With the GNAT 750-45 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) System, which entered service in 1994, the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) became the second NATO armed forces, after the USA, to use MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) class advanced UAVs. Unfortunately, since the Turkish Air Force (TurAF) did not want to use an unmanned aircraft system at that time and the Turkish Army Aviation Command initially perceived UAVs as an extension of artillery units rather than an ISR platform, the GNAT 750-45 system, which was one of the most advanced UAV solutions of its time, was used only for artillery reconnaissance missions in Çorlu until 1997.

Date: Issue 101 - November 2020

Finally, the GNAT 750-45 UAV System (6 x aircraft, 1 x Ground Control Station/GCS, and 1 x Transportable Image Exploitation System/TIES), which was deployed to Batman Air Base in May 1997, was actively used by the 2nd Army UAV Unit in Internal Security Operations. Upon the successful performance of the 2nd Army UAV Unit (1st Fleet) in Internal Security Operations, two Improved GNAT (I-GNAT) UAVs and two more GCS were ordered under a contract signed in May 1998, and the systems were delivered in the same year. 

The first studies were started on arming UAVs of different models (such as GNAT 750-45, I-GNAT, BAYRAKTAR, and MALAZGİRT Mini UAV, Heron, Searcher II, Dominator II, Aerostar, GÖZCÜ-I/Heron, ANKA Blok-A, BAYRAKTAR TB2, and KARAYEL) and classes (Mini, Tactical and MALE), which have been procured since May 1997 through purchase or lease, and were mainly used for reconnaissance and surveillance (Imagery Intelligence/IMINT) in Internal Security and Urban Operations, on the TUSAŞ ANKA Block-A MALE UAV in the early 2010s. Turkey's first armed ANKA Blok-A UAV, with double pack smart launchers under each wing, fired two live (with warhead) Roketsan Semi-Active Laser (SAL) guided CIRIT Missiles in May 2013 and scored two successful hits on the fixed target illuminated by the AselFLIR-300T FLIR system. However, according to the information I received, during the CİRİT Missile (entered the TAF inventory in May 2012) firing test conducted with the ANKA Block-A UAV, the aircraft had to descend to an altitude almost 10.000ft. because the missile was not suitable for firing from higher altitudes like 25,000 – 30,000ft (the rocket engine ignites immediately at launch and the missile has to descend/dive at a certain angle due to altitude). Therefore, to increase the mission's success and the survival of the UAV, smart micro munitions that can be fired from higher altitudes were needed (flight at low altitudes increases the chances of being detected due to visibility and engine noise). 

With Smart Micro Munitions, UAVs Become the Nightmare of Terrorists!

With the introduction of the Roketsan product SAL-guided free-fall (glides in the air without a rocket motor) Smart Micro Munition (MAM-L), an indigenous solution was provided for this need. MAM-L was followed by SAL-guided MAM-C and BOZOK Smart Munitions, which are preferred for smaller air platforms due to their lightweight as they do not have a rocket motor. These munitions can reach ranges similar to munitions with rocket motors when released from high altitudes, but their range is shorter at lower altitudes. On the other hand, especially when engaging moving targets, it is claimed that 30% higher performance can be achieved with UMTAS-L (rocket-powered MAM-L) and CİRİT (rocket-powered MAM-C) Missiles compared to non-rocket powered versions. The MAM-L Smart Micro Munition was first integrated into the BAYRAKTAR TB2-S Armed UAV (UCAV) under the UAV Armament Project carried out by Baykar Defense and Roketsan on their own initiatives without any financial support from the Presidency of Defense Industries. During the launch test carried out at the Konya Test Range on December 17, 2015, a TB2 UAV taking off from the 3rd Main Jet Base (3rd MJBC) successfully hit a target at 8km with a MAM-L munition from an altitude of 18,000ft and opened a new page in Turkish UAV History. Vestel Defence, another Tactical UAV System manufacturer, successfully completed the integration of the MAM-L Smart Micro Munition into KARAYEL UAV after a three-month study that started in December 2015, and the armed version of KARAYEL (KARAYEL-S), which was loaded with MAM-L munitions, performed its maiden flight on April 15, 2016. During the first firing tests at the Konya Karapınar Test Range with the KARAYEL-S UAV a total of three MAM-L launches, one with a warhead (live) and two without a warhead (inert), were successfully carried out on June 15, 2016.

