In September, the Turkish munitions producer Roketsan introduced a satellite-guided artillery rocket for use from its T-122 Sakarya multiple rocket launcher system (MRLS).
This new rocket – named TRG-122 – is derived from the 122mm TR-122-line of rockets, specifically the extended-range variant – which is capable of covering a distance of 40 km. According to IHS Jane’s, each TRG-122 weighs 72 kg (including an 18.4 kg high-explosive or fragmentation warhead). The customer has the option to supplement or supplant the GPS-based seeker with GNSS. The TRG-122’s accuracy is set at <50 m circular error probe (CEP). Roketsan hopes to have the TRG-122 ready for orders in 2017.
The scope of precision-guided munitions is evidently expanding. For a time, such munitions were limited to specialized munitions, such as stand-off range missiles, but with the increasingly affordable nature of guidance kits – especially GPS – the portfolio has broadened significantly. Today, one can include small and lightweight bombs, artillery shells, and artillery rockets.
However, irrespective of whether it is a bomb or a rocket, a precision-guided munition is in place to accomplish a specific goal – to maximize the chance of hitting its target. The effect of a successful impact can be felt across the battlefield chain, from the direct user achieving their mission objective to the rear-end logistics crew being spared from inefficiently using their munitions stock.
In terms of the TRG-122 specifically, it is worth recognizing that its 18.4 kg warhead is not going to fracture a bridge or penetrate hardened shelter. However, in a battlefield environment involving a large number of lightly protected posts and perhaps even mobile radar or air defence units, armies may be able to use the TRG-122 or a TRG-122-like system to great effect.
Granted, the effectiveness of the system is contingent on the user’s ability to gather location data on specific targets, which may also be mobile (e.g. a short-range air defence post). Long-range electro-optical (EO) surveillance pods, which could be housed from fixed-wing, rotary-wing, and potentially even unmanned aerial vehicles, could be a credible surveillance and target-acquisition method.
Within a modern – and dynamic – battle engagement, it is difficult to determine the utility of the TRG-122 without supporting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) coverage and command, control and communications (C3) network. Yes, unguided rockets can be used to level saturated strikes over a specific area, but a guided rocket would indicate an intent to attack a relatively long-determined target.
In long-drawn border stand-offs between countries, pre-determining targets (before a conflict) may not be difficult, but beyond the initial exchange – and after rapid adjustments from both sides – it is not clear to what extent the TRG-122 could be useful. Of course, by this point, one could imagine the warring sides to pivot to different strike options (the TRG-122 would not be the sole solution).
In non-conventional warfare scenarios such as counterinsurgency (COIN), one could see the TRG-122 take on the role of a low-cost guided munition. For example, some circles of thought, such as those that advocate for the idea of using small warhead-based munitions in built-up areas – on the pretense that such warheads carry a marginal risk of collateral damage – could see the TRG-122 as a viable low-intensity solution. However, even in that scenario, the <50m CEP would not be acceptable; a laser-guided alternative (one guided by a system on the ground or air) would likely be sought.
Not all COIN planners would opt for such methods, the TRG-122 could potentially be utilized in non-civilian environments, such as desolate valleys or mountainous areas. The low-to-non-existent anti-air warfare threat environment in many COIN theatres opens the space for aerial ISR assets to locate targets, the coordinates of which could be fed to the rocket artillery units.
It is worth noting that Roketsan is not the only nor the first to enter the space with a precision-guided 122 mm rocket. For example, China’s NORINCO had also showcased a INS/GPS variant of its BRE7 Fire Dragon 122mm rocket, which is also capable of reaching a range of 40km, but with a CEP of 25m.