Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Baykar General Manager Haluk Bayraktar attend delivery and graduation ceremony for Bayraktar Akinci, unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV), at Corlu Airport Base Command Akinci Flight Training and Test Center on August 29, 2021 in Tekirdag, Turkey.

Q&A: Bayraktar AKINCI UCAV | A New Period in Unmanned Air Warfare

When did the journey of the Bayraktar AKINCI UCAV begin? What were the successes of Bayraktar AKINCI during its development process? What are the advanced and technical specifications of Bayraktar AKINCI? Which operational capabilities of Bayraktar AKINCI come to the fore? What kind of capability transformation will AKINCI introduce to the TAF?

  1. When did the journey of the Bayraktar AKINCI UCAV begin?

The development process of the Bayraktar AKINCI TİHA (Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle, UCAV) was started in 2017 by its manufacturer Baykar Makina, a private Turkish defense company. It was added to the inventory of the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) during a delivery ceremony held at the Bayraktar AKINCI Flight Training and Test Center in Çorlu, Tekirdağ, on August 29, 2021. As part of the ceremony, a graduation commencement was also held for the trainees. Of the total 125 trainees, 29 are UAV (Unmanned Air Vehicle) operators, 24 are payload operators, 32 are mechanics/engine technicians, 30 are electronics/ground control station-ground data terminal technicians, and 10 are arms technicians.[1] AKINCI operators have conducted a total of 1,000+ sortie training flights since their first flight on April 26, 2021.[2]

The delivered platforms can be used with certified MAM-T, MAM-L and MAM-C munitions, while the certification processes of other types of munitions are ongoing.[3] It has been asserted that two of the four AKINCI UCAVs will be delivered to the Land Forces Command and the other two to the Air Forces Command.[4]

  1. What were the successes of Bayraktar AKINCI during its development process?

The research and development (R&D) process of Bayraktar AKINCI started in 2017 with the manufacturing of three prototypes. The first flight was realized on December 6, 2019 and was followed by the testing and training of operators.

The AKINCI (high altitude long endurance) UCAV project is also one of the pioneering steps to deepen the Ukraine-Turkey defense cooperation. In fact, within the scope of the cooperation between Ukrspetsexport, a subsidiary of the state-owned company UkrOboronProm (UOP), and Baykar Defense, Baykar Defense purchased four Ivchenko-Progress Motor Sich AI-450T type turboprop engines in 2018, six in 2019 and two in 2020.[5]

In other respects, Baykar Defense announced on December 6, 2020 that the AKINCI UCAV had successfully completed a total of 61 different tests in a year since its first flight (on December 6, 2019).[6] AKINCI successfully conducted its first firing test on April 22, 2021, and destroyed the targets by smart micro munitions MAM-C, MAM-L and MAM-T, the new Member of Roketsan’s MAM family. During the firing test on July 5, 2021, AKINCI hit its targets with warhead ammunition for the first time. Bayraktar AKINCI broke the altitude record of indigenously produced air platforms during a flight test on July 8, 2021 and endured at an altitude of 38,039 feet (11,594 meters) for 25 hours and 46 minutes. On July 10, 2021, AKINCI flew with a 1,360-kilogram payload for 13 hours and 24 minutes while carrying penetrator bombs (NEB).

  1. 3. What are the advanced and technical specifications of Bayraktar AKINCI?

Bayraktar AKINCI can fly for 24 hours at an altitude of 40,000 feet with a take-off weight of approximately 6 tons. It stands out with a total of 1,350 kilograms of payload capacity (400 kilograms internal and 950 kilograms external). AKINCI utilizes satellite communication that directly increases its radius of operation with a flight range of 5,000 kilometers.[7] AKINCI’s unique wing design and 20-meter wingspan allow the platform to carry a large number of munitions. The main features of the platform are fully autonomous flight control system (triple redundant); fully autonomous taxi, take off, cruise, landing without any external sensor air on the ground; GPS-independent guidance system, and dual SATCOM+ dual LOS communication system.[8]

In addition, Bayraktar AKINCI will be equipped with smart munitions MAM-L, MAM-C, MAM-T, Cirit missile, L-UMTAS missile , smart munition Bozok, MK-81, MK-82, MK-83 guided bombs, TEBER laser guidance kit on MK-82, air-to-air missile Gökdoğan and Bozdoğan, and stand-off missile SOM-A.[9]

  1. 4. Which operational capabilities of Bayraktar AKINCI come to the fore?