Upon proving that a Tactical Class UAV can be armed with national capabilities and successfully operated, the SSB issued a Request for Information (RFI) to relevant domestic and foreign companies on April 28, 2015, to meet the Turkish Land Forces' needs for aerial reconnaissance and surveillance and to neutralize detected targets. Later, under the Armed UAV Procurement Project, foreign purchases were abandoned, and a contract was signed with Baykar Defense on May 13, 2016, to procure the first batch of 4 BAYRAKTAR TB2 UCAV Systems (each consisting of 4 aircraft and related ground systems) and the necessary services and infrastructure required for operating the systems.

After the first BAYRAKTAR TB2 equipped with Roketsan's SAL-guided MAM-L Smart Micro Munition became operational on September 4, 2016 (delivered in the last week of August, the second one in October 2016), UAVs  became one of the most significant sources of striking power for the Turkish Armed Forces and Security Forces in operations carried out against the PKK, PYD/YPG and DAESH/ISIS terrorist organizations both within and beyond our borders. Meanwhile, the armed ANKA UAV, which is based on the ANKA Block-B UAV with reinforced wing design, made its maiden flight on March 7, 2017. Equipped with Aselsan's CATS HD EO/IR Reconnaissance, Surveillance & Targeting System and armed with Roketsan's MAM-L Smart Micro Munition (four in total, two under each wing), the Armed ANKA UAV was deployed to Elazig in the first half of June 2017 and carried out its first mission on July 12, 2017, in Bingöl. Additionally, Vestel Defence integrated CIRIT Missiles (single-cell pod under each wing) to its KARAYEL-SU UCAV, which is the advanced version of the KARAYEL UAV. It successfully hit a target at approximately 8km with a CIRIT Missile from an altitude of 18,000ft during its first firing test at Acıkıran in January 2019.

MALE Class Heron/GÖZCÜ-I, ANKA-A, ANKA-B, ANKA-S and ANKA-I, and Tactical Class BAYRAKTAR TB2 UAV/UCAVs have been deployed to military bases in different regions of our country. Equipped with FLIR and SAR payloads, MALE and Tactical Class UAVs provide aerial detection, identification, and target illumination support to Air Force elements and artillery batteries of the Land Forces during operations against terrorist organizations inside and outside Turkey. Armed UAVs, on the other hand, can directly attack the approved targets which they detected and identified with MAM-L, MAM-C, and BOZOK Smart Micro Munitions. Especially UCAVs changed the course of the operations against terrorist organizations such as the PKK, PYD/YPG, and DAESH/ISIS and inflicted heavy blows on terrorist organizations. The Ministry of Internal Affairs' report on the Contribution of UCAV and UAV Systems in the Fight Against Terrorism states the effective and widespread use of UAVs and UCAVs demoralized the members of the PKK Terrorist Organization, and the terrorists whose mobility has been reduced are no longer able to move as large groups in the field. The report also emphasizes that thanks to the psychological effects of UAVs and UCAVs, PKK recruitment has fallen to an all-time low, and the number of terrorists that have surrendered to security forces has increased.

With the integration of indigenous weapon systems such as SAL-guided MAM-L, MAM-C, and BOZOK (the first firing test was carried out on July 27, 2018, and the second firing test on November 1, 2018, from a TB2 UCAV) into the Tactical and MALE Class UAV Systems and the introduction of new Armed UAV Systems, their usage has been expanded, and they have become a critical force multiplier for the Turkish Armed Forces and the Security Forces (Gendarmerie and Police). UCAVs, which enable the TAF to neutralize targets in cross-border operations against terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria with 'pinpoint' precision, also demonstrated their force multiplier role in increasing the effectiveness and deterrence of Gendarmerie and Police in Internal Security Operations.

UAVs and UCAVs Increasingly Becoming the Stars of Cross-Border Operations

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles have undertaken an important roles as a force multiplier in Internal Security Operations, and cross-border operations carried out by the Turkish Armed Forces in Syria and Iraq against DAESH/ISIS and the PKK's Syrian branch PYD/YPG.

