Turkey’s cutting-edge UCAV “Bayraktar Akinci”, which is considered the most sophisticated drone built indigenously under the regime of its President Tayyip Erdoğan till date, has been garnering rave reviews during its testing period but is still miles off from cementing the cracks left by the country’s aging fleet of fighter jets.
Turkey, which currently possesses fourth-generation US-built F-16 Fighting Falcons and older F-4 Phantom IIs, were bound to get their hands on the stealthy fifth-generation F-35, but due to their refusal to plug out from the S-400 deal with Russia despite repeated warnings from the United States, they were suspended from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, wherein the F-35s intended for the Turkish Air Force, were diverted to the US Air Force.
With Ankara’s fifth-generation fighter jet project, the TAI TF-X, not likely to become operational till the beginning of the next decade, and its failure in acquiring 4.5 generation aircraft, it has shifted its focus to investing in bigger, advanced drones like Akinci, as they would be well-suited for kind of battles Turkey will fight in the future.
Such views have been supported by Turkish military expert Metin Gurcan, who said – “By building the Akinci, Turkey is hoping to extend its military reach in the region and compensate, even if fractionally, for the loss of the F-35 new-generation jets.”
As reported earlier by the Eurasian Times, the cutting-edge unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) completed another milestone when its second prototype successfully completed its maiden flight on August 20 at the Bayraktar Akinci Flight and Training Centre at the Çorlu Airport Base Command, in the country, when it stayed in the air for more than one hour as part of its System Verification and Identification Test. The first prototype has already cleared two test flights.
Turkey has been taking great strides in drone production in recent years, with its Akinci, which has a 65-feet wingspan, designed to have an impressive 24 hours of endurance, a range of over 300 miles, and the ability to fly as high as 40,000 feet.
According to press reports, the drones which will be powered by Ukrainian-built AI-450 turboprop engines, has two 450-horsepower engines but can be equipped with 750-horsepower engines or locally made 240-horsepower engines.
According to Gurcan, the drones which will be very effective in detecting and destroying individual land targets, such as enemy howitzers or mortars, have a combination of advanced radars, which set them apart.
“Ankara sees the Akinci as its main aerial vehicle for intelligence-surveillance-target acquisition (ISTAR) and command-control-communication (C3) tasks in the next decade,”
The drone will be equipped with indigenously developed systems, including a multi-role active electronically scanned array radar, a SAR/GMTI radar, a wide-area surveillance system, electronic warfare, an electronic and signal intelligence suite, and beyond-line-of-sight satellite communications systems, the sum of which makes the Akinci the best-ever ISTAR+C3 asset the Turkish military has had.”
The drone’s third prototype is undergoing integration at Baykar Makina’s research center, with expected delivery by the end of this year.
According to the Defense Turkey Magazine, the UCAV is equipped with state-of-the-art avionics. “AKINCI UAV will have a 20m wingspan, is 12,5m long and 4,1m high and to be equipped with indigenously developed SatCom, CATS FLIR, Wide Area Surveillance System, ELINT/SIGINT System, ESM Pod, Collision Avoidance System, Multi-role AESA Air Radar and a SAR/GMTI Radar”, it stated.