With its operational capabilities such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance with EO/IR (electro-optical/infrared) sensors; offensive-ammunition attack; radar reconnaissance in air, land and sea domains; electronic warfare, and signal intelligence, Bayraktar AKINCI will significantly meet the needs of the TAF in this area.[10]

Owing to its advanced artificial intelligence feature, AKINCI will be able to collect information by recording the data obtained from sensors and cameras and will provide situational awareness by using geographical information without depending on GPS. The advanced artificial intelligence system will enable high accuracy target acquisition.[11]

Moreover, Bayraktar AKINCI will be capable of providing high situational awareness during the mission thanks to its AESA radar, which will be able to transmit images through synthetic aperture radar (SAR), even in bad weather conditions where electro-optical systems having difficulty in capturing images.[12]

  1. What kind of capability transformation will AKINCI introduce to the TAF?

Bayraktar AKINCI will play a decisive role in conflict areas with its conventional reconnaissance, surveillance, intelligence, electronic warfare, pointing and positioning capabilities, as well as with its novel air-to-ground and air-to-air attack mission capacity. With its infrastructure enabling to drop air-to-air and air-to-ground smart munitions, it will be a cost-effective platform to undertake the missions of F-16s and F-4s, thus contributing to the TAF’s kinetic airstrike power.

Being capable of carrying air-to-surface cruise missiles like the SOM-A, AKINCI will be able to destroy targets without entering the range of enemy’s air defense systems. Again, air-to-air missiles such as Gökdoğan and Bozdoğan will pose a threat to UAVs, helicopters, and combat aircrafts during air warfare, and this will provide tactical superiority for TAF elements.

What’s more, Bayraktar AKINCI will contribute to the improvement of the TAF’s combat capabilities as an effective user of this technology. It will also provide Turkey, as a competitive manufacturer, the opportunity to shape the global UAV industry.

[1]Tolga Özbek, “Akıncı TİHA Envantere Girdi”, tolgaozbek.com, https://tolgaozbek.com/savunma/akinci-tiha-envantere-girdi, (Erişim tarihi: 31 Ağustos 2021).

[2]Ahmet Alemdar, “Bayraktar AKINCI TİHA Envantere Girdi”, Defence Turk, 29 Ağustos 2021, https://www.defenceturk.net/bayraktar-akinci-tiha-envantere-girdi, (Access date: August 31, 2021).

[3]Turan Oğuz, Twitter, August 26, 2012, https://twitter.com/TyrannosurusRex/status/1430901951844143105?s=20, (Access date: August 31, 2021).

[4] COIN, Twitter, August 29, 2021, https://twitter.com/COIN_V2/status/1432010011505463303?s=20, (Access date: August 31,2021).

[5] Ahmet Alemdar, “AKINCI TİHA için Ukrayna’dan 12 Adet Motor Tedarik Edildi”, Defence Turk, May 12, 2020, https://www.defenceturk.net/akinci-tiha-icin-ukraynadan-12-adet-motor-tedarik-edildi, (Access date: August 31, 2021).

[6] Emre Karakoç, “AKINCI TİHA 61 Farklı Testi Başarıyla Tamamladı”, Defence Turk,7 Aralık 2020, https://www.defenceturk.net/akinci-tiha-ilk-ucusundan-bugune-61-farkli-testi-basariyla-tamamladi, (Erişim tarihi: 31 Ağustos 2021).

[7]“Akıncı TİHA Envantere Girdi”; “SAHA İstanbul MBA Programı Sunumu”, 29 Ocak 2021.

[8]“Bayraktar Akıncı Genel Bilgiler”, BAYKAR, https://www.baykarsavunma.com/iha-14.html, (Erişim tarihi: 31 Ağustos 2021).

[9]“Bayraktar Akıncı Genel Bilgiler”.

[10]“SAHA İstanbul MBA Programı Sunumu”.

[11]“Akıncı TİHA Envantere Girdi”.

[12]“Akıncı TİHA Envantere Girdi”.

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