With the outbreak of the Civil War in neighboring Syria, the Turkish Armed Forces carried out several cross-border operations against terrorist organizations in Syria to secure Turkey's borders. In this context, Operation Euphrates Shield (OES) was carried out between August 24, 2016 - March 29, 2017, Operation Olive Branch (OOB) between January 20, 2018 - March 24, 2018, Operation Peace Spring (OPS) between October 9 - October 18, 2019, and Operation Spring Shield (OSS), which is still ongoing, on February 27, 2020, has been carried out (although military activities have been frozen, joint patrols continue in the region with the Russian Federation). During the summit held in Moscow on March 5, 2020, Turkey and the Russian Federation agreed on ceasefire terms, and all military activities were stopped on March 6, 2020. The Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and the Syrian Armed Forces (SAA) mostly did not clash during OES, OOB, and OPS, which were mainly carried out against DAESH/ISIS and YPG/PYD elements. However, during Operation Spring Shield (OSS), which was launched after the Russian-backed Syrian Armed Forces killed 34 Turkish soldiers by attacking a Turkish Army battalion with artillery and airstrikes in Syria's Idlib region on February 27, 2020, the Syrian Armed Forces were directly targeted, and very heavy losses were inflicted with the contribution of UAVs and UCAVs.

The main contributions of UAVs and UCAVs, which were put into use as part of the TAF's "Search-Find-Destroy" strategy, to the efficiency of military operations are listed as follows:

•Reducing human cost by minimizing friendly casualties in the operation area,

•With the close air support, they provide to friendly elements during operations, they reduce the pressure on the troops participating in the operation and allow the troops to gain tactical advantage,

•Delivering strategic results by successfully neutralizing high-value targets,

•Reducing the capability of terrorist elements to conduct attacks by suppressing their tactical capacity,

•Neutralizing terrorists in urban areas with pinpoint accuracy without causing civilian casualties.

One of the most crucial support elements in Operation Euphrates Shield (OES), which was carried out between August 24, 2016, and March 29, 2017, were the UCAVs that had recently been added to the TAF inventory. UAVs and UCAVs were put into use as a part of the TAF's "Search-Find-Destroy" strategy and they prevented infiltration attempts along the borderline and contributed to gathering Imagery intelligence (IMINT). During OES, it is believed that there were 4 BAYRAKTAR TB2 UCAVs and 1 ANKA-B UCAV (leased). Since the number of UCAVs was few, they were mainly used to gather tactical intelligence and provide limited fire support during the operation. On the other hand, several the TurAF GÖZCÜ-I/Heron UAVs, BAYRAKTAR TB2 UAV, TB2 UCAVs, ANKA-B UCAV, and ANKA-A UAV, in their inventories at the time of OES. 

In parallel with the increased number of UAVs and UCAVs in the inventory of the Turkish Armed Forces and Security Forces, UAVs and UCAVs played more of an active role in Operation Olive Branch (OOB) between 20 January 2018 - 24 March 2018. They contributed to the operation's decision-making processes by providing tactical intelligence and fire support to the troops and visibly transformed its course and execution. As one of the most important indigenous products that contributed to the successful conclusion of Olive Branch Operation, which enabled the PYD/YPG to be expelled from Afrin and secure the borders of Hatay, Kilis, and Gaziantep, the UAVs successfully detected and eliminated threats encountered by advancing TAF units during the operation. UAVs and UCAVs also located numerous caves and tunnels used as shelters and contributed to eliminating threats with the intelligence they provided through reconnaissance & surveillance missions or by directly neutralizing hostile elements. UAVs and UCAVs were used at altitudes as high as 25,000ft or even as low as 300m, preventing casualties by ensuring the safety of soldiers advancing on the ground. UAVs and UCAVs performed their missions continuously despite adverse weather conditions such as snow, storm, rain, fog, and dense clouds during OOB.

According to Anatolian Agency as of April 2018, BAYRAKTAR TB2 UAVs/UCAVs made a total of 382 sorties and flew 4,916 hours during Operation Olive Branch and neutralized 1,129 terrorists in total (449 directly and 680 indirectly). The total number of terrorists neutralized by the TAF in OOB was announced as 3,991 as of April 7, 2018. In this case, the number of terrorists directly neutralized by TB2 UCAVs corresponds to 11.2% of the total number of hostile casualties during the operation. In comparison, the number of terrorists eliminated indirectly by TB2 by marking targets for fire support elements corresponds to 17% of the total number. In his speech at an event organized by the Ministry of National Education on June 27, 2020, Baykar Defense Technical Manager Selçuk BAYRAKTAR stated that the BAYRAKTAR TB2 UAV/UCAV Systems flew 5,300 hours during OOB, and TB2 UAVs/UCAVs performed 95% of the sorties in Afrin.

