Although supersonic and hypersonic anti-ship missiles have gained popularity, subsonic anti-ship cruise missiles still have their advantages. They are equipped with stealth technology, advanced anti-jamming seekers, and are more cost-effective to produce and procure. These features have made them relevant in various naval forces.
Turkey, a Middle Eastern country aspiring to regain its former glory, considers the independence of its defense industry as crucial to achieving that goal. The “Atmaca” subsonic anti-ship cruise missile represents Turkey’s commitment to autonomy in defense production.
The development of “Atmaca” began in 2009 when the Turkish Deputy Minister of Defense Industry signed an agreement with Loktesan Company, tasking them with designing, developing, and manufacturing a subsonic anti-ship cruise missile for the Turkish Navy.
The “Atmaca” missile has a cylindrical shape with folded wings arranged in an X-diagonal layout in the middle, providing lift for the missile during flight. The tail section also has folded wings in an angular layout to control the missile’s attitude and ensure stability.
A rocket booster is used for initial acceleration, while jet turbine engines power the cruise and terminal flight sections. The missile has an external air intake for the engines, which increases radar visibility but is technically straightforward to implement.
Once launched, the booster separates from the missile, and the turbine engines take over, propelling the missile to a height of 600 meters. During the final flight phase, the missile’s altitude is lowered to around 100 meters, and it further reduces to just 5 meters during the attack phase. This low flying height minimizes the chance of detection by onboard radar.
The “Atmaca” missile measures approximately 4.8-5.2 meters in length and 0.35 meters in diameter. It has a range of 220-280 kilometers and carries a conventional warhead weighing 220-250 kg. Its flight speed ranges from Mach 0.85 to 0.95.
The missile’s guidance system consists of a traditional inertial guidance system with GPS correction and terminal active radar guidance. While the guidance system design is considered satisfactory, no exceptional features exist.
However, the missile is equipped with a data link receiver, allowing it to receive target information, mission commands, and human-in-the-loop guidance. This capability enables retargeting and engagement of high-value targets during the mission.
Previous test firing work
The development and testing of the “Atmaca” anti-ship cruise missile took some time. The first test launch of the prototype missile occurred in November 2016, with a reported range exceeding 200 kilometers.
In March 2017, the first land-based test launch of the prototype missile took place. Then, on October 29, 2018, the Turkish Ministry of Defense Industry and the Loktesan company signed an official production agreement for the “Atmaca” missile.
Following this, a series of sea test launches were conducted. Notably, on November 3, 2019, the “Atmaca” missile was integrated into the “Island” class missile frigate in the Black Sea, and the first launch from a naval vessel was successfully carried out. On July 1, 2020, the missile demonstrated its capability by hitting a target over a distance of more than 200 kilometers.
On February 3, 2021, the missile was equipped with a warhead and underwent another successful launch from a naval vessel. The certification test was then conducted on June 19 of the same year. The completion of the first test launch marked the official beginning of mass production for the “Atmaca” missile.
The epitome of autonomy but few bright spots
In general, the “Atmaca” missile does not possess highly advanced technology. Its design is similar to other anti-ship cruise missiles like the American AGM-84 “Harpoon” series, the Japanese Type 90, and the French MM40 “Flying Fish” series.
These missiles share common characteristics, so the overall technical difficulty is not exceptionally high, and the level of technology is not particularly advanced.
However, it is important to note that Turkey successfully designed and developed the “Atmaca” missile, which served as a foundation for the future development of anti-ship cruise missiles.
This achievement allowed Turkey to establish a skilled team of experts and fill the gap in the domestic production of large-scale weapons. The localization of such weapons was realized from scratch, enabling Turkey to become self-reliant in this area.