Turkey’s new military drone no substitute for advanced fighter jets - Forbes

Armed drones manufactured by Turkey’s domestic defence industry have increased in sophistication, but will not cover the county’s military needs without the purchase of new generation fighter jets in the coming decade, analyst Paul Iddon wrote for Forbes on Tuesday.

Drones are suitable for the type of warfare Turkey usually engages in, like the guerrilla tactics used by the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), or operations by Turkey and the militia it supports in Syria against government  forces, Iddon said.

Using drones is also a way for the Turkish military to compensate for the country’s removal from the United States’ F-35 stealth fighter programme over its acquisition of Russian-made S-400 missile defence systems last year.

Turkey is developing its own fifth-generation fighter jet, the TAI TF-X, but it is unlikely to become operational in the next decade, Iddon said. Meanwhile, its stock of older F-16 and F-4 jets need to be replaced.

The Bayraktar Akıncı armed drone, manufactured by Baykar Defense, has a 65-feet wingspan and can fly as high as 40,000 feet (12.2 km). It has 24 hours of endurance and a range of over 482 km.

Baykar Defense, owned by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s in-laws the Bayraktar family, announced the completion of the armed drone’s high altitude tests last week.

The drone will be equipped with Ukrainian-made motors, with alternative domestic motors available, smart micro munitions (MAML) and general purpose bombs. It will be able to launch short-range air-to-air missiles, and the Turkish-made long-range SOM cruise missiles. Its electronically scanned array radars, electronic warfare, wide-area surveillance systems and satellite communications systems are being developed indigenously.

Akıncı will be used as the Turkish army’s main vehicle for surveillance and target acquisition, according to security expert Metin Gürcan.

A Jamestown Foundation analysis said the drone “could be quite effective in detecting and destroying individual land targets, such as enemy howitzers or mortars, or special equipment like electronic warfare (EW) stations”.

With the Akıncı and several other domestic projects, Turkey has reduced its dependence on its allies significantly. A military cooperation project with the U.S. armed forces ended early this year over Turkey’s actions in northern Syria.

In May, Baykar Defense premiered a documentary on its new drones, showing their development and first flight on Dec. 6, 2019. Baykar’s drones have been used in Libya’s civil war, and against the PKK as well as Syrian government forces.