A little-known fact that has gone largely unnoticed since the early 1990s has been the vital role played by Pakistan in the substantial expansion of Beijing-Ankara military-industrial collaboration over the last 17 years. Since 1985, Turkey has sent 18 military delegations comprising some 200 members while 14 Chinese military missions with about 330 representatives have visited Turkey at the same time. Sino-Turkish military-industrial cooperation began in the first half of the 1990s after Ankara’s negotiations with Washington for the joint production and technology transfer of the M-270 multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) failed. The US had then criticised Turkey for using US-supplied weapons for human rights abuses (against the Kurds), subsequently restricting weapons sales and military technology transfers to Turkey, and cutting off grants and loans earlier offered to Turkey for US-origin weapons. It was Pakistan which then informed Turkey that China was ready to fill the void, provided Turkey was willing to cooperate with China in the so-called fight against ‘Eastern Turkestan (Xinjiang)-sponsored terrorism’, namely to restrict, monitor and prevent the activities of Uyghur national organisations and leaders, most of whom were and are still based in Turkey. Consequently, since 1997 the Third Bureau (military attachés) of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) General Staff Second Department (dealing with military intelligence) has been operating in Turkey as one of its most important, and presumably one of the most active, stations. Also in 1997, Turkey for the first time signed a contract with China for the procurement of 24 WS-1 302mm unguided rockets as well as 144 rockets for licenced-assembly in Turkey, to be supplied between 1998 and 2000. Turkey next began licence-producing the TR-300 rockets (or T-302, upgraded from the four-barrel WS-1B MLRS) under under the Turkish designation Kasırga (tornado).
In late 1998, based on a similar contract signed with the state-owned China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corp (CPMIEC), Ankara ordered some 15 of China’s most advanced short-range surface-to-surface battlefield support missiles (SSBSM)--the 150km-range B-611--and under Project J-600T, began license-producing an additional 200 more under a US$300 million deal. The first such missiles—known as Yıldırım (thunderbolt), were deployed as early as 2001. The solid-fuelled Yildirim-2 variant, featuring a 300km-range, was subsequently developed jointly by the defence industries research and development institute of the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK-SAGE), Mechanical and Chemical Industry Corp (MKEK), and the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp (CASIC), while it was series-produced by Roket Sanayii ve Ticaret (Roketsan). Another product jointly developed by TUBITAK and CASIC (and produced by Roketsan) since 2004 is the 70mm (2.75-inch) ‘Cirit’ guided air-to-surface missile, which is derived from the Tianyan TY-90 (Heavenly Swallow) air-to-air missile. The ‘Cirit’ features a semi-active laser homing seeker, Goodrich Corp-built SiIMU-02 inertial measurement unit (IMU) and a 3kg armour-piercing warhead built with Class 5 insensitive munitions. The 14kg, 1.9 metre-long missile has a range of 8km with a high probability of hit on a 3 × 3 metre target at this range.
