MANUFACTURER(S): 1st Army Maintenance Center Command - Turkey
OPERATORS: Azerbaijan; Turkey
Detailing the development and operational history of the T-155 Firtina (Storm) Self-Propelled Gun.
Entry last updated on 7/26/2017.
Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
The T-155 "Firtina" (translating to "Storm") is a Turkish-based self-propelled gun derivative of the South Korean K9 "Thunder" (produced by Samsung Techwin) with subtle design and system elements to suit Turkish Army requirements. The T-155 is of a conventional design and sports a powerful long-range 155mm main gun in the artillery support role atop a tracked chassis providing strong cross-country qualities. To date, the T-155 has seen active operation against rebel forces (the PKK) near the northern Iraqi border and remains a critical portion of modern Turkish armored doctrine. Design work (following a South Korean/Turkish government defense procurement agreement) on the T-155 began in 1998 to which, after successful completion of trials with the Turkish Army, entered production in 2001 and subsequent service in 2002. To date, over 150 of the type have been delivered with a further 200 on order. Assembly is handled locally out of the 1st Army Maintenance Center Command at Adapazari. The T-155 is differentiated from its South Korean origins by its revised turret structure as well as locally-developed internals (fire control system (FCS), navigation and communications suite). The T-155 is comparable in scope to the ubiquitous American M109 SPG, German Pz 2000 and British AS-90 series and follows the same form and function on the modern battlefield.
Outwardly, the T-155 is of a highly traditional design arrangement. The chassis features a suspended track-and-wheel system fitted to each hull side. The engine is mounted to the front right of the vehicle with the turret set at the middle of the hull and overhanging to the rear (this provides the required internal maneuvering space for the ammunition and crew). This provides the needed support and clearance for the long running barrel assembly which is capped by a slotted muzzle break and supported through a heavy duty recoil system located at its base. The main gun is breech loaded in the usual fashion, though supported beyond its two manual loaders by an automatic feed mechanism. Communication antenna are fitted externally to each corner of the turret roof and an entry/exit hatch provides access to the anti-aircraft machine gun. The vehicle is crewed by five personnel with the driver seated in the front-left hull. The commander, gunner and two dedicated loaders reside in the turret. The 360-degree nature of the turret allows for engagement at all possible angles relative to hull center - this a far cry from the self-propelled guns of World War 2 which featured fixed superstructures requiring the entire vehicle to be facing the target area. As such, the T-155 can fire and relocate to another area as necessary without necessarily turning around to face front. The entire firing process (setup and action) is said to take just 30 seconds to complete, providing the Turkish Army with a expedient artillery solution.
Design of the T-155 centers around the power 155mm L52 main gun (in a revised turret structure when compared to the South Korean K9). The weapon is a highly effective, and accurate long-range artillery weapon utilized to lob large-caliber projectiles against enemy target areas. The 155mm projectile is a massive round (requiring multiple crew to handle) and can be equipped with a variety of payloads beyond the standard High-Explosive (HE) round and includes chemical, armor-piercing, anti-fortification, illumination and smoke types. The weapon's far reach allows the T-155 to operate well behind active frontlines and attack targets with relative impunity (assuming air superiority). The main gun lists a range of 40 kilometers though this varies based on the type of ammunition being fired and additional support granted from rocket-assisted munitions. The rear of the turret features access panels which open to accept live rounds and jettison spent shell casings. Self-defense of the T-155 against enemy infantry and low-flying aircraft (such as attack helicopters) is through a 12.7mm Browning heavy machine gun. When in transport mode, the main gun barrel is seated in the included barrel lock which prevents the barrel from moving.
Power for the T-155 is provided by a German-designed MTU-881 KA 500 diesel-fueled engine of 1,000 horsepower (as in the K9 Thunder). This results in a top road speed of 40 miles per hour and an operational range of 300 miles - specifications keeping it on par with modern Turkish mechanized forces. This makes the T-155 a tactically flexible weapon system and broadens Turkish military prowess considerably - no successful modern army is without its self-propelled 155mm gun system.
Outside of the Turkish Army, the T-155 has garnered interest from the Azerbaijani Army - they having since placed an order for as many as 40 units. Turkish authorities have planned an ammunition vehicle development based on the successful T-155 chassis (sans its turret and gun system of course). The ammunition vehicle will work in conjunction with the T-155 by directly supplying available projectiles through the rear of the turret to feed sustained fire. In this fashion, the already formidable T-155 will be made more valuable.
The Turkish Army has been actively using its T-155 inventory against Kurdish rebels since 2007 and has used T-155s to fire rounds into Syrian territory in response to attacks originating from its southern neighbor (as related to the 2011 Syrian people's uprising).