Turkey-made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) continue to make a name for themselves while putting Turkey at the top of the global league for such products, prominent names of the sector say.
Temel Kotil, head of the Turkish Aerospace Industries Inc. (TAI), one of the two leading drone makers in the country told Sabah daily that Turkey is now under the spotlight with its unmanned systems.
Commenting on his company’s projects, Kotil said the Şimşek UAV is being carried out as a research and development (R&D) project with the company’s resources to meet the training and testing needs of air defense units and systems.
A high-speed target UAV, Şimşek can carry 5 kilograms (11 pounds) of explosives and can travel about 100-200 kilometers (62-124 miles) when it is dropped from a drone. “We produce 100 pieces a year from Şimşek,” the TAI head said previously.
Şimşek, the original design of TAI, which is used in various firing tests such as those from air defense systems and most recently during the homegrown missile Bozdoğan test, was previously integrated into TAI’s Anka UAV.
Şimşek made its maiden flight successfully on Aug. 4, 2012. The aerial vehicle, which is used in monitoring and shooting training of air defense systems, can take off from land or ship platforms without the need for a runway with a pneumatic launcher and can land with a parachute or land for re-use if undamaged.
The acoustic score recorder system measures the distance between the gun and the Şimşek aircraft and transfers the real-time information to the ground control station. Thanks to this system, the success of the shooting training can be monitored instantly.
The endurance time of the vehicle is above 45 minutes and it can reach a speed of 650 kilometers per hour.
Kotil, who further emphasized that Turkey has managed to become one of the few countries in the world in UAV technology, said that the deliveries of their medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) UCAV Anka also continue.
Kotil stated that next-generation Aksungur UAV, which was developed with domestic and national means in a short period of 18 months based on the Anka platform and broke the record for airtime in flights with and without ammunition, provides operation flexibility beyond the line of sight with its SATCOM (“satellite communication”) payload.
This particular UAV in September last year completed a 28-hour flight. It was the first time the aircraft flew with a payload at an altitude of 20,000 feet (6,096 meters).
The TAI confirmed the new achievement at the time on Twitter. “Aksungur, the domestic and national product of our country, flew for the first time with full ammunition, 12 MAM-L (Smart Micro Munition), at an altitude of 20,000 feet for 28 hours,” the statement read.
Most recently in April, Aksungur successfully hit a target with a new domestically produced ammunition, the KGK-SIHA-82, which weighs 340 kilograms and was fired by the UAV for the first time,
Stating that the TAI is among the top 100 global players in the aerospace industry, Kotil said that they support the studies that prioritize R&D with their industry-leading companies in the field. He underlined that they also contribute to the development of a competitive auxiliary industry in this sector.
“We develop current technologies and open the door to technologies of the future.”
The TAI allocated 40% of its turnover on investments in R&D studies in technology in 2020, Kotil said, adding: “We have grown our patent portfolio by more than 100% in the last three years. We have an increasing number of patent applications each year.”
“We will continue to carry out technology development activities in cooperation with our stakeholders in areas such as advanced materials, new generation aircraft concepts and advanced production techniques through our technology centers within the company,” the TAI head added.
Similar statements on where Turkey stands today in the unmanned systems development and the demand regarding its UAVs have most recently been made by another leading drone company in the country, namely Baykar.
Selçuk Bayraktar, chief technology officer (CTO) of Baykar, the developer of the Bayraktar TB2 UAV, said this drone has been seeing unprecedented demand from around the world following its deployment in military operations.
“This interest has increased greatly particularly following the operations in Idlib and Nagorno-Karabakh,” he said, even adding that “from time to time we have difficulties in meeting demands.”
The drone earned worldwide fame following its deployment in Syria and Libya by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and Nagorno-Karabakh by Azerbaijan’s army, paving the way for more export deals. It devastated Bashar Assad regime ground forces during clashes in Idlib province in February-March 2020 with smart ammunition and joint use with Turkish fighter jets that conducted flights over the country’s airspace. In Nagorno-Karabakh, the UAV dealt a heavy blow to Armenian occupying forces, which later dubbed by defense experts that what made Baku win a swift victory was due to Turkish and Israeli-made drones.
The Bayraktar TB2 has been sold to several countries, including Ukraine, Qatar, Azerbaijan and Poland. In May, Poland became the first European Union and NATO member state to acquire drones from Turkey.
Saudi Arabia is also said to have been interested in buying Turkish drones. Latvia also hinted that it could be the second EU and NATO member state to acquire Turkish drones. Albania is also interested in striking a deal to procure Bayraktar TB2s.