Gaining the Upper Hand, UAVs/UCAVs Proved to be an Active Force Multiplier Gaining Advantages over Regular Armies!

Thanks to the increased number of UAVs/UCAVs and related Ground Control Stations (about 100 BAYRAKTAR TB2 UAV/UCAV, over 20 ANKA Series UAV/SIGINT/ELINT/UCAV, 7 GÖZCÜ-I/Heron UAV, and around 40 Ground Control Stations) as well as the improvements made on UAV platforms with the experience and feedback received during the cross-border operations, Turkey carried out Operation Spring Shield, which started on February 27, 2020, with UAV power that has now turned into an active force structure. The UAVs/UCAVs, which were mostly used within the scope of the fight against terrorism until that day, were used for the first time in a low-intensity conflict environment against a regular army in a coordinated manner (swarm attack). 

Due to the Russian Federation's unwillingness for Turkish warplanes such as the F-16C/D and F-4E 2020 to enter Syrian airspace, TurAF aircraft mostly engaged the Syrian Armed Forces from within Turkey (A Turkish Air Force F-16 fighter shot down a Syrian Air Force L-39 Albatros aircraft with an AIM-120 missile at a distance of approximately 45km on 3 March 2020). UAVs and UCAVs such as ANKA-I, ANKA-S, and BAYRAKTAR TB2 taking off from different provinces of Turkey entered Syrian airspace (mostly Idlib) and conducted coordinated airstrikes on regime targets, and inflicted heavy casualties. The ANKA-S and BAYRAKTAR TB2 UCAVs, which were directed from the command and control centers in Ankara and Hatay, conducted swarm attacks and neutralized heavy weapons, ammunition depots, military vehicles, personnel, and the Shiite militia that supported the Syrian Armed Forces. With Smart Micro Munitions such as MAM-L and MAM-C used by the UCAVs, the Syrian Armed Forces in and around Idlib suffered severe casualties, and the images of the neutralized or destroyed military vehicles, especially the Pantsir-S1E (SA-22E), which were published on the social media account Clash Report, created a significant psychological impact. The lethality of UCAVs, proven by shared images, was followed closely by the international media, and attracted considerable attention. 

According to the statement made by the Ministry of National Defense (MoND) on March 4, 2020, during Operation Spring Shield; 3 aircraft (2 x Su-24 and 1 x L-39), 8 helicopters, 151 tanks, 47 artillery, 52 MLRS, 8 air defense systems (1 x S-300, 2 x SA-17 BUK and 5 x Pantsir S1E), 12 anti-tank weapons, 4 mortars, 24 armored vehicles, 27 infantry fighting vehicles, 34 technical, 60 military vehicles, 10 ammunition depots were destroyed, and 3,138 Syrian soldiers and regime supporters were killed. A significant part of these casualties was inflicted by UCAVs, which played a leading role in the Operation.

Achilles Heel of UAVs and UCAVs: EW and GPS Jamming/Spoofing

During Operation Spring Shield, BAYRAKTAR TB2 UCAVs and ANKA-S UCAV were subjected to more intense EW and GPS Jamming/Spoofing, especially during the first three days. It was claimed that some losses happened (but not officially disclosed) during that period by international media and several social media accounts.

When jamming is employed in the EW environment, the UAV System does not recognize that the GPS is spoofed/deceived if it is not equipped with a military standard GPS receiver with anti-spoofing or jamming resistance (especially if it is equipped with an autopilot system using open-source COTS commercial software) and special learning algorithms that are able to understand and detect when GPS Spoofing is present. As a result, either the operator is flying on a wrong digital map (while the operator thinks he is flying in the X region, a digital map of another city or even another country is displayed on the screen, causing the UAV crash into a hill or mountain during the flight), or if the connection with the UAV is interrupted due to jamming, the UAV is given a self-destruct command. Through EW and GPS Spoofing, the command control (C2) data link of the UAV System can be blocked or taken over by the enemy. For example, Iran succeeded in controlling an RQ-170 Sentinel "Stealth" UAV flying over its territory via GPS Spoofing on December 4, 2011 and managed to land it with very slight damage.

