ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Missiles with a range of 2,500 kilometers are a realistic target according to Professor Yücel Altınbaşak, head of Turkey’s State Scientific Research Institute. However, analysts remain uncertain as to Turkey’s capacity or need to achieve this goal
Turkey aims to build ballistic missiles with a range of 2,500 kilometers within the next two years, Turkish officials have said, but analysts remain uncertain as to whether the country needs, or can even achieve, such a capability.
Professor Yücel Altınbaşak, head of Turkey’s State Scientific Research Institute (TÜBİTAK), recently told reporters that the decision to build the ballistic missiles was made at a recent meeting of the High Board of Technology and in line with a request from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Altınbaşak said TÜBİTAK had already produced and delivered a missile with a range of 500 kilometers to the Turkish military and added that the missile had displayed a mere five-meter deviation from its target in field tests. In the next phase of the program this year, TÜBİTAK will first test the 1,500-kilometer missile before heading for the final goal of 2,500 kilometers.
Altınbaşak said building missiles with a range of 2,500-kilometer was a “realistic target for Turkey.” But analysts voiced doubts about Turkey’s ballistic ambitions.
“TÜBİTAK already has the technology to build the 185-kilometer stand-off-munitions (SOM) missiles. It may have reached the 500-kilometer range recently by diminishing the payload or by some other modifications. It is still dubious, however, how the tests for 500 kilometers went unnoticed globally,” a missile technology expert said.
A Middle East political expert said Turkey’s decision to produce cruise and ballistic missiles may mark a change in threat and security design perceptions.
“Why would the Turks need these missiles? Where will they use them? Against which threats? It is also intriguing that Turkey, which seeks a modern air force with deterrent firepower, is going along the path many rogue states with no modern air force capabilities have gone,” the specialist said.
Since 1997, Turkey has been a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) which was established in 1987 by Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain, and the United States.
The MTCR was created in order to curb the spread of unmanned delivery systems for nuclear weapons, specifically delivery systems that could carry a minimum payload of 500 kilograms a minimum of 300 kilometers.
Experts agree that the MTCR has been successful in helping to slow or stop several ballistic missile programs; Argentina, Egypt and Iraq abandoned their joint Condor II ballistic missile program, while Brazil, South Africa, South Korea and Taiwan also shelved or eliminated missile or space launch vehicle programs.
Some Eastern European countries, such as Poland and the Czech Republic, destroyed their own ballistic missiles to – in part – better their chances of joining MTCR.
But there is consensus that the MTCR regime has its limitations. India, Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan (all non-members) continue to advance their missile programs. All four countries, with varying degrees of foreign assistance, have deployed medium-range ballistic missiles that can travel more than 1,000 kilometers and are exploring missiles with much greater ranges. Similarly, Iran has supplied missile production items to Syria.
The missile expert said Turkey’s announcement for ballistic missile production may ring alarm bells in some of the countries which produce “the ingredients” for these missiles.
“From now on Turkey may find it increasingly difficult to have access to some of the components it will need to achieve its missile ambitions,” the expert said. “Some countries may think it more appropriate to introduce limitations to the Turkish purchase of some technology.”