ANKARA, Turkey — Two Turkish companies have consecutively reported significant progress toward building indigenous engines that would power locally made drones and armored vehicles.
State-controlled company Tusas Engine Industries, or TEI, announced the completion of a program for the design, development and production of an indigenous engine that will power the Anka, a medium-altitude, long-endurance drone developed by TEI’s sister company, Turkish Aerospace Industries, or TAI.
TEI said it successfully integrated the PD170 engine to the Anka drone. The Anka, with the PD170, will go through flight tests later this year.
TEI officials said the company already signed a serial production contract with TAI. The next step will be to win certification for the engine.
TEI’s general manager, Mahmut Akşit, said the PD170 program aims to end Turkey’s dependency on foreign engine suppliers. “A further aspect of the program will be exporting the PD170 to foreign countries,” Akşit said.
In 2012, TEI signed a contract with Turkey’s procurement authority, then Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (now Presidency of Defense Industries), for the development of the PD170.
TEI has a partnership agreement with U.S.-based General Electric. Turkish procurement authorities recently announced the selection of GE for the supply of engines to power the initial batch of the TF-X, Turkey’s indigenous fighter jet in the making. The twin-engine TF-X will be powered by either the F110-GE-129 or the F110-GE-132 engine.
Turkish officials say the GE engine would be a stopgap solution until “we have built our indigenous engine for the TF-X.” Under the deal, the first prototype of the TF-X and an unknown number of initial batches would be powered by an F110 engine.
Turkey previously had problems in supplying engines for the Anka when a European country refused to collaborate on a joint engine program due to export restrictions.
The 2.1-liter turbo-diesel PD170 can produce 170 horsepower at 20,000 feet, and 130 horsepower at 30,000 feet. It can generate power at a maximum altitude of 40,000 feet.
Facing asymmetrical security threats, Turkey increasingly relies on a strategy to enrich its inventory of UAVs.
“This is a natural outcome: The increasing demand from the Turkish military for possibly all kinds of drones in the past few years has created a derivative demand for locally made engines,” said Ozgur Eksi of the Istanbul-based magazine C4Defence. “Indigenous engine efforts will deepen in the near future with more companies getting involved.”
Meanwhile, a privately owned Turkish engine maker said it has designed, developed and produced the country’s first indigenous engine to power armored vehicles.
Tümosan said it also produced the Pusat, a new four-wheel drive tactical armored vehicle, and integrated its own engine and transmission system into the Pusat.
Several armored vehicle producers sell their models to the Turkish military and foreign buyers. But, according to Volkan Gün, a project manager at Tümosan, “this is the first time an indigenous Turkish armored vehicle features also an indigenous engine and a transmission system."
“All field tests will have been completed in 2019, including ballistic and mine tests,” Gün said.
In March 2015, Tümosan signed a €190 million (U.S. $216 million) contract with the Turkish government to design and develop an indigenous engine for the Altay, a new-generation tank under development. But the program failed after Tümosan’s foreign technology suppliers refused to share technology over political restrictions.
Tümosan, founded in 1975, is a diesel engine and tractor manufacturer. It produces 75,000 diesel engines annually.
Burak Ege Bekdil is a Turkey correspondent for Defense News. He has written for Hurriyet Daily News, and worked as Ankara bureau chief for Dow Jones Newswires and CNBC-e television. He is also a fellow at the Middle East Forum and regularly writes for the Middle East Quarterly and Gatestone Institute.