T-155 Firtına II, which has a longer firing range and faster firing speed, is dubbed as a “next generation” equipment that “significantly enhances” the Turkish army’s firepower.
Türkiye’s defence exports have hit a record $4.4 billion last year, surging from $248 million 20 years ago, according to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
While in 2002, when the Justice and Development (AK) Party came to power, there were only 56 Turkish companies in the defence sector, now the figure tops 2,000, he said at a military event in the province of Sakarya on Monday.
“We will not stop (advancing) in the defence industry,” he said, adding that Türkiye’s budget last year allocated $1.5 billion for defence industry research and development.
A key part of Türkiye’s expanding defence arsenal is the T-155 Firtina (Storm) howitzer, which the country is using in the battlefield as well as selling to allied countries.
At the Sakarya event, Erdogan witnessed the delivery of the first six units of the upgraded version of the weapon referred to as T-155 Firtına II. The government eyes at least 140 units of the military hardware.
With a firing range of 360 kilometres (223 miles) and a top speed of 65 kilometres (40 miles) per hour, the T-155 Firtına II is dubbed as a “next generation” equipment that “significantly enhances the firepower” of the Turkish military.
Here’s what we know about domestically-produced self-propelled T-155 Firtına II:
The T-155 Firtına II is the latest variant of South Korea’s K9 Thunder 155 mm self-propelled howitzer. The Turkish military first put it to test in 2001.
Part of an ongoing upgrade project, the self-propelled howitzers are now manufactured and assembled by Turkish Land Forces at the 1010th Army Equipment Repair Factory.
The howitzer is now fitted with Turkish fire control and communication systems, which are compatible with NATO standards.
According to reports, by 2025, indigenous engines and transmissions will be used fully on the Firtina system.
The upgraded version began production in 2017 and featured improvements to range and rate of fire, and became capable of carrying 12.7mm, 7.62mm machine guns and 40 mm grenade launchers.
They can also be equipped with 12.7 mm and 7.62 mm machine guns and a 40 mm automatic grenade launcher as well as thermal /TV sight and laser range finder capability, according to the Turkish military manufacturer, BMC.
The T-155 Firtına II also has a tilt and fixing ability, an automatic target tracking system and a fixing capability for transportation.
According to ASELSAN, a major contractor of the Turkish armed forces, the T-155 Firtina II howitzer “combines fire control” with fire direction capabilities that enable the military “to perform the missions fast, accurately and effectively.”
Türkiye originally planned to manufacture 350 Firtina howitzers, 280 for the Turkish Army and 70 for sale. Between 2005 and 2010, around 281 were delivered.
They were first deployed in Türkiye’s Operation Sun at the end of 2007 to fight the PKK in northern Iraq. It was also used in the Operation Euphrates Shield in 2016 and the Operation Olive Branch in 2018.
In 2021, Turkish forces used Firtina howitzers to destroy three YPG/PKK headquarters buildings, a shelter and a position used by the armed group, according to sources who spoke to Anadolu Agency.
In its more than 35-year violent campaign against Türkiye, the PKK – listed as a terror organisation by Turkey, the US, and the EU – has been responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.
The YPG is the PKK’s Syrian offshoot.
During his speech on Monday, Erdogan also mentioned other defence industry developments such as the Anadolu, which will be the world’s first ship with unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV). It will come into service later this year.
In addition, the Bayraktar TB3 UCAV, which will be deployed on the Anadolu amphibious assault ship, will take its maiden flight this year.
Erdogan also said the heavy-class attack helicopter Atak-2 will also take its maiden flight later this year.