Turkey’s homemade drones raising hopes for boosting local industry - analyst

A number of Turkey’s independently designed, developed and produced unmanned systems with export potential are giving the country hope for future deals with foreign customers, wrote Burak Ege Bekdil for Defense News website.

These indigenous unmanned systems are unique from other military platforms such as helicopters and tanks as these Turkish drones do not require foreign export licenses, and they are combat proven, the article said.

The Turkish military has used unmanned systems over the last few years in its fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has been in war in Turkey for over three decades, which has claimed the lives of more than 40,000 people.

Turkish Bayraktar Makina, a privately owned Turkish drone maker, won a contract to sell a batch of 12 of its Bayraktar TB2 UAVs to Ukraine and in 2017, the company sold a batch of six TB2s to Qatar, the article said, adding that it has recently launched a naval version of the drone.

A medium-altitude, long-range, tactical UAV system, the Bayraktar TB2 operates as a platform for conducting reconnaissance and intelligence missions, Bekdil wrote.

‘’Each Bayraktar TB2 system consists of six aerial vehicles, two ground control stations, three ground data terminals, two remote video terminals and ground support equipment.

The drone’s maximum payload exceeds 55 kilograms. The standard payload configuration includes an electro-optical camera module, an infrared camera module, a laser designator, a laser range finder and a laser pointer,’’ the article said.

Tusas Engine Industries, Turkey’s national engine maker recently completed the development phase of a program to build the country’s first drone engine with initial tests on the PD170 engine being successful.

The 2.1-liter, turbo-diesel PD170 can produce 170 horsepower at 20,000 feet and 130 horsepower at 30,000 feet while generating power at a maximum altitude of 40,000 feet, the Defense News article said.

‘’To support drone programs with subsystems, the Turkish industry has locally produced the BS-101, a signals intelligence system and an automatic takeoff-and-landing system for drones,’’ it noted.

Meanwhile, in 2018, Selçuk Bayraktar, the chief technology officer at Baykar Makina, identified the installation of wings as the latest progress on the Ucan Balik/Akinci” program (“Flying Fish/Raider”), an unmanned fighter in the making.

The combat UAV could serve as an overture to a more advanced unmanned fighter jet, according to Bayraktar, who hopes to have the first unmanned fighter aircraft by 2023.

The Akinci is the latest version of a family of drones Ankara maintains would perform well in counterinsurgency operations, the article highlighted.

“All these indigenous programs promise the emergence of new combat-proven systems in the next years, and without delays,” it quoted a government drone specialist with Turkey’s procurement authority as saying, adding, “That will pave the way for further exports of unmanned systems.”