Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Bayraktar Akıncı: Turkey’s Next Statement Drone Shows its Potential

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Through June and July, Baykar Makina test-fired several guided air-to-ground munitions from its Bayraktar Akıncı high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

For example, on June 15, Baykar Makina test-fired the KGK-SIHA-82 gliding precision-guided bomb (PGB). The company followed up by test firing the TEBER-82 laser-guided bomb (LGB) on June 22, and then the LGK-82 LGB on July 02, from the Bayraktar Akıncı.

The test firings indicate that Baykar Makina is actively working to configure the Akıncı with stand-off range weapons (SOW). Baykar Makina’s goal is to eventually arm the Akıncı with heavyweight munitions, such as air-launched cruise missiles (ALCM), and even air-to-air missiles (AAM).

The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) inducted the Bayraktar Akıncı in August 2021. Baykar Makina is marketing the Akıncı to potential overseas customers. In January 2022, Baykar Makina announced that it signed its first export contract for the Bayraktar Akıncı.

While a twin-engine design, the Bayraktar Akıncı is in the size-class of the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper.

This fact makes the Akıncı an intriguing system as it offers countries a non-American and, presumably an ITAR-free, HALE UAV that can potentially compare to the MQ-9.

In turn, there are indications that the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and, potentially, the Pakistan Navy (PN) are both acquiring the Bayraktar Akıncı. Neither Pakistani service arm nor Baykar Makina have confirmed this deal. However, the PAF showcased the Akıncı in one of its promotional videos (alongside other drones).

Thus, a potential Akıncı order would be a major development for the Pakistani military. By adding a long-range, high-altitude UAV, the PAF and PN could open up many new capabilities. This can involve long-haul ‘hunter-killer’ operations for counterinsurgency (COIN), around-the-clock electronic intelligence (ELINT), and naval operations (analogous to the MQ-9B SeaGuardian).

Drones Signify Turkey’s Rise as a Defence Supplier

It is worth highlighting that the Akıncı is another example of Turkey’s growing prowess as a developer and supplier of defence technologies. For those seeking ITAR-free drones at least, Turkey has arguably become a neck-and-neck competitor with China. In some markets (e.g., Central Europe).

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