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Point Air Defense Needs of the Turkish Air Force

Issue 110

A layered air and missile defense structure should include at least several air defense systems in which each system protects a certain range and altitude in the designated air space from very short range-low altitudes to very long range-high altitudes. All systems must work together under a joint command-and-control system architecture to effectively control and defend air space. The core of air and missile defense capabilities of the Turkish Air Force (TurAF) are composed of over 30 fixed and mobile 3D air surveillance radar sensors that are located at remote sites around Turkey to provide a real-time picture of air space inside and around the country. These early warning radar systems are supported by 4 E-7T Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft serving under the Airborne Warning Control Group Command in Konya, Turkey. Ground-based air and missile defense systems of the TurAF consist of one battery of recently purchased long-range S400 Systems, four batteries of medium-ranged HAWK XXI Systems, 3-4 batteries of Nike Hercules (about to be retired), at least 80+ Rapier launchers for low altitude air defense and 32 units of ZIPKIN Stinger PMS and sufficient numbers of 35mm/40mm air defense guns for very short-range air defense needs. 

We will focus our attention on the point air defense segment of the TurAF's air and missile defense structure and discuss why it is important to establish a robust point air defense system to protect valuable assets against evolving air threats in the region. This focus is based on the recent developments in missile and drone technologies and their proliferation in the region and around the world. These missiles and drones can range from simple hand-thrown remote-controlled drones to very sophisticated kamikaze drones or long-range cruise missiles. Recent technological advances in electronics such as miniaturization of a lot of missile and drone subsystems including IIR/ TV gimbals/seekers, IMU (Inertial Measurement Units) units, smaller warheads, widely available propulsion systems (some from hobby aircraft), and guidance control systems make these weapons a major threat to the military and economic installations around the world. Some of these drones and missiles are built using composites or other non-metal materials that decrease their radar signatures and make them difficult to detect if they are flying at very low altitudes.