Alper ÇALIK / firstname.lastname@example.org
Turkish Land Forces took delivery of three Next Generation Fırtına (Fırtına NG) howitzers at a signing ceremony held during a visit by Hulusi Akar, Minister of National Defence, and an accompanying delegation, to the 1st Main Maintenance Factory Directorate on 23 January. During the visit, a number of armoured vehicles being domestically developed and modernized were also inspected by the high level commanders of Turkish Armed Forces (TAF). These included a Leopard 2A4 tank hull integrated with the turret of the ALTAY tank, a new 8×8 tactical wheeled armoured vehicle, being displayed for the first time, and the final version of the ALTAY tank.
The ceremony marked the entry of the Fırtına NG howitzers, known also as Fırtına-2, into the inventory of the TAF. The Fırtına NG systems include many innovations over their original versions, carrying the firepower, mobility and survivability of the vehicle to the next level, while also providing more comfort to the crew.
Propellant Conditioning Unit Increases Firepower
Among the firepower-related innovations, the howitzer is now capable of direct-fire following the integration of the SARP Remote-Controlled Weapon System (RCWS). The location of the targets detected by the vehicle commander using the electro-optical systems of SARP is calculated automatically, and the gun is directed toward the target. SARP can be folded towards the rear of the vehicle when desired, lowering the vehicle profile.
Another feature that increases firepower is the propellant conditioning unit that has been added to the weapon system. The propellant is removed from its container and placed in this system, which removes excess moisture, and the propellant is then stored at a constant temperature and humidity level for optimal efficiency. Alternatively, when the howitzer is given an emergency firing task, the humidity and temperature information within the conditioning unit is sent automatically to the ballistic computer, preventing the current state of the propellant from affecting the firing mission. Under normal circumstances, without this system the personnel would take manual measurements from each propellant case and input the measurements into the ballistic computer by hand, resulting in significant losses of time and opening up room for human-error.
Another factor that positively affects firepower is the fully automatic projectile loading system, which works exactly like autoloaders in tanks, automatically selecting the appropriate shell type from the magazine. The turret drive systems of the Fırtına NGs have also been renewed, with an electrical system replacing the old hydraulic system of the horizontal drive of the howitzer’s turret. Similarly, the systems used to elevate the cannon have been converted to electro-pneumatic. All of these new systems allow for more reliable and quieter turret movement. In addition, an indigenous system measuring the muzzle velocity of the fired ammunition, the domestically developed Muzzle Velocity Radar integrated into the weapon system.
Effect of the New Systems on Mobility
Among the new systems increasing the mobility of the Fırtına NG are the Driver’s Vision System (ADIS) at the front and rear of the vehicle, and LED headlights, which allow a more comfortable driver experience at both day and night. Furthermore, the fully automated barrel travel lock raises automatically at the end of the firing mission, without the need of the crew to exit the vehicle, and fixes the barrel to the hull, allowing the vehicle to be repositioned without loss of time. Lighter aluminium road-wheels have replaced the old steel road-wheels. The inertial navigation system of the vehicle has also been indigenised.
New Howitzer Offers Higher Survivability
Aside from the renewal of the firepower and mobility features of the Fırtına NG weapon system, its survivability has also been brought up to the next level. The addition of an automatic explosion detection and fire suppression system ensures a greater resistance to fire and to rocket propelled grenade (RPG) attacks. Furthermore, the armoured skirts added to the sides of the vehicle increase the protection to the tracks, while the personnel are provided with increased protection by mine-resistant seats with five-point seat belts against mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). DVS, which is designed primarily to increase the mobility of the vehicle, also increases the situational awareness of the crew against imminent threats, while the SARP RCWS makes it easier for the howitzer to defend itself against such threats.
The comfort of the operating crew has also been improved with the addition of an air conditioning system to the vehicle, ensuring greater crew comfort in extreme temperatures during long drawn-out operations. Similarly, the hot water system added to the vehicle gives the crew access to warm food and drinks, which are of particular importance in cold weather conditions.
New 8×8 Tactical Wheeled Armoured Vehicle
Following the ceremony, Minister Akar and the delegation paid a visit to the BMC Plant at the Ministry of National Defence (MND) Arifiye Campus, where they were welcomed by Ethem Sancak, Chairman of the Board of BMC; and Talip Öztürk, Chairman of the BMC Defence Board, among other company officials. During the visit, BMC’s newly developed vehicles were also exhibited.
The first of these new platforms was the 8×8 New Generation Armoured Tactical Wheeled Vehicle. Images published by the MND show KORHAN weapon system with 35 mm main gun and an independent sight for the commander mounted on the vehicle, which also features the following systems:
- AKKOR Active Protection System launcher
- AKKOR hard-kill radar
- SPOT Gunshot Detection System
- Interrogator unit of the Battlefield Target Identification Device (BTID)
- BTID transmitter antenna
- Laser Warning Receiver System (TLUS)
The hull of the vehicle is installed with a YAMGOZ Advanced 360° Close Range Surveillance System.
Leopard 2A4 with ALTAY Turret
A Leopard 2A4 tank hull installed with the ALTAY tank turret was also on display. The ALTAY turret in the images published by the MND is very similar to the one displayed on the ALTAY T1 version exhibited during IDEF’19. The subsystems on this turret similar to KORHAN’s include AKKOR, SPOT, YAMGÖZ, BTID and TLUS. Aside from these, smoke grenade launchers lined up on both sides behind the ALTAY turret and a RCWS can be seen.
A detailed examination reveals the hull to be of a Leopard 2, which has many visible differences from the ALTAY hull, the most obvious of which is the driver position. In a Leopard 2, the driver sits at the front of the hull, closer to the right, whereas in the ALTAY tank, the driver is positioned to the front and at the centre. Aside from these, additional add-on armour can be seen on the front and side of the hull, along with cage armour to the rear, while LED headlights, and presumably DVS systems, have been integrated at the front.