Have Turkey and Saudi Arabia finally patched up their past differences? In a sign of mending of their ties, two Saudi Arabian defense manufacturers have reportedly begun co-producing the Turkish-made Karayel-SU tactical drone.
The two companies, Intra Defense Technologies and Advanced Electronics Company, are developing the medium-altitude, long-endurance drone under license from the Ankara-based defense company Vestel Savunma, according to DefenseNews. EurAsian Times could not independently confirm the reports.
Karayel is a surveillance, reconnaissance, and combat UAV system designed and developed by Vestel for the Turkish Armed Forces. After the co-production, the Karayel drones will be renamed ‘Haboob’ in Saudi Arabia.
On March 16, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had confirmed that “there was Saudi demand for Turkish armed drones,” without elaborating. Turkey has been making efforts to mend its ties with regional rivals across the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia.
Relations between Ankara and Riyadh hit a low point when Turkey backed Qatar in its 2017 dispute with Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arab coalition including Egypt.
The Karayel-SU Drone
The drone has been designed and manufactured as per NATO ‘Airworthiness’ standard ‘STANAG 4671’. The NATO Standardized Agreement 4671 allows military unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to operate in other NATO members’ airspace.
The drone uses two rocket systems and is equipped with the smart micro munitions MAM-C and MAM-L. Both weapons are produced by Turkey’s state-controlled missile-maker Roketsan.
The Karayel, which features a 97-horsepower engine, has a novel triple-redundant distributed avionics architecture, which ensures protection against all kinds of ‘uncontrolled crashes’.
A company official told Defense News Advanced Electronics Company (AEC) will provide electronics parts for the drones and Vestal will supply “essential, critical components of the aircraft.”
The official further said Saudi Arabia was also keen on off-the-shelf purchase of an unknown batch of Karayel-SU drones. The deal has its origin in the 2017 Dubai Air Show, where Saudi Arabia showed willingness for both the direct purchase and co-production of the drones.
The Karayel-SU drones can fly up to 20 hours at an altitude of 18,000 feet and for eight hours with a 120-kg payload. They can fly at speeds of 60-80 knots at a ranger of up to 150 kilometers.
According to reports, the co-production program of the drones involves building a batch of 40 Karayel-SU drones between 2021 and 2025.
The drones have been designed entirely by Turkish engineers, and many of its sub-components and software, including the flight mission computer, has been developed locally.
This has been done so that any changes in aircraft or integration of new payloads can be done swiftly. The drones can survive in adverse weather conditions. They also possess the ‘de-icing system’, which automatically detects icing conditions and activates itself.