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Turkey Just Tested Its Fearsome New Combat Drone

September 19, 2020

Via TAI.

This month saw the Undersecretariat of Defense Industries (SSB) promote a short video clip on its social media accounts for a new twin-boom medium altitude drone that can strike ground targets. The model is the largest airframe in Turkish Aerospace Industries’ (TAI) unmanned aircraft portfolio and is known as the Anka-Aksungur, which is powered by twin propeller engines mounted on the wings rather than the fuselage. The footage released by the SSB showed the Aksungur laden with unguided small diameter bombs and dropping these on a patch of ground marked in white. A week later another video clip shared by TAI, also known by its Turkish acronym “TUSAS,” showed the Aksungur carrying six air-to-ground missiles.

With a maximum takeoff weight of 7.2 tons, the Aksungur is the heaviest attack drone in Europe and the Middle East at the moment.

TAI’s most capable drone model yet was unveiled just last year at the IDEF 2019 arms show where it was on static display loaded with a complete selection of ordnance. A catalog for the Aksungur reveals a ceiling of 40,000 feet, easily twice the height for most medium altitude drones, and two 170 horsepower turbo diesel propeller engines. Specifications such as its radius and endurance, also known as the time it spends in flight, are unacknowledged by its manufacturer. Given its engine type the Aksungur’s traveling range may exceed even the best performing MALE UAVs today even when it’s limited to intelligence and surveillance missions. TAI’s catalog also reveals the Aksungur, when deployed for combat, is able to carry 1,100 pounds of ordnance or 550 lbs on each wing.

The Anka-Aksungur releasing its payload. Via SSB.

For all the trouble caused by the COVID-19 pandemic the year has been a watershed for Turkey’s unmanned aircraft. With Ankara flouting diplomacy in favor of military intervention, its drones had a decisive role preserving its local allies in two separate theaters. From late February to March the Baykar Bayraktar TB2, a twin-boom model able to launch small guided munitions, wrought havoc on Syrian ground forces in Idlib, leaving dozens of vehicles wrecked. The Bayraktar TB2 had a decisive role in Libya three months later when the Turkish-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) that controlled Tripoli launched a counter-offensive against the Libyan National Army (LNA) that’s supported by Egypt, the UAE, and several other countries.

Now that Ankara is in a thorny maritime dispute putting it at odds with Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, and Israel–with France trying to defuse the situation before it spirals out of control–the eventual adoption of the Aksungur as a combat and ISR platform further cements Turkey’s status as a “drone power.” For perspective, in 2010 Israel enjoyed an overwhelming advantage when it came to unmanned technology. Within a decade this has eroded as Iran, and now Turkey, became involved with regional wars and pushed for rapid advancements in the production and use of their own unmanned aircraft. The results are indisputable and the 2020s may end with the arrival of a jet-powered Turkish UCAV similar to those found in China and Russia.

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