ANKARA — Turkey’s military and procurement officials are increasingly relying on various drone systems, most notably to boost the country’s asymmetrical fight against Kurdish insurgents and hostile Islamist groups fighting in the Syrian civil war.
One military official said that the local unmanned aerial vehicle capabilities have since 2015 yielded “wonderful results” in fighting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, an insurgency group outlawed by Turkey, the United States and European Union. The PKK’s fighting for a Kurdish homeland has caused over 40,000 deaths since 1984.
A procurement official confirmed: “There is increasing appetite from the end user (the military) for drone systems and subsystems. The next years will see even larger demand for drones and related capabilities.”
At the end of June, Turkey’s procurement office, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries, or SSM, released a request for information for a new program for the purchase of a drone system with aerial photography capabilities. SSM said the competition would be open to local producers only.
Also in June, SSM released another request for information for the acquisition of a ship-based vertical take-off and landing drone system.
“The latter program confirms that Turkey’s drone requirements are not limited to asymmetrical land warfare only,” said one industry source.
The local industry is thriving to cope with the demand. In March, Kale-Baykar, a privately owned Turkish venture, delivered a batch of six armed drones to the Turkish military. The TB-2 system would be stationed in Elazig close to the Kurdish insurgency zones. Two of the TB-2s are armed aircraft.
Turkey tested the Bayraktar last year. The drone successfully hit a target at the Konya fire test field in central Anatolia from a distance of eight kilometers. The Bayraktar uses the MAM-L and MAM-C, two mini smart munitions developed and produced by Roketsan, the state-controlled missile maker. Roketsan’s mini systems weigh 22.5 kilograms, including a 10-kilogram warhead.
Turkey’s local industry also is developing BSI-101, a SIGINT system, for the Bayraktar to end Turkey’s dependence on U.S.-made SIGINT systems for drones.
The Bayraktar can fly at a maximum altitude of 24,000 feet. Its communications range is 150 kilometers. The aircraft can carry up to 55 kilograms of payload.
In June, Meteksan Savunma, a privately owned Turkish defense company, said it successfully developed the country’s first indigenous automatic takeoff and landing, or ATOL, system for drones. The company said the system, OKIS in its Turkish acronym, aims to replace imported ATOL systems currently used in Turkish-made drones.
The radar-based, portable OKIS system features two main components: a transponder and antenna on the platform and a ground radar system designed to ensure safe takeoff and landing.