The renowned Turkish drone manufacturer Baykar reported over the weekend that its brand-new drone, the Bayraktar TB-3, finally took to the skies for the first time on October 27, marking Turkey’s centennial celebrations.
As the central unmanned platform of the Turkish Navy’s “drone carrier,” TCG Anadolu, TB3 will be able to conduct long-term maritime surveillance and light strike operations. The first flight of this naval drone was conducted at the Çorlu Flight Training and Test Center in northwest Turkey.
Baykar’s Chief technology officer, Selcuk Bayraktar, said on X, “On the Republic of Türkiye’s centennial, the Bayraktar TB3 unmanned aerial vehicle completed its maiden flight.” He noted, “It is the first of its kind, boasting the ability to fold its wings and capable of landing and taking off from a ship.”
The maiden flight comes days after the manufacturer announced earlier this month that it successfully conducted the first high-speed roll test of the Bayraktar TB3 drone. The company also shared a video with the caption, “Bayraktar TB3 completed its first high-speed roll test.”
Although the company falls short of specifying the completion of the testing phase time and again, earlier reports indicated an expected completion of the testing stage by the end of 2023.
The Bayraktar TB3 is an armed unmanned aerial vehicle system designed for carrier operations, featuring foldable wings just like naval fighter jets.
Bir hayalimizi daha gökyüzü ile buluşturduk çok şükür.#BayraktarTB3 ilk uçuşunu gerçekleştirdi… ✈️⚓️🚀
— Selçuk Bayraktar (@Selcuk) October 27, 2023
While the specifics of the testing are unknown, the company’s video appears to capture the drone in mid-air, albeit possibly not during a full takeoff.
A naval version of Baykar’s combat-tested TB2, the TB3, has been under development for several years, making its public debut only in March of this year. The development and testing of the TB3 drone is being keenly watched after the combat success recorded by its predecessor in a host of war zones, including Syria, Libya, and Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as Ukraine.
— BAYKAR (@BaykarTech) October 13, 2023
The maiden flight coincides with drone warfare assuming increasing significance, as demonstrated by the ongoing war in Ukraine, where drones are being employed for attacking strategic military targets. The TB2, for one, was believed to have assisted the sinking of the Russian cruiser Moskva by the Ukrainian forces.
Although the TB3 is still in the testing phase, there is another drone called ‘Akinci’ developed by Baykar. It is fast becoming a rage among international customers looking to bolster their air power using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). Introduced as Turkey’s most cutting-edge drone, the drone has already been purchased by six nations.
For instance, Baykar entered into a contract with Saudi Arabia to establish domestic production for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the Saudi kingdom. In addition to the core agreement, the partnership involves a crucial technology transfer aspect. As per reports, a considerable proportion of the Bayraktar Akinci unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) intended for the Saudi military, potentially up to 70%, will be manufactured domestically.
برعاية سمو #وزير_الدفاع؛ يسرنا أن نعلن عن توقيع اتفاقية توطين استراتيجية مع شركة @BaykarTech التركية، لتوطين صناعة الطائرات المسيَّرة "Bayraktar Akinci" والأنظمة المكونة لها داخل المملكة، إذ ستُعزز هذه الاتفاقية دورنا في دعم صناعة الدفاع الوطنية وتعزيز قدراتنا المحلية. pic.twitter.com/9mBWNBflh5
— SAMI (@SAMIDefense) August 6, 2023
There are indications that the Akinci drone may even be transferred to Ukraine. In an interview earlier this month, the general director of the defense manufacturing firm Baykar, Haluk Bayraktar, told broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) that the company was considering transferring and manufacturing Bayraktar Akinci drones in Kyiv.
“We have the necessary permits for this. Therefore, we can fully manufacture Bayraktar TB2 here in Ukraine rather than assembling it. Additionally, we can fully manufacture Bayraktar Akinci here. We have permits from our government for this, which demonstrates how close we are to implementation,” he told the media.
With the two drones soaring to the skies and being aggressively earmarked for exports to potential customers, EurAsian Times looks at how they differ from each other and what they offer to Baykar’s customers as demand continues to climb. Turkish drone industry stands out for churning out cutting-edge drones with state-of-the-art capabilities.
TB3 & Akinci Are Roaring And How!
The Akinci, Turkish for “Raider,” is a high-altitude, long-endurance UAV capable of performing air-to-ground and air-to-air attack missions.
In contrast, the cutting-edge TB3 is the latest version of Turkish manufacturer Baykar’s powerful TB line of assault drones designed to operate from small runways and ship decks.
The dimensions of the Akinci combat drone are 12.2 meters in length, 4.1 meters in height, and 20 meters in wingspan. Its maximum payload capacity is 1,350 kilograms, and it can fly at 40,000 feet (12,192 meters). Its take-off weight is 5,500 kilograms.
Meanwhile, the TB3 has a wingspan of 14 meters (some 46 feet) and a length of 8.35 meters (27 feet). The drone has a maximum takeoff weight of 1,450 kilograms (some 3,196 pounds) and a payload capacity of 280 kilograms (617 pounds).
According to Baykar, the Bayraktar Akinci can perform maneuvers akin to fighter jets and carry a range of payloads. The drone has dual satellite communication systems, electronic support systems, air-to-air radar, collision avoidance radar, and synthetic aperture radar.
Notably, the drone can effectively launch the Stand-Off Missile (SOM), an air-to-surface cruise missile with an extended range developed by Roketsan.
On the other hand, the TB3 drone can carry a variety of armaments, such as anti-tank missiles, laser-guided rockets, and anti-infantry bomblets, thanks to six hard points located beneath its folding wings.
TB3’s primary purpose will be intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) activities and for its striking capabilities. With its beyond-line-of-sight communications capabilities, Anadolu can see over enormous expanses of the ocean.
The Akinci, for one, stands out as it is expected to be the first-ever drone in the world to carry an AESA radar. A Turkish Twitter account that posts Turkish military updates said in a tweet: “AKINCI will be the first UAV in the world to carry AESA radar and beyond-sight air-to-air missiles. In the test shot from AKINCI, the target over 100 kilometers was hit with Turkey’s first supersonic missile, TRG-230-iHA.”
Meanwhile, TB3’s uniqueness lies in the fact that it is perfect for use on big-deck amphibious assault ships and aircraft carriers due to its short-takeoff-and-landing (STOL) capabilities.
The drone’s operational capabilities are expanded to small, remote airstrips ashore by its ability to perform short takeoffs and landings, giving Turkish forces more maneuverability during land-based operations.
Introduced as Turkey’s most cutting-edge drone, the Akıncı was initially delivered to the Turkish security forces in the latter part of August 2021.
In contrast, Baykar says the TB3 will complete mass production in 2024 and be prepared for use onboard Anadolu that same year. The successful first flight of the drone indicates that Turkey’s domestic drone industry is still thriving, particularly in light of its goal to build a mothership capable of carrying drones.
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