In the light of the experiences gained during the operations carried out in Syria, studies have been initiated by the SSB and local companies to develop Anti-Jam GPS/GNSS Systems for UAV/UCAV and drone systems to operate in EW jamming and GPS Jamming/Spoofing environments. Moreover, STM has developed a land-assisted autonomous navigation solution for air platforms in GNSS-Denied environments called TerraFlite. Furthermore, TÜBİTAK-SAGE and TUALCOM co-developed an Anti-Jam GPS/GNSS receiver antenna, which is claimed to be the smallest in the world (a national GPS receiver named KAŞİF at military standards was also produced for ammunition), and Meteksan Defence completed the development of an Anti-Jamming GNSS product that supports GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, BEIDOU satellite signals and can operate in multiple frequency bands. According to a TUALCOM press release dated May 13, 2020, the TUALAJ-8300 (8 Channel Array, GPS L1, GPS L2, Anti-Jam GPS/GNSS receiver, and GLONASS) was to be put into use in June 2020 (resistant to 7 different jamming threats at the same time thanks to 8 different antenna arrays). Additionally, the ESEN System Company is working on Image Assisted Navigation Systems for high situational awareness.

ANKA-S UAV, which was actively used in Operation Spring Shield, played an essential role in the course of the operation thanks to its flight control and navigation systems (including an indigenous Anti-Jamming/Spoofing GPS receiver and special learning algorithms that enable it to understand and detect when GPS Spoofing is present) allowing it to fly in a GPS Jamming/Spoofing environment, SatCom capability (satellite communication), Automatic Take-off and Landing System (ATOLS), and high-speed data transfer capability. The first batch of 10 ANKA-S UAV platforms of the Turkish Air Forces are equipped with the ViaSat Ku-Band SatCom System, and flight tests with the domestic Ku-Band SatCom System developed by C2Tech company were completed in December 2019. The domestic SatCom System will start to be used in the new production ANKA-B UAVs and ANKA-S UCAVs. The TurAF ANKA-S UCAVs are controlled from the Operation Training and Simulation Center (OSEM), which was delivered to the TurAF in May 2018 under the ANKA-S Project. The TurAF ANKA-S UCAVs deliveries started in February 2018, and they conducted their first combat missions in January 2019. OSEM can control ANKA UAVs/UCAVs and their payload in any part of the world from Turkey via TAFICS or Satellite as long as there is satellite coverage. Additionally, OSEM has a training assistant infrastructure that can simulate flight, virtual missions, and operations for Pilot and Payload Operator training, and six different ANKA UAVs/UCAVs can be controlled at the same time. In his statement to Milliyet Newspaper published on November 5, 2016, the Minister of National Defense at the time Fikri IŞIK stated that the UAV Command Control/Operations Center, which will be established in Ankara, will allow for the coordination and control of the UAV Systems and Manned Reconnaissance and Surveillance Aircraft in the service of different institutions. MİLSOFT's Integrated Intelligence System, Mil-INTEL, has been successfully used by the Turkish Air Force for four years as of September 2020, enabling ANKA UAVs to fly safely in the EW environment with GPS Jamming/Spoofing. 

UCAVs are Changing the Course of War in Libya and Azerbaijan!

The UAVs, which were successfully used against a regular army for the first time during Operation Spring Shield (OSS), were subsequently used in Libya against the Libyan National Army (LNA) of Tobruk-based putschist General Khalifa HAFTER, supported by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and then against the Armenian Armed Forces in the ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as of October 2020. As a force multiplier, UAVs have changed the course of war by disturbing the military balance, especially in Libya. 

According to SIPRI Arms Transfers Database, the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), supported by Turkey, procured 12 BAYRAKTAR TB-2 UCAVs in 2019 from Turkey, and the first batch of BAYRAKTAR TB-2 UCAV System (4 x aircraft and 2 x GCS) was delivered to Libya on May 18, 2019, and the second batch (8 x aircraft and an unknown number of GCS) in July 2019.

