T-155 FIRTINA / FIRTINA-II 155mm Self Propelled Howitzers (SPH)
Turkish land forces are armed with nearly 1100 self-propelled artillery vehicles of various types. One of the numerous examples of this type is T-155 Firtina (Storm) SPH. This vehicle was developed on the basis of the Korean K9 machine, which waa acquired in accordance with the wishes of the Turkish army and the capabilities of the industry. To date Turkey built about 300 serial T-155, which made them the most massive of modern examples of self-propelled artillery in Turkish army. The development of the T-155 Firtina began in the late 1990s. At the end, the Turkish commanders came to the conclusion about necessity of creation or acquisition of a new sample 155mm self-propelled howitzers. Such a fighting machine in the future was to replace the hopelessly outdated models of foreign designs, created in the mid-century. It soon became clear that the industry of Turkey could not cope with the task of self-development required of the sample.
The results of the study of existing proposals, the Turkish military chose the self-propelled K9 Thunder from the South Korean company Samsung Techwin. Turkey contributed to the design of the original sample, some changes and replaced some onboard equipment. All of these improvements meant the application of private components of Turkish origin.
Though essentially using the main systems of the K9 howitzer, including the South Korean designed 155/52 calibre gun system, majority of the chassis, automatic ammunition feeding mechanism, and the German designed MTU-881 KA 500 diesel engine, the T-155 has considerable differences in its turret design, parts of the chassis, the navigation system, and electronic systems (such as the radio and fire control system) which were developed in Turkey. Unlike the K9, T-155 Firtina lacks commander's digital panoramic sight. Through the Inertial Navigation System produced by ASELSAN the howitzer is able to determine the coordinates of the targets at 17.5 meters deviation. Firtina can open fire within 30 seconds.
In 2001, Turkey and South Korea signed an agreement on launching the production of modified self-propelled guns in the interests of the Turkish army.
In the same year the first two prototypes were built and tested. Recycled K9 ACS received Turkish designation T-155 Firtina. In 2002, this self-propelled gun was adopted by the Turkish army and put them in series. According to the licence agreement with Samsung Techwin, the first eight T-155s were built in South Korea, while the remaining batch of more than 300 units would be produced in Turkey. The total reported cost of purchase and technology transfer for the Turkish government was $1 billion.
Serial production of the 140 New Generation T-155 FIRTINA [= Storm] (FIRTINA-II) Self Propelled Howitzers (SPH) commenced at the 1st Main Maintenance Factory Directorate in 2018. According to the Aselsan 2017 Activity Report, the first phase of Qualification Tests with the FIRTINA-II prototype were carried out in 2017. On December 14, 2018 Aselsan secured a contract valued at US$194,6 Million to deliver New Generation Fire Control Systems for the 140 FIRTINA-II SPHs that were ordered for the Turkish Land Forces Command.
Developed over the existing 281 FIRTINA-I SPHs, the FIRTINA-II SPH features some improvements over its predecessor including the new turret design with propellant conditioning unit, fully electrical and servo controlled turret & gun aiming and drive system (replacing a hydraulics based drive system), improved Fire Control System, increased firing rate, extended effective range, fully automatic ammunition loading system (FIRTINA-I is equipped with electrically driven and an electronically controlled automatic ammunition loading system) and integrated with Aselsan’s 12,7mm SARP RCWS for self-protection. The high degree of automation allows FIRTINA-II to react in a shorter timeframe to execute its mission, with reduced manpower. After receiving the fire command, FIRTINA-II is able to fire on target within 30 seconds, to complete the fire mission and to relocate in 90 seconds.
