Jun 9, 2014
Turkey’s unmanned ambitions shift up gear
Shortly before parliamentary elections in 2011, several election campaign billboards of the ruling Party featured blue skies with unidentified aircraft, accompanied with the slogan: “Our aircraft is in the skies!”
“Our aircraft” was not in the skies by then, but was crash-landing during a series of flight tests. And “our aircraft” was the Anka, a drone Turkey was trying to indigenously develop and manufacture.
Since then, local efforts have really sent the Anka to the skies, and now, more confident, Turkey’s defense planners have broader ambitions about unmanned systems.
In an April 29 speech, Prime Minister announced Turkey was able to produce unmanned aircraft.
The Anka is a medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) drone. Such UAVs can usually operate for 24 hours at an altitude of 10,000 feet. Anka, meaning Phoenix, is the first MALE-type UAV to be produced by Tusaş Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI).
Late last year, the Turkish government signed up with TAI for an order of 10 Ankas and ground stations. Under the deal, the first serial production deliveries will take place between 2016 and 2018.
Meanwhile, a version dubbed Anka+ would feature a rocket attached to its body and sensors. But TAI has ambitions beyond the Anka.
TAI officials say their work over the past year-and-a-half to build a high-altitude, long-range (HALE) drone would soon yield results. TAI’s HALE-type UAV will be a six-ton aircraft, although the company has yet to sign a contract for the HALE type.
Two more national programs are moving ahead at high speed, both developed by privately owned Turkish companies, the Bayraktar, and the the Karayel. The deliveries of six Karayel drones, three ground control stations and supportive systems would begin soon. The Karayel successfully flew at an altitude of 21,500 feet in its most recent test flight.
Procurement officials expect deliveries of both the Bayraktar and the Karayel to begin later this year.