In May 2020, UAVs destroyed 9 Pantsir S1E air-defense systems belonging to Haftar forces in just four days. Also, one slightly damaged Pantsir S1 was captured at Al-Watiya Air Base. A significant portion of the neutralized Pantsir S1E systems were sent to Libya by the UAE to support Haftar militias, and according to the Clash Report social media account, 15 Pantsir S1E systems were destroyed in the 1-year period between 20 May 2019 and 20 May 2020. As a result of these heavy losses, Russian mercenaries supporting the LNA militia were withdrawn from Tripoli on 23-27 May 2020 and moved to Bani Walid Airport, 150 km away from Tripoli. Additionally, the Russian Federation transferred Mig-29 and Su-24 aircraft from Syria to Libya in late May and deployed the S-300 Air and Missile Defense System to Ra's Lanuf, which is at the center of oil resources, in July 2020.

Following Armenia's attack on Azerbaijan on September 27, 2020, the Azerbaijani Armed Forces dealt a significant blow to Armenian forces with the support of Turkish-made UCAVs. 

According to Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense of between September 30 - October 7, 2020, up to 250 tanks and other armored vehicles, 150 other military vehicles, 11 command-control & command-observation posts, 270 artillery pieces, multiple launch rocket systems, and mortars, 60 air defense systems (including S-300PS, 9K33 Osa/SA-8 Gecko, SA-15 Gauntlet/Tor-M2KM, and SA-6 Gainful/2K12 Kub), 18 UAVs, and 8 arms depots were destroyed by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces.

On October 14, 2020, Azerbaijani President İlhan ALIYEV spoke to Catherine NORRIS from FRANCE 24 about the conflict between Armenian and Azerbaijani Forces over the disputed region on Nagorno-Karabakh and also utilization of Turkish UCAV drones against Armenian Forces. ALIYEV said: “We have an enough drones. Modern, sophisticated weapons, and I can tell you only by the drones which we acquired from Turkey. We destroyed Armenian Military equipment worth US$ 1 Billion, only by utilizing drones. And of course, we are also using other drones, as you know, from other sources as well. We are using artillery; we are using broader military equipment but the drones carried out damage the Armenian units.”

Behind the Scenes of UCAVs Transformation from Terrorist Hunters to Frontline Fighters and SAM Killers

The main factors behind the success of UCAVs, which were successfully used against a regular army in Syria, then Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh, neutralizing numerous military vehicles, especially Air Defense Systems (SAM) and Main Battle Tanks, can be summarized as follows: 

Low visibility and detectability (SAM Systems have difficulty in detecting UAVs due to their low Radar Cross Section (RCS) values and low speeds), 

Conducting joint operations by supporting UCAVs with land and air-based SIGINT/ELINT and Electronic Warfare (EW) systems,

Ability to detect and mark SAM systems from outside their effective range thanks to the modern Electro-Optical (E/O) sensors equipped with Laser Rangefinders and Laser Designators,  

Roketsan product MAM-L Smart Micro Munitions, which can hit targets from 8km (depending on the launch altitude) with MEMS-based (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) and 14km with an INS/GPS based navigation system (provides the opportunity to attack the target from greater distances and higher altitudes), 

Higher lethality against different targets such as armored vehicles, radar antennas, SAM systems, fortified positions, emplacements, and soft targets thanks to the new warhead types introduced to Smart Micro Munitions (HEAT/Anti-armor, Thermobaric, and HE Blast Fragmentation/Anti-personnel),

More experienced Pilots and Sensor Operators, thanks to hundreds of thousands of hours of flight time, most of which are in combat conditions,

Ability to update the UAV and UCAV platforms' software and hardware without foreign support as they are indigenous products.

The Pantsir S1E Air Defense System, which was previously reported to have difficulties in detecting small air targets with low radar cross-section (RCS) values and low speed, become an easy target for ANKA-S and BAYRAKTAR TB2 UCAVs, and the official number of Pantsir S1E systems destroyed in Syria and Libya was stated to have been 20. 

The main subsystems of the Pantsir S1E mobile Air Defense System, which can engage two different targets at the same time and based on a tactical wheeled vehicle (KamAz-6560 8x8 or MAN-SX45 8x8), are:

Search Radar: The search radar, which operates in 2-4GHz frequency, has a mechanically scanned S-Band PESA type antenna, and provides 360º horizontal (can provide 360º coverage within 2 to 4 seconds) and 0 to 60º vertical coverage. It can detect an air target with a 2m² RCS from 32 to 36km away.

