Erdogan cements Turkey’s drone dominance with new generation of silent killers
Turkey has unveiled a new generation of military drones, bolstering the country’s reputation as a world leader in unnamed aircraft which have proved pivotal in battlefields in Libya, Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh.
The Akinci aircraft is made by Baykar, a Turkish drone manufacturer whose chief technology officer, Selcuk Bayraktar, is President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-law.
The firm said the new drones are more advanced than its Bayraktar TB2, which has been sold to Ukraine, Qatar, Azerbaijan, Poland and other countries.
Poland became the first European Union or Nato member state to acquire Turkish drones.
Saudi Arabia is reportedly interested in buying Turkish drones and Latvia is expected to become the second Nato member to invest. Albania is also purportedly looking to buy Bayraktar TB2s.
“With Akinci, Turkey has become one of the top three countries in the world producing that technology,” Erdogan told a ceremony in Corlu in northwest Turkey.
“Cutting the defence industry’s external dependency to 20 per cent from 80 per cent in such short time is one of greatest achievements in the history of the republic,” the strongman leader claimed.
The aircraft designs, software, avionics and mechanics all belong to Baykar
Baykar says the Akinci (meaning “raider”) can hit air and ground targets, and operate alongside combat aircraft, flying higher and for longer than previous Turkish drones.
Akıncı in July set a Turkish aviation record when it flew at an altitude of 11,594 metres.
They are equipped to carry several missiles, such as Smart Micro Munitions and the Stand-Off Missile, a long-range air-to-surface cruise missile with a range of up to 240km, made by the Turkish firm Roketsan.
The Akıncı reportedly stayed in the air for almost 26 hours during flight tests and flown 7,507km.
Turkish drones have been used for years against the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) in southeastern Turkey, assassinating senior leaders of the separatist group. Turkey’s drones devastated Syrian President Bashar Assad’s ground forces during clashes in Idlib province in early 2020 and they have been used over northern Iraq.
Notably in the last year, Turkish drones were key in preventing Libyan rebel leader Khalifa Haftar from capturing Tripoli from the apparently ailing forces of the UN-recognised government.
Unmanned Turkish aircraft also helped Azerbaijan’s armed forces crush the Armenian military defending territory during last year’s 44-day war in Nagorno-Karabakh which started in late September.
The Bayraktar TB2s. Picture credit: Wikimedia