-to-air missiles. IRIS-T SL, MICA VL, SPYDER, NASAMS are some examples. While an air-to-air missile is being developed in our country, of course, the first thing that comes to mind is to use these systems in point air defense systems. Last year's ground firing test revealed this potential of our missiles. To develop such a system, you need a radar, command control system, data link system, and a missile launcher, and a missile. All of these are currently present in our country, and some of them are developed by us. If requested, we can develop such a system very quickly. 

The IRON DOME system uses a TAMIR missile. It was developed from the subsystems of the Python and Derby missiles. In fact, our BOZDOĞAN missile is very similar to these missiles. We are conducting some studies about the requirements of this system and its differences with our missile. The TAMIR missile is claimed to have a fairly inexpensive cost. When we develop such a missile, we will have to compete with the prices. We are working on this matter.

Defence Turkey: What role did TÜBİTAK SAGE play in the National Vertical Launching System (MDAS) Project, which was announced to be used in the TCG İstanbul Frigate? Will MDAS have cold launch capability? Will the G-40 missile have "quadpack" capability like the ESSM missile? 

Gürcan OKUMUŞ: TÜBİTAK SAGE does not have any work share in the National Vertical Launching System project. As TÜBİTAK SAGE, we focused on cold launch technologies. Perhaps this may have been better for our country. Because while MDAS is being developed, if TÜBİTAK SAGE is supported, we can also develop cold launch technologies and maybe combine both systems in the future. G-40 is an internal project of TÜBİTAK SAGE. With the support of any procurement authority, it can be completed in a short time and launched from the MDAS. In addition, new cells can be developed to be integrated into the National Flexible Vertical Launching System developed by TÜBİTAK SAGE. The G-40 missile will be similar in size to the ESSM missile and can be designed to be integrated into vertical launching systems with a similar cell structure.

Defence Turkey: What can you tell us about the latest situation in the SAPAN Electromagnetic Launch System (EMLS) Project carried out by SAGE? Can we get information about the activities carried out in 2020 and the tests planned for 2021? 

Gürcan OKUMUŞ: The SAPAN Electromagnetic Launch System (Electromagnetic Railgun) Development Project was successfully completed in 2020 by exceeding the project requirement of 2000 m/s and 1 MJ (Megajoule) muzzle energy with 2070 m/s and 1.3 MJ during the test shot conducted in front of the Project evaluation jury. 

After that, the 2nd phase of studies began and these studies are continuing under the Electromagnetic Launch System Development (EMFS) Center of Excellence established under the coordination of the SSB. ASELSAN and TÜBİTAK SAGE work together at the center and determined their workshare for the 2nd phase. From here on, the SSB and the relevant TAF Commands are expected to determine the project requirements. As SAGE, our primary focus in Railgun systems will be about developing guided and unguided ammunition.

Defence Turkey: As SAGE, do you work on smart munitions for 76mm and 127mm naval guns? Is there a timetable for the introduction of local solutions in this regard? Do you work on 155mm smart munitions for land systems? 

Gürcan OKUMUŞ: The smart munitions that can meet the needs of our Naval and Land Forces are included in TÜBİTAK SAGE's roadmap. In this context, a detailed feasibility study has been made, and a proposal has been submitted for the project, which was called by the SSB for 155mm smart munition recently. However, we do not have an ongoing official project.

Defence Turkey: You previously mentioned that there is a serious export opportunity, especially in battery technologies. What can you say about SAGE's extremely strategically important thermal battery production capability? Have export requests been received from other countries? What can you share about your future projects in the area of battery technologies? 

Gürcan OKUMUŞ: TÜBİTAK SAGE started to work on Thermal Battery technology in 2002 to reduce foreign dependency in the defense industry. By 2021, with more than 260 thermal battery designs, 46 of which became products, the process that started at the laboratory scale in 2002 continues successfully, with Turkey becoming a country that exports thermal batteries abroad. Turkey's import of thermal batteries was zeroed, and it became an exporting country.

TÜBİTAK SAGE can respond to all domestic demands for thermal batteries used as power sources in guidance kits, fuzes, missiles, acoustic decoys, guided artillery munitions, and aircraft ejection seat systems. TÜBİTAK SAGE's thermal battery design and production capabilities have become well known in the foreign market thanks to our exports to technologically advanced countries such as Germany, Spain, and Brazil. Our thermal batteries used in national munitions are "combat-proven."

We are currently talking with the relevant military institutions of countries such as Germany, Spain, Taiwan, and Pakistan for the export of thermal batteries.

We have completed the localization of critical chemical materials used in thermal battery technology. We are also closely following the pure Lithium production studies in our country. In addition, in line with the vision of TÜBİTAK SAGE, we continue to work on battery technologies that will meet long-range and high specific energy-power density needs for smart munitions (e.g., supersonic/hypersonic missiles, etc.). In the future, we believe that new generation battery technology will serve as one of the national power sources in Turkey's space program. We are carrying out internal projects on this matter.

Defence Turkey: What can you say about TÜBİTAK SAGE's expectations and goals for the next 10 years? 

Gürcan OKUMUŞ: TÜBİTAK SAGE's primary goal is continuing to be the leading institution in R&D Technologies in the Turkish defense industry. To this end, developing system-level projects with new technologies to meet the needs of the Turkish Armed Forces, continuing nationalization activities for a fully independent defense industry without slowing down, and serving our country at the highest level is a source of motivation for TÜBİTAK SAGE. 

Moreover, we plan to develop versions of all these systems that are compatible with all the unmanned platforms, especially the UAVs. In the next 10 years, supersonic cruise missiles with RAMJETs, hypersonic cruise missiles, advanced cruise missile variants, missile launch technologies, air defense missile technologies, armored vehicle protection technologies (hard kill), advanced seeker technologies, artificial intelligence technologies, advanced materials, propulsion technologies, and advanced navigation solutions stand out as priority technologies for TÜBİTAK SAGE.

Defence Turkey: What can you tell us about TÜBİTAK SAGE's participation in the IDEF '21 Fair? How many products will be exhibited at the fair? Will there be products that will be showcased for the first time at this year’s event? 

Gürcan OKUMUŞ: As in previous years, TÜBİTAK SAGE will continue to be the most prominent institution at the IDEF Fair, which is planned to be held under protective measures due to the pandemic. Our planning studies for the products to be exhibited at the fair are currently in progress.

Defence Turkey: Is there anything you would like to add as a message to our readers? 

Gürcan OKUMUŞ: TÜBİTAK SAGE continues its activities with the vision of making Turkey fully independent in Defense Technologies and will continue to be a pioneer in Turkey with its qualified workforce and desire to accomplish what is difficult and what has not been done before