Akinci UCAVs Begin Combat Duty; Burkina Faso Uses Turkish-Supplied Drones To Hit Militants – Reports

Days after Burkina Faso acquired the Turkish Akinci combat drones, the country may have pressed the UCAVs for combat duty along with the previously acquired Baykar TB2 unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV).

A video surfaced on social media on April 29 showing a UCAV detecting and striking what is being classified as terrorist targets belonging to the Islamist groups in Burkina Faso. The caption accompanying the video stated that the operation was conducted using a combination of Akinci and TB2 drones. Both drones have been acquired from Turkish manufacturer Baykar.

EurAsian Times could not independently establish the veracity of the claims at the time of writing this report. However, similar unverified videos were posted on Platform X  earlier in April, just days after the drone broke cover in the African country.

If these claims are indeed accurate, this would be one of the first combat uses of the Turkish drone, whose popularity and export orders have seen a surge.

Akıncı was initially employed in the Turkish military’s Pençe-Kilit Operations, which aimed to eliminate PKK (Kurdish) strongholds in Northern Iraq, including caves and shelters. Another Middle Eastern country, Libya, has also used the drone in its counter-smuggling operations.

Burkina Faso remains marred in a civil conflict against Islamist groups such as the Al Qaida and the Islamic State. The country plunged deeper into terrorism and militancy following two military coups in 2022.

Islamist extremists who have been attacking Burkina Faso from neighboring Mali and Niger pose an increasing threat to the country. With over a million people displaced and thousands of people slain, the nation has been struggling to contain the bloodshed.

With drone warfare gaining prominence globally, Burkina Faso procured cutting-edge UCAVs to bolster its fight against terrorists. As per local media, the Akinci drone will likely be used against rebel and terrorist targets, especially motorcycle-riding groups of terrorists.

The two Akinci drones procured by the country were unveiled earlier this month. The drones are part of a larger military overhaul that includes various guided and unguided ammunition and five TB2 medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV).

During its unveiling, the Akinci UCAV was seen fitted with MAM-L and MAM-T munitions. However, Burkina Faso has also reportedly obtained heavier weapons for the AKINCI UCAV, as evidenced by the presentation of TÜBİTAK SAGE’s HGK GPS guidance kits (the HGK GPS/INS guidance kit turns existing 2000 lb Mk-84 general purpose bombs and penetrator bombs into air-to-ground smart bombs) and ROKETSAN’s TEBER GPS (a guidance kit that enhances the hit capability of MK-81 and MK-82 general purpose bombs) and laser-guided general-purpose bombs beside the UCAV.

Burkina Faso received five Bayraktar TB2 drones in April and May 2022. During an attack on the Djibo military installation late last year, Bayraktar TB2s reportedly neutralized dozens of terrorists from Ansaru and Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM). The attack had targeted an army outpost in Djibo, northern Burkina Faso.

The Akinci is slated to take this fight forward.

Burkinabe Interim Leader Ibrahim Traore, who ascended to power through a coup on September 30, 2022, examined the Akinci. “The transitional president, head of state, Captain Ibrahim Traore, handed over … a large batch of drones to the Ministry of Defense as part of the reconquest of territory and the fight against terrorism,” the office said.

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Akinci UCAV

The Akinci UCAV (Akinci is the Turkish word for ‘raider’) has been acknowledged worldwide as one of the most advanced combat drones. This unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) has garnered prominence for its cutting-edge features and versatile capabilities.

Bayraktar Akinci is a high-altitude, long-endurance drone that can be armed with weapons. The drone can fire various missiles, both air-to-air and air-to-ground.

The combat drone is 12.2 meters long, 4.1 meters wide, and 20 meters high. Its flight ceiling is 40,000 feet (12,192 meters). The drone’s maximum cargo capacity is 1,350 kilograms, and its takeoff weight is 5,500 kilograms.

“Bayraktar Akinci is equipped with dual artificial intelligence avionics, which supports real-time signal processing, sensor fusion, and situational awareness. It carries electronic support systems, dual satellite communication systems, air-to-air radar, collision avoidance radar, and synthetic aperture radar,” reads the specifications of Akinci drones by the Turkish company.

Akinci drone
File Image: Akinci Drone

It is equipped with a variety of weaponry, such as missiles similar to the Smart Micro Munitions (MAM-L) developed by renowned Turkish contractor Roketsan. It can be equipped with the domestically produced active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and the air-to-air missiles Gökdoğan (Merlin) and Bozdoğan (Peregrine).

According to its manufacturer, the Akıncı can strike targets on land and in the air. It can also fly higher and stay in the air longer than Turkey’s current drone fleet while operating alongside fighter jets.

Akinci’s cutting-edge features include two 450 hp (460 PS; 340 kW) or 750 hp (760 PS; 560 kW) turboprop engines, twin satellite communication systems, electronic support and ECM systems, air-to-air radar, collision avoidance radar, and advanced synthetic-aperture radar.

In addition to Burkina Faso, Pakistan, Libya, Ethiopia, and Azerbaijan have acquired the drone. At least a couple more countries, including Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia, have shown interest in the drone, which has profited from the combat efficacy displayed by the TB2 in several war zones worldwide.