But perhaps the most noteworthy military-industrial collaboration undertaken thus far between Turkey, China and Pakistan is in the area of precision-guided munitions like air-launched cruise missiles (ALCM), and here again Pakistan has played a crucial role as facilitator. In the early 1990s, Pakistan’s Kamra-based Air Weapons Complex (AERO) sought Denel Aerospace of South Africa’s expertise for developing ALCMs for ground attack as well as a family of air combat missiles. In February 1996, soon after the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) concluded a $50 million deal with Italy’s Galileo Avionica for the supply of 30 Grifo-M3 airborne multi-mode pulse-Doppler radars for the upgraded Mirage IIIEAs, contractual negotiations began on a $160 million contract with Denel Aerospace’s Kentron subsidiary to cover the licenced-production by AERO of the latter’s U-Darter within-visual-range air-to-air missile (a reverse-engineered R550 Magic-2 missile developed by MBDA). Following this, AERO by April 1999 had commenced contractual negotiations with Denel Aerospace for co-development of an ALCM under a project codenamed H-4. Based on Kentron’s MUPSOW-1 design, which was unveilled in 1994, this ALCM was about 4.50 metres long, weighed about 850kg, had a 150km-range, housed an imaging infra-red (IIR) terminal seeker, sported twin dorsal air intakes and fixed horizontal and vertical tailfins, and had a rear-mounted turbojet engine, which was a reverse-engineered Turbomeca/Microturbo TRI 60-30 turbojet producing 5.4kN thrust and featuring a 4-stage-axial compressor. The AERO-built MUPSOW-1 comes armed with high-explosive runway-cratering bomblets. The successful results of this programme were made known to CASIC by 2002, and as expected, the 200km-range YingJi-63 (YJ-63, also known as KD-63) became China’s first land-attack ALCM and entered service with the PLA Air Force in 2005. Developed by the China Haiying Electro-Mechanical Technology Academy (CHETA, also known as 3rd Space Academy), the YJ-63 featured a ventral air intake, and was powered by a FW41-B turbojet, which was a reverse-engineered copy of the TRI 60-30 supplied by AERO to CHETA via CASIC, and which presently powers Pakistan’s MUPSOW-1 and the 350km-range Ra’ad (thunder in Arabic) ALCM; China’s YJ-63, the Yingji-83 or YJ-83 Eagle Strike 255km-range anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM), the Yingji-82 or YJ-82/C-802A 180km-range ASCM, the 120km-range CM-802AKG ASCM, 170km-range C-705 ASCM, WJ-600 unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV), and the 290km-range C-602 ASCM (120 of which along with 60 transporter-erector-launcher vehicles have been acquired by the Pakistan Navy from CASIC); Iran’s ‘Karrar’ (striker in Farsi) UCAV; and lastly, Turkey’s 190km-range ‘SOM’ ALCM, which was unveilled internationally for the first time by TUBITAK-SAGE at the Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEi) exhibition in the UK between September 10 and 13 last year. The 600kg ‘SOM’, armed with a 230kg warhead, has been under development since 2006 and it made its first guided-flight on August 9 over the Black Sea. Just like the Ra’ad, the ‘SOM’ uses GPS/INS guidance during its cruise phase, and an imaging IIR seeker for terminal guidance. The IIR seeker can also be used for providing image-based mid-course navigation by taking snapshots of waypoints and comparing them against predicted position to update the navigation system. The ‘SOM’ also has a two-way data-link that allows in-flight re-tasking, and it is network-enabled. It is believed that in addition to providing the FW41-B turbojets off-the-shelf, CHETA, through CASIC, provided several critical design-based inputs based on sea-level and high-altitude wind-tunnel tests for both the Ra’ad and ‘SOM’ ALCMs. In that sense, the Ra’ad is nothing but a re-engineered MUPSOW-1 that features a stretched fuselage, a fixed ventral air intake and twin vertical tailfins, twin swivelling horizontal fins, weighs 1,200kg, has a 450kg high-explosive fragmentation warhead, has a length of 5.1 metres, diameter of 0.17 metres and a wingspan of 3 metres (with its twin horizontal fins deployed), and cruises at a speed of Mach 0.8.
Apart from ALCMs, China is also helping Turkey to develop a range of GPS-guided glide-bombs. At DSEi 2011, TUBITAK-SAGE showcased the Hassas Gudum Kiti (HGK-1) GPS/INS guidance kit for Mk84 2,000lb-bombs, which bear a strong resemblance to China’s FT family of PGMs that have already been procured by the PAF. Turkey was forced to develop its own INS/GPS guided-weapons due to a reluctance by the US to provide the Boeing-built JDAM PGM—a void that China has yet again stepped in to fill. TUBITAK-SAGE claims that the HGK-1 was developed for the Turkish Air Force between December 2001 and February 2006. Guided drop-tests began at the end of 2005. TUBITAK-SAGE is working on designs for other bomb types, such as the 500lb Mk82 and 1,000lb Mk83. These PGMs will most likely use MILSPEC Py-code navigational updates from China’s ‘Beidou’ constellation of global GPS navigation satellites.—Prasun K. Sengupta