Turkey’s Baykar plans production of new air combat drone next year

Istanbul (Reuters) – Turkish defence firm Baykar aims to begin production of its new unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) next year which is already attracting international interest, its chairman Selcuk Bayraktar said.

Baykar has come to prominence internationally in recent years because of the company’s light drone TB-2, which has been used in Ukraine, Azerbaijan and North Africa and has been a huge export success, catapulting the firm to becoming one of the largest Turkish defence exporters.

Named Kizilelma, the drone expands the company’s product range from slow, ground attack drones to fast and agile autonomous ones that work alongside fighter jets.

“It is designed to be a highly autonomous, under human purview of course, air-to-air combat vehicle” said Bayraktar, who led the design of the 15-meter-long jet-powered UCAV.

“In a sense, the Kizilelma expresses a whole new future for combat aviation.”

Baykar plans to begin production in small quantities next year. Kizilelma made its first flight in December and began formation flight tests with Baykar’s other drones this month.

The craft is ready to begin test flights alongside piloted jets. Deployment on Turkey’s amphibious ship is scheduled for next year.

There is already demand from abroad for the new drone, though its specialised capabilities mean it can be sent to less export markets.

Bayraktar, who is married to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s daughter, spoke on the sidelines of an aerospace and technology festival organised by his own foundation.

High profile military projects have figured prominently in Erdogan’s election campaign and Bayraktar said he sees the drone as the culmination of a national aspiration and a product “where we tell the world that our country is not only a player but also a game maker.”