Fire Control Radar (FCR): The 20GHz Ku-Band (Target Tracking) and 16.7GHz X-Band (Target and Missile Tracking, for SACLOS guidance) Firing Control Radar has a mechanically guided PESA type antenna and can engage targets at -5º to + 8º elevation angle and 90º view angle. Its range is given as 24km against a 2m² RCS target, 21km for 1m², 16km for 0,5m², and 10km for 0,1m². The radar can track only two different targets at the same time in the 90º sector.

EO/IR Detection and Tracking System: It consists of a Day Camera, SAGEM product MATIS LR thermal camera, and an IR Director used to track the angular deviation between the missile and the target. It is claimed that a warplane can be detected from approximately 26 km and a cruise missile from 11 to 14 km with the system.

12 SACLOS/ACLOS guided 57E6-E Missile: The 770mm long missile with a 90mm diameter has a 16 kg warhead consisting of 47 metal rods. The warhead consists of 700 2.8gr and 2,260 0.9g metal fragments and detonates 9m before the target. The booster of the 75.7kg two-stage missile separates after 2.4 seconds. The 57E6-E missile can reach Mach 2 and has a range of 12km when fired from a height below 1,500m above sea level and 18km when fired from a height of 1,500m and above. Idlib has an elevation of 500m above sea level, Tripoli is 81m, and Misrata is 10m. The interception altitude of the 57E6-E Missile is given as 10km (32.810ft). The shelf life of a 57E6-E Missile stored in an insulated pod is 15 years.

2 x 30mm 2A38M anti-aircraft gun: The vehicle carries 700 x 30mm rounds per barrel. The cannon has a minimum range of 200m and a maximum of 4km and can intercept targets up to 3km altitude.

Pantsir S1E Systems are generally deployed in batteries integrated into an air defense radar network, and each battery has 6 Pantsir S1E systems connected to a command control vehicle. However, in both Syria and Libya, Pantsir S1Es have generally operated stand-alone or in pairs, and this was a critical factor in the destruction processes of Pantsir S1Es by UCAVs. Since the 57E6-E Missile is SACLOS/ACLOS guided and needs to be guided by the on-board Fire Control Radar (FCR) after firing, the Pantsir S1E System cannot track any other target outside the 90º view of the FCR until it completes the engagement sequence and the target is destroyed. Considering the fact that the 57E6-E Missile can reach a range of 12km with a speed of 900m/s (meter-per-second), it can be said that the Pantsir S1E system's engagement sequence to an air target at a distance of 8km will be completed in approximately 9 seconds and a target at 14km distance in around 16 seconds. This feature is actually the Achilles heel of the Pantsir S1E System, as it is a known fact that the SACLOS/CLOS/CLOS guided air defense systems are insufficient against saturated air attacks. A few of the Pantsir S1E systems that were neutralized in Syria and Libya were hunted while their radar was turned off in parking position, maneuvering in the field at low speed, or being transported to another location on another vehicle. 

The SA-8B Gecko Mod 0 (9K33M2 OSA-AK) and SA-8B Gecko Mod 1 (9K33M3 OSA-AKM) SAM Systems, of which at least 6 were destroyed by UCAVs as of October 1, 2020, in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, is a much older technology compared to the Pantsir S1E and due to the 9M33M2 Missile, it can only engage targets at minimum 1.5km, maximum 10km range, and at minimum 10m and maximum 5km altitude. The maximum range of the H-Band (6-8GHz) Search Radar of the SA-8B Gecko Mode 0 SAM System, which is armed with 6 RF/Radar SACLOS guided 9M33M2 missiles, is 30km, and the maximum engagement range of the J-Band (14.2-14.8GHz) Fire Control Radar is 20km (against air targets with low RCS value, this will be lower). In 2016, the manufacturer of the systems, Almaz-Antey, proposed to Armenia to upgrade the SA-8B Gecko Mod 0 (9K33 OSA-AK) systems to the SA-8B Gecko Mod 1 (9K33 OSA-AKM) level. Thanks to the 9M33M3 Missile used by the OSA-AKM, the system's maximum range is increased to 15km and the interception altitude to 12km (40,000ft). Last year, Armenia purchased 35 SA-8B Gecko Mod 1 (9K33 OSA-AKM) SAM Systems, which were taken out of service by Jordan in 2017, together with training simulators for US$27 million. The systems were transported from Jordan to Armenia with Russian An-124 cargo planes. However, the SAM systems were claimed to be outmoded and unusable.

