Turkey Eyes Self-Sufficient Drone Industry
Turkey’s procurement and industry officials are working vigorously to end their country’s dependence on foreign drone systems and sub-systems, hoping to achieve self-sufficiency in the next few years, a target some analysts question. .
Encouraged by the Ankara government the local industry — both state-controlled and private companies — recently have intensified efforts to attain a “100 percent Turkish drone fleet by 2017.”
At a high-profile ceremony in February, the larger drone that Turkey’s local industry has ever produced — the Anka Block A — made its debut mission flight.
“The first mission flight was completed with success,” Deputy Defense Minister Suay Alpay told reporters.
The Anka Block A, developed and built by Tusas Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), will operate from an air base in Elazig, eastern Turkey.
One reason why several drone programs have gained prominence in Turkey is their extensive use in the country’s asymmetrical war, now heightened, with militant Kurdish groups inside Turkey as well as in neighboring Iraq and Syria.
“We are now engaged in a critical anti-terror fight … These assets [such as the Anka] built by the local industry will augment our fight,” said Alpay.
After a two-year ceasefire ended in July 2015, renewed violence with the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has killed more than 300 security officials in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast.
The PKK and its affiliates also are blamed for two suicide bomb attacks in Ankara in February and March that killed more than 60 people, mostly civilians. Turkey, the United States and the European Union have designated the PKK as a terrorist organization.
The Anka is a medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) drone that can fly at an altitude of 30,000 feet for 24 hours. It will be used for reconnaissance and surveillance missions. The aircraft can carry up to 200 kilograms of payload.
TAI started its work on the Anka in 2004. In 2013, the company won a contract from the Turkish government to supply 10 Ankas and their ground control stations.
In 2014, military and defense officials moved ahead with a plan to add satcom capabilities to the Anka, while also bringing together a task force that would design and develop an indigenous engine for the drone. That drone, the Anka S, will be delivered by 2017.
The Anka is TAI’s first indigenous design in aerospace.