Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan frequently mentions the Anka, Turkey’s first indigenous UAV, in speeches.
“We have reached [a technological level] that we can produce unmanned aircraft,” he proudly told Parliament on April 29.
“Erdogan views the Anka as one of his signature projects in national defense modernization,” one Erdogan aide said.
Late last year, the Turkish government signed up with Tusas Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) to order 10 Ankas and ground stations. Under the deal, the first serial production deliveries will take place between 2016 and 2018.
Recently, Turkey’s procurement planners have moved to add satellite communications capabilities to the Anka and have brought together a task force that will design and develop an indigenous engine for the UAV.
Meanwhile, a version dubbed Anka+ calls for a rocket attached to its body and sensors. But TAI has ambitions beyond the Anka.
Company officials said their work over the past year and a half to build a high-altitude, long-range (HALE) drone will soon yield results. TAI’s HALE-type UAV will be a 6-ton aircraft.
“We have not yet signed a contract for this, but we know that there is demand for this category,” a company official said.
One procurement official confirmed: “We think TAI’s HALE-type can be useful both in military and intelligence operations.”
Two other national programs are going ahead at high speed. Procurement officials expect deliveries of both the Bayraktar and the Karayel UAVs to begin this year.
The Bayraktar, a tactical drone developed by privately owned Turkish companies Kale and Baykar, had its first fully automatic flight test April 29 at a military airport in Kesan in northwestern Turkey. The company said that test and two others conducted May 3 were “perfectly successful.”
The Bayraktar flew for three hours at an altitude of 18,750 feet, almost 9,000 feet higher than a medium-altitude UAV such as Anka typically could. Further flight tests are scheduled.
Kale-Baykar boasts that under the Bayraktar program, the consortium developed various systems critical to drone technology including a flight control with three backup systems, inertial navigation and GPS systems, static pilots system, power control unit, a lithium-based smart battery, aerial data recording computer, video link system, tail camera, ground control station, and command-and-control software.
A military official familiar with drone systems said Bayraktar would be a preferred solution, especially in operations against Kurdish insurgents in Turkey’s southeast, because of its “exceptional quietness. This is a very effective system.”
Although there has been a ceasefire for over a year, Turkey has been fighting Kurdish insurgents in the country’s southeast since 1984.
Vestel Savunma Sanayi has since 2005 been developing the Karayel, another tactical drone, investing $30 million in the program.
The private company said on May 6 that deliveries soon would begin of six Karayels, three ground control stations and support systems. ■