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Turkey Tests Missile Defense System to Blunt IS Attacks

FILE - A rocket believed to have been launched by Islamic State forces flies from the east to the west side of the Syrian town of Kobani during fighting, Nov. 6, 2014 Picture taken from the Turkish side of the Turkey-Syria border.

Turkey is in the final stages of a developing a new missile defense system to prevent rocket attacks on its cities by the Islamic State, Turkey's defense minister says.

The system has been in the development process for the last 18 months and will be in the test phase this week before being deployed to stop IS Katyusha rockets, Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik said.

“It has not been easy for us to intervene IS’s short-range Katyushas,” said Isik in an interview with CNN Turk, adding the system will “neutralize Katyushas.”

Over the past year, rocket fire has pummeled Turkish border towns from IS positions inside northern Syria. The southern town of Kilis has endured sustained attacks, killing at least 21 people, destroying entire neighborhoods and prompting residents to flee their homes.

Attacking IS

Turkish troops, as well as Turkish-backed rebels, crossed into Syria in August to push IS militants from border areas. But they have not pushed IS far enough from firing range.

Last week, IS rockets again struck Kilis, despite near daily shelling of IS positions by the Turkish military.

The new Turkish defense missile system will resemble Israel’s “Iron Dome,” which has proved to be successful against rockets fired by Hamas in the Gaza Strip against Israeli towns. The Turkish system, designed and built by Turks, is designed to intercept and destroy short-range rockets fired from distances of 4 to 70 kilometers.

“If everything goes as desired, the new system would certainly be effective against IS,” said Metehan Demir, a freelance journalist and a defense expert. “The problem of Kathyusha rockets coming from IS will be solved.”

Demir also told VOA that it could be months before the new missile system - which Turkey has named "Korkut" - has been tested and is ready for use.

Turkish system

Ilker Akgungor, another journalist who covers defense issues, said Korkut is a self-propelled air-defense gun system developed by Aselsan, a Turkish corporation that produces military radios and defense electronic systems. The Korkut weapon can fire 1,100 rounds per minute and will destroy rockets before they hit the ground.

Because of the recurrent IS attacks, Turkey is speeding up the production process of a defense system, analysts said.

“That the terror organizations have used their weapons particularly on populated areas, caused deaths and casualties, and created fear and panic among locals, has accelerated Turkey’s efforts in developing new defense systems,” said Abdullah Agar, a defense expert.

Turkey is also developing early warning, countermortar radar, and surface-to-air missile systems, Agar said. Combined, the systems are designed to augment a weapons shield system.

“These new weapons have given good results in the laboratories, but whether they will yield the required results on real attacks is yet to be seen,” he said.

Still, Turkey needs to invest more in research and development of its defense to make more progress on preventing more sophisticated rockets, Agar said. Even then, success will be limited, he added.

“The systems of the U.S. and Israel were used in land operations. But even those systems cannot be said to yield results 100 percent," Agar said.