Two Powers in the Mediterranean Sea region have made recent announcements regarding potential upgrades to some of their weapons systems. By Scott Morgan exclusively for Vanguard Global & Defence Unlimited International
The first nation that will be discussed is Turkey. In late September 2021 Kale R & D, a company that designs engines made the initial delivery of the KTJ-3200. This is the first indigenous jet engine manufactured by a Turkish company. This powerplant will be used in the homemade standoff missile and the Atmarca Anti-Ship Missile.
This is a quick turnaround as the contract for the serial production of this engine was only signed in August 2021 during the International Defence Industry Fair in Istanbul.
Already one engine has been delivered to Tubitak Sage for the standoff missile, with a second engine being delivered to Roketsan for the Atmarca. It has been suggested that the first standoff missiles powered by the KTJ-3200 will be fired sometime in 2022.
The design of this engine is similar to the French made TR 40. Although the French Engine is lighter and more fuel-efficient there are negligible differences between either engine. The Turkish engine was specifically designed for use in both cruise missiles and drones. It is also planned on being used for what a brochure called “similar applications” This is a vague term that could lead the reader of the brochure to decide how they could be used.
The second country is Italy. The Italian Air Force is making a decision that will change how it uses its UAV platforms. The country has decided that it will arm the Reapers that are currently in the Arsenal. This decision comes six years after the United States actually gave the Italians permission to actually arm these platforms. The only other country that the US has approved arming US manufactured drones is the United Kingdom.
The planned cost is 59 Million Euros (69 Million USD) over the next seven years according to figures from the 2021 Defence Budget. The total cost of the upgrade would rise to 168 million euros (195 Million USD). This plan is part of the increase in Italian Defence Spending as well
Italy has deployed its UAVs (both Predator A and Reapers) to Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans and Africa notably in Libya during the 2011 NATO intervention during the Civil War.
In 2015 Italy was offered 129 Million USD deal with General Atomics which would have been acting as the prime contractor to provide 156 AGM-114-R2 Hellfire II missiles, 20 GBU-12 laser-guided bombs, 30 GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions and other armaments. This deal was not agreed to due to political sensitivities in 2015 and the entry of the 5-Star Movement into government in 2018. The 5-Star Movement has opposed certain arms sales as part of its political platform.
The current vision of the Italian Air Force is to equip the UAVs with a payload as it would be a normal evolution considering current threats. A spokesman for the Italian Air Force stated that “We would likely be seeking the standard munitions” to prepare these platforms to conduct operations.
The use of UAVs in the conflicts in both Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh are additional factors that have modified the strategy of not only the 5-Star Movement but also the Italian Air Force as well.
The moves by both of these NATO members indicate that they are concerned about their defence and need to improve them. One has taken an internal approach by copying designs that are known to work, the other is modifying a platform that has been in use for years.
This region will be one to keep an eye on.