In its current form, SA-8B Gecko Mod 0 and SA-8B Gecko Mod 1 SAM Systems can be easily hunted by the BAYRAKTAR TB-2 UCAVs using the MAM-L Smart Micro Munitions in Hunter-Strike formations without the need for land or air deployed EH applications thanks to their low RCS values. Moreover, the Turkish Armed Forces studied the SA-8B Gecko Mode 0 SAM System for many years as one of the hostile SAM Systems at the TurAF Electronic Warfare Test and Training Range (EHTES).

Iron Fists of UCAVs: National Smart Micro Munitions

The indigenous design and production Smart Micro Munition Family used by ANKA-B, ANKA-S, and BAYRAKTAR TB-2 UCAV Systems currently consist of Roketsan's MAM-L and MAM-C and TÜBİTAK SAGE production BOZOK Smart Munitions.

UCAVs generally use MAM-L Munition, which causes more significant damage to targets due to its 10 kg warhead. ANKA-B/S UCAVs can carry a total of 4 MAM-L smart bombs on their underwing pylons, while BAYRAKTAR TB-2 UCAV usually has 2 MAM-L (45kg) and two MAM-C (17kg) Smart bombs on their underwing pylons. However, the BAYRAKTAR TB-2 UCAVs started to operate with 4 MAM-L munitions for the first time in Operation Olive Branch due to the proximity of the operation area to the UAV base, and the shorter flight duration of the strike missions compared to the reconnaissance and surveillance missions. Since the MAM-L Smart Munition can be equipped with different types of warheads such as HEAT/Anti-armor, Thermobaric, and HE Blast Fragmentation/Anti-personnel, it can be used against Main Battle Tanks (MBT), Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFV), Radar Antennas, SAM Systems, Artillery Systems, Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), Infantry (25m blast radius) and Munitions Depots.

The MAM-L Smart Micro Munition, which is the non-rocket powered version of the Semi-Active Laser (SAL) Guided UMTAS-L missile, is 160mm in diameter, approximately 1m long, and weighs 22kg (50lb). The standard version of the MAM-L Smart Munition has an effective range of 8km depending on the launch altitude and can reach 14 km with the optional INS/GPS guidance capability. Since the MAM-L actually glides towards its target, it can technically be used effectively up to a range of 14km depending on the launch altitude and the speed of the carrier platform. However, since the MEMS-based Inertial Measurement Unit on the standard MAM-L configuration is not capable of accurately flying the munition up to 14km and capable of acquiring and tracking the laser beam that is used to illuminate the target from that distance, the MAM-L can only be used effectively up to a maximum range of 8km. To keep the cost of the MAM-L smart bomb low, the MEMS/IMU-based navigation system was preferred instead of INS/GPS, which is more expensive but offers a more precise flight profile. With the INS/GPS-aided guidance/navigation capability, the MAM-L can be dropped from a further distance (14km) and at a higher altitude (20-30,000ft), and the munition can detect and follow the laser beam from a much longer range. Roketsan’s former General Manager Selçuk YAŞAR stated Anadolu Agency that the kg value of the MAM-L Smart Munition to be US$2,000+ on 20th April 2018.

The Roketsan MAM-C Smart Munition, which is the non-rocket powered version of the SAL-guided CIRIT Missile, is 70mm in diameter, 970mm long, weighs 6.5kg and carries a 2.5kg warhead. The maximum range of the MAM-C is 8km, depending on the launch altitude.

TÜBİTAK SAGE product BOZOK Laser-Guided Smart UAV Munition which is armed with a high-explosive warhead and can reach a range of 9km when released from an altitude of 20,000ft at a speed of Mach 0.15. The hit angle and explosive strength of BOZOK, which uses Inertial Navigation (INS) and SAL guidance system in the terminal phase, can be adjusted thanks to its Height of Burst (HOB) sensor (capable of diving at an angle of 60º to 80º towards the target). BOZOK's first firing test was carried out from a TB-2 UCAV on July 27, 2018, and the second test on November 1, 2018. It can also be launched from altitudes of 25,000ft and above, and the weight of BOZOK's warhead is estimated to be 5kg