New Milestone For Turkey’s ‘Next-Gen’ Akinci Drone – A Record Breaking Flight Over Three Countries To Azerbaijan

Turkey’s most advanced and sophisticated drone – Akinci Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), has conducted an unprecedented flight from northwestern Turkey to Azerbaijan, which is rumored to be among the first countries in line to receive the advanced combat drone.

Two Akıncı drones took off from northwestern Tekirdağ’s Çorlu district on May 21, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon hours, and traveled through Turkey and Georgia before they landed at Heydar Aliyev International Airport in Baku, said Baykar, the developer of the Akinci and the famous TB2 Bayraktar drone.

The two drones covered a distance of around 2,000 kilometers, thereby completing a five-hour flight traveling through three countries, a first in Turkish aviation history.

This is yet another milestone after the one achieved last month, when the Akinci drone, for the first time, successfully hit a maritime target using a laser-guided MK-82 bomb from an altitude of 20,000 feet as part of the test ahead of its induction into the Turkish Navy.

Akıncı unmanned armed aerial vehicle (Wikimedia Commons)

Akinci Will Succeed TB2 Bayraktar

The Akinci, Turkish for “Raider,” is a high-altitude, long-endurance UAV developed as a successor to the TB2 Bayraktar tactical UAV, which is currently the mainstay of Turkey’s military.

It is capable of performing both air-to-ground and air-to-air attack missions.

Baykar produced three prototypes initially, of which the first one took to air in December 2019. The flight test for the first mass-produced Akinci drone was completed in May 2021, following which the unmanned system was delivered to the Turkish Armed Forces in August 2021.

The combat drone has a length of 12.2m, a height of 4.1m, and a wingspan of 20m. It can fly at an altitude of 40,000 feet (12,192 meters), has a take-off weight of 5,500 kg, and carries a maximum payload of 1,350 kg.

Ukraine-TB2 drone
File Image: A Ukrainian TB2 drone, armed with precision-guided weapons.

The sensors onboard the drone include electro-optic/infrared/laser designation (EO/IR/LD), multi-mode active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and signals intelligence (SIGINT) system. The drone uses advanced AI features to collect and process data received from onboard sensors and cameras.

Experts suggest that Akinci’s larger combat payload capacity, compared to Bayraktar TB2, brings more lethal weaponry and flexible concepts of operations (CONOPS) to the battlefield.

The drone can be fitted with different weapon payloads such as laser-guided smart munitions, missiles, and long-range stand-off weapons.

It completed its first firing test in April 2021, where it fired Rokestan-made laser-guided smart micro munitions (MAM), namely MAM-T (Long Range Variant), MAM-C (Thermobaric Variant), and MAM-L (High-explosive variant).

AKINCI armed with MK-82 laser-guided bombs (Baykar)

The Akinci drone can fire other weapons, including the Cirit missile, mini smart munition Bozok, long-range anti-tank missile system (L-UMTAS), MK-81, MK-82 MK-83 guided bombs (JDAM). The drone can also be armed with Gokdogan and Bozdogan air-to-air missiles, wing-assisted and SOM-A stand-off missiles.

In addition, the Akinci can also be used as a mother ship for drone swarming attacks. For example, in 2019, Prof. Ismail Demir, the head of Turkey’s Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB), posted a simulation on his Twitter feed depicting the indigenous ‘Alpagu’ kamikaze drones released by the Akinci drone.

Alpagu is a fixed-wing drone developed by the STM, a Turkish defense company, which can be used for reconnaissance, surveillance, and attacks. The drone features smart algorithms and other autonomous features, and advanced image-processing systems.

The Akinci, using its advanced sensors, including an AESA radar, can share real-time target updates with the released kamikaze drones to ensure precision strikes.

So far, six Akıncı drones have entered into service with the Turkish Armed Forces and they just saw combat for the first time in a major operation launched last month against the PKK terrorists in northern Iraq.

Will Azerbaijan Receive Akinci Drone First?

The Akinci drone will be displayed at Turkey’s Teknofest Aerospace and Technology Festival later this week, happening in Azerbaijan this year, marking its first edition abroad.

Turkish drones have become a weapon of choice for many countries because of their stellar performance in various conflicts, including the ongoing war in Ukraine. Turkish-origin Bayraktars have proven themselves as the most potent force against invading Russian forces, having destroyed a large number of Russian air defense systems, helicopters, supply trucks, and armored vehicles.

Before that, Azerbaijan successfully used Turkish drones in late 2020 during the Nagorno-Karabakh war and reportedly knocked out no less than 567 tanks and other vehicles belonging to Armenia.

In March, the CEO of Baykar, Haluk Bayraktar, revealed that the company had concluded two export contracts for the Akinci drone without specifying the countries. As EurAsian Times reported earlier, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, and Ukraine are rumored to be among the first countries slated to receive the Akinci drone.

Some unconfirmed Russian-language media reports suggest that Baykar is looking to start a production facility for Akinci drones in Azerbaijan.

“As BAYKAR, we want to start the work to develop this technology in Azerbaijan. We will take the initiative to develop and produce it here. Azerbaijanis having skills in this field will be involved in the work,” the CEO said.