Operated by a crew of five, the 155/52 calibre T-155 FIRTINA-II SPH has a maximum firing rate of up to eight rounds per minute thanks to its automatic shell loading system. The maximum range of the 155/52-calibre gun is 18km with M107 (HE), 30km with M549A1 RAP (HE) and 40+km with MKEK/Roketsan MOD 274 HE ER ammunition. The FIRTINA-II SPH’s 52 calibre ordnance is capable to use all NATO standard ammunition. In order to meet the Turkish Army’s long range HE type artillery munitions requirement, MKEK in cooperation with Roketsan (responsible for the base bleed unit of the ammunition), developed MOD 274 HE extended range (ER) 15mm 52 calibre artillery ammunition and received a contract for the delivery of the first batch of 5,020 MOD 274 ammunitions at the end of 2014. In 2017 follow on orders for an additional 9,000 (2,000 + 7,000) MOD 274 HE artillery ammunition were awarded.
The T-155 FIRTINA-I and FIRTINA-II SPH prototypes are powered by German MTU-881 KA 500 1,000hp diesel engine coupled with Allison’s X1100-5 fully automatic transmission built in South Korea under Allison license. However, during IDEF ‘19 a MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) was signed between Caterpillar Defence UK and the Turkish MoND for the development of a new diesel engine, to be based on the core of Caterpillar Defence UK’s existing diesel engine but will be developed with the participation of 1st Main Maintenance Factory Directorate engineers to meet FIRTINA-II-specific requirements and it will be an ITAR Free product so as to not face any export license problems as in the case with MTU’s MTU-881 KA 500 engine. The development of a new V12 type 1,200hp diesel engine will take place at the 1st Main Maintenance Factory Directorate in Arifiye, Adapazari. The new engine will be coupled with Allison’s X1100-5 fully automatic transmission because according to Caterpillar Defence UK officials the Turkish end user is happy with the existing transmission.
Meanwhile, speaking at the Aselsan Union of Forces Summit held on February 5, 2019 at the ATO Congresium Center in Ankara, Turkish MoND Hulusi AKAR, formerly Chief of the Turkish General Staff, disclosed that Turkey has recently signed a contract with Qatar for the sale of FIRTINA Self Propelled Howitzers (SPHs). MoND AKAR did not share any figures regarding the number of FIRTINA SPHs to be delivered to the Qatar Emiri Armed Forces (QAAF). It is believed that the contract covers New Generation FIRTINA (also dubbed FIRTINA-II) SPHs, which are under production at the 1st Main Maintenance Factory Directorate located in the Sakarya province of northwest Turkey. In October 2018 it was reported that after receiving assurance that there would be no export restrictions, state-owned Machines and Chemical Industries Board (MKEK) signed a contract to procure 20 powerpacks (including 5TDFMA-1 engines) from UkrOboronProm (Ukrainian Government’s Defense Industry Enterprise) for the FIRTINA-II SPHs. Probably these 20 powerpacks would be installed in the QAAF’s FIRTINA-II SPHs.
Using same chassis and turret with the T-155 FIRTINA-I SPH, the POYRAZ Ammunition Resupply Vehicle is capable of loading ammunition in a supply area and transferring ammunition to the FIRTINA-I SPH within the required time and location in all kinds of terrains and battlefields. The POYRAZ Ammunition Resupply Vehicle has the necessary mobility and survivability capabilities for operation within the tactical operational environment of the FIRTINA-I SPH. Fitted with Aselsan’s automatic Ammunition Transfer System, and compatible with all kind of ammunition used for FIRTINA-I SPHs, the POYRAZ vehicle can carry 96 155mm projectiles and 96 modular powder charges. It can transfer 48 projectiles and 48 modular powder charges in less than 20 minutes to the FIRTINA-I SPH.
The Main Maintenance Factory Directorate completed production of the POYRAZ Ammunition Resupply Vehicle prototype in 2011 and the vehicle was displayed during the IDEF ‘11 Fair. Following the extensive test campaign acceptance of the prototype vehicle was completed and the serial production phase, covering 70 vehicles commenced in 2013. The 9.5m long, 3.76m height and 47 ton POYRAZ Ammunition Resupply Vehicle is operated by three crew and powered by a V-12 type 750hp AVDS-1790 diesel engine coupled with an Allison CD-850 automatic transmission. This power pack was obtained from M48A5T1 MBTs that were phased-out of Turkish Land Forces service.
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