Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Turkey’s ‘Fully Loaded’ Baykar Akinci Combat Drone Completes Test Flight Armed With All Weapon Stations

The Turkish Drone manufacturer, Baykar, announced on August 22 that Turkey’s state-of-the-art unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV), Akinci, has completed a test flight loaded with all weapon stations. 

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On Baykar’s official Twitter account, the company posted a video that showed the Akinci B executing the flight with nine armed payload stations. This drone is capable of conducting flights with several ammunitions. 

The combat drone is equipped with locally designed ammunition Teber-82 and mini munition MAM-T, as well as mini munitions MAM-L and MAM-C on a multiple launcher station and the HGK-82 on a medium weapon station. 

The drone has already been tested with the Teber-82 guidance kit produced by Roketsan, a Turkish defense company. Roketsan manufactures MAM, a laser-guided system for armed drones, light attack aircraft, and fighter aircraft.

MAM-C is a high explosive variant, whereas MAM-L is a thermobaric variant. The latest member of Roketsan’s Smart Micro Munition (MAM) product family is the long-range variant known as MAM-T. 

The HGK-82 is a GPS/INS guidance kit that converts standard 500-kilogram Mk-82 general purpose bombs into smart air-to-ground weapons. It is developed by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Türkiye (TÜBITAK)’s Defense Industries Research and Development Institute. 

During the latest test flight, the drone carried three Teber-82s, one HGK-82, two MAM-Ls, a MAM-C, and a MAM-T. The overall weight during the test flight was around 1,230 kilograms (2,711.69 pounds). Furthermore, work on new weapon integrations for the Akinci is still ongoing.

Meanwhile, on August 24, Ismail Demir, head of the Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB), announced that the Turkish Air Force had received three Akinci combat drones. He tweeted: “We continue our deliveries. We delivered 3 AKINCI TİHAs to our Air Force Command. Best wishes.”

Akıncı unmanned armed aerial vehicle (Wikimedia Commons)

The drone manufacturer, Baykar, also confirmed the news on their official Twitter account, saying, “We are proud to deliver three more Bayraktar AKINCI B TİHAs to our Air Force Command, the indomitable guardian of the skies! Good luck to our homeland and nation, Bayraktar AKINCI, who will be the keen eye of our security forces in the sky.” 

The performance of Baykar’s drones on different battlefields, including in Ukraine, has led to significant success in recent years. Bayraktar TB2s were crucial in the early stages of Ukraine’s defense against Russia and are credited with taking down Russian tanks and armored vehicles.

Baykar recently revealed that it can produce 20 drones monthly and has a three-year backlog. The company is currently in the process of building a new facility in Ukraine.

Turkey’s Most Advanced Drone Akinci

The Akinci, which refers to “Raider” in Turkish, is a high-altitude, long-endurance UAV intended to replace Turkey’s existing primary tactical UAV, the TB2 Bayraktar. It can execute air-to-ground and air-to-air attack operations.

Initially, Baykar developed three prototypes, with the first taking off in December 2019. The first mass-produced Akinci drone underwent a flight test in May 2021, and the Turkish Armed Forces received the unmanned system in August of that same year. 

The combat drone is 12.2 meters in length, 4.1 meters in height, and has a wingspan of 20 meters. Its takeoff weight is 5,500 kilograms, with a maximum payload of 1,350 kilograms, and it can fly at 40,000 feet (12,192 meters). 

The drone is equipped with electro-optic/infrared/laser designation (EO/IR/LD) sensors, a multi-mode active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, and a signals intelligence (SIGINT) system. The drone collects and processes data from onboard sensors and cameras using powerful AI features.

AKINCI armed with MK-82 laser-guided bombs (Baykar)

Experts believe that the higher combat payload capacity of the Akinci, compared to the Bayraktar TB2, offers more powerful weaponry and flexible concepts of operations (CONOPS) to the battlefield. The drone can carry a variety of weapon payloads, including laser-guided smart munitions, missiles, and long-range stand-off weapons.

It performed its first firing test in April 2021, launching laser-guided smart micro munitions (MAM) developed by Rokestan, namely MAM-T (long-range variant), MAM-C (thermobaric variant), and MAM-L (high-explosive variant). 

The Akinci can potentially serve as a mother ship for drone swarming attacks. In 2019 Prof. Ismail Demir published a simulation of the homegrown “Alpagu” kamikaze drones released by the Akinci drone. 

The Akinci can transmit real-time target updates with the deployed kamikaze drones using its sophisticated sensors, including an AESA radar, to achieve pinpoint strikes.

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