Procurement: Turks Resist Buying Local UAVs

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November 14, 2013: After months of additional negotiations Turkish officials have finally signed a contract for the first batch of the new, Turkish designed and manufactured Anka UAVs. Turkey completed acceptance tests (130 sorties) for the new Anka UAV in March but production could not begin until the government actually signed contracts for the first order of 30 aircraft (ten systems) for the Turkish Air Force. Each Anka system consists of three UAVs plus ground control equipment and all necessary maintenance and ground operations gear.

The manufacturer had to convince the air force that it could make a number of improvements to Anka. These included adding satellite communications and a Turkish designed and manufactured air-to-ground missile for the Anka. Both tasks ought to be easily taken care of. Satellite communications on aircraft is not new, but adapting this to operate reliably on a UAV requires some work. The missile is also not difficult because a Turkish firm already produces such a missile for use on helicopter gunships. The UMTAS is a 160mm diameter missile that weighs 37.5 kg (82.5 pounds) and has a range of 8,000 meters. It can use infrared (heat sensing) or laser guidance to find its target. In effect, UMTAS is a smaller (than the 49 kg) Hellfire.

The air force was not quick to believe assurances that Anka would work as promised because there had been a lot of problems with Turkish supplied UAV components in the past. Back in 2004, Turkey had ordered 10 Israeli Heron Shoval UAVs. These are very similar to the American MQ-1 Predator. The Shoval weighs about the same (1.2 tons) and has the same endurance (20-30 hours). Shoval can fly 20 percent higher (at 9,000 meters) and has software which allows it to automatically take off, carry out a mission, and land automatically. Not all American large UAVs could do this back then. Shoval has a larger wingspan (16.5 meters/51 feet) than the Predator (13.2 meters/41 feet) and a payload of about 137 kg (300 pounds). Delivery of the Herons’ were delayed for years because of the inability of Turkish manufacturers to deliver components the Turkish government insisted be part of the deal. During this time the Turkish government became increasingly anti-Israel in an effort to improve relations with Moslem nations. The Israelis fixed the main problem with the Turkish sensors (they were too heavy, so Israel put a more powerful engine in the Turkish Herons). Once this was done the Turkish Air Force was quite pleased with the Herons and, despite the diplomatic battles between Israel and Turkey, the Turkish Heron military insisted on keeping the Herons, which they still operate. The Anka will have to prove itself in action before the air force will give up their Herons.

Looking very similar to the American Predator, the Anka is a 1.6 ton aircraft propelled by a rear facing propeller. Payload is 200 kg (440 pounds) and endurance is 24 hours. Currently Anka can operate up to 200 kilometers from its controller but this can be much less when it is used in mountainous areas (like eastern Turkey, where there is most need for UAVs), and that’s why satellite communication is so important. Max altitude is 7,900 meters (26,000 feet). A UAV like this would sell for over $2 million each. The Turkish military is to receive its first Anka by 2016. There are already two export customers for Anka (Egypt and Saudi Arabia).

 

 


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