Click to listen

There is no exaggeration in classifying Turkey currently as a major power in the world of drones, to the point that some experts regard it as the third power after the United States and Israel at the level of professional operation of drones in military operations.

Turkey has proven this fact time and time again, whether in counter-terrorism operations on its territory, or in its foreign military activities, starting with Syria (Idlib), passing through Libya, and ending with Azerbaijan, which received Turkish support to regain its occupied lands from Armenia during the last round of fighting between the two countries in the fall of the year. Past 2020.

This reputation brought prestigious praises from great powers for the Turkish drones industry, led by Britain, which launched a special program for the march industry that was inspired by the Turkish experience, as well as many countries that are racing to buy the Turkish marches, such as Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, and recently Poland, which signed a few days ago. To purchase 24 Turkish armed marches, becoming the first NATO member state to prepare to operate the Turkish marches

In the next article, we review the amazing story of the Turkish drones world, and how Ankara has become a major power in the world of drones, which is limited militarily and intelligencely to an elite group of countries in the world, and we also explain the future of the project, the Turkish long-term goals of it, and what the next generation of advanced aircraft technology may reach.

On August 15, 2018, Ismail Ozden, the prominent Turkish leader in the PKK responsible for the party's operations in Sinjar, northern Iraq, was attending a memorial ceremony near the village of Kocho, 15 kilometers south of Sinjar, and while Uzen was leaving the memorial ceremony, Turkish intelligence succeeded In monitoring his location by monitoring his aides' satellite phones, I was finally able to locate him accurately in a white truck in a PKK convoy traveling over a highway in the area.

With Ozden, or Zaki شنinkali, as his supporters like to call him, one of the most wanted people on the Turkish authorities' red lists, what happened after his location was not surprising, as a Turkish-made "Bayraktar TB2" drone took over the task of monitoring a convoy. Ozden "and followed it before launching a laser-guided bomb at his pickup truck, and the Turkish plane kept watching the Kurdish leader's colleagues transferring him to another red car, and as the second car was driving its way towards a fortified PKK base, the plane launched its next strike and instantly killed Ozden and ten people." Others accompanied him.

Over the following days, the extraordinary video tape released by the Turkish authorities of the operation grabbed the headlines in the country with clear praise for the operation, and a pride that could not be ignored for Turkey's progress in the field of drones, which provided an invaluable opportunity for Turks to practice their rituals of national pride. The epic flavor was not without modernity, following the spread of a number of video games related to Turkish Drones that followed widespread popularity among young people, including a game in which the participant simulated drone flights over the Kurdish city of Afrin, unlike another game launched by the Turkish Aerospace Industries Company called "Operation Anka." Relative to the drone produced by the company with the same name, during which the player engages in various scenarios for the war on "terrorism", and organizes the missions of the unmanned aircraft, whether for reconnaissance or providing support to the ground forces.

The new drones in Turkey, then, go beyond the point of being a mere military weapon or even a political issue to turn into an essentially national popular enthusiasm, a trend that the Turkish government seems to have decided to adopt since the middle of the last decade, specifically from the moment when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan decided to make development The national defense industry is one of his main priorities, and he enacts constitutional reforms for this purpose that were approved during the referendum on the Turkish constitution in April 2016, according to which the authority to oversee the defense industry and defense procurement was granted to the Presidency, thus completing the legal framework for the "Erdogan" project to produce homemade weapons.

However, Turkey's ambitions to produce weapons domestically precede this moment, since the 1970s, Turkish officials have had great doubts about the negative effects of relying on American and Western weapons, a feeling that has been clearly reinforced in recent years after these countries rejected many Turkish requests for access. Advanced weapons, as happened in 2014 when the US Congress refused to transfer two "Oliver Hazard Berry" frigates to Turkey due to Ankara's hostile stance towards Israel, and most importantly, the long-standing ban imposed by the United States on the export of drones to many countries and in Led by Turkey.

Drones are considered an effective weapon at the strategic and operational level, in addition to being inexpensive compared to conventional weapons, foremost among which are jet aircraft.

Until almost the middle of the last decade (in 2015), the American Drones possessed absolute hegemony over the world's skies, hegemony that began from the moment Washington launched the first recorded attack by armed drones in Afghanistan in 2001, but that changed during the last five years with the achievement of many forces The other is breakthroughs in the field of drones manufacturing, foremost among which is China and Turkey, which today is one of the most prominent global powers in this field.

There are many reasons that may have prompted Ankara to place the manufacture of drones at the heart of its ambitious plan to produce weapons domestically, on the one hand, the drones is an effective weapon at the strategic and operational level, in addition to being inexpensive compared to conventional weapons, especially jet aircraft, and on the other hand, With the manufacture of drones being an exclusive privilege for a few countries that can be confined to the fingers of one hand, the success in penetrating this field has provided Ankara with the global reputation it needs as a new member in the club of arms-producing and exporting countries, and in this context, although Turkey's arms exports do not Still ranging around 1% of the volume of global arms exports, it seems that Turkey is determined to increase its share in this field, driven by broad ambitions to establish a solid domestic defense industry, and it seems that drones of various kinds will continue to play the spearhead role in these efforts.

Since 1975, Turkey has had an uncomfortable relationship with the United States after the latter imposed sanctions on exporting weapons to Ankara after its invasion of Cyprus in response to the Greek-backed military coup on the island, and this tension with the United States had a long-term impact on Turkey's behavior, which has become less Confidence in US military support, and as a result, over the next decade, the country established a number of domestic defense industries companies, most of which focused on ammunition and small arms production, while some - such as the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) - worked on larger projects such as production. Guided missiles and aircraft.

The drone "Anka" (Reuters)

Despite this, and due to the strict restrictions imposed by Washington on the export of drone technology in particular, Ankara entered the drone era for the first time from the same traditional door when, in 1996, it purchased 6 GNAT 750 s drones produced by the company. The American General Automix, which is a limited-capacity aircraft used for reconnaissance and information gathering purposes, was employed by Ankara to collect information on the PKK militants in the southeastern provinces of Turkey, where the rebels were taking advantage of the rugged mountain passes to evade the Turkish security forces. American aircraft offer is very limited due to the time it takes to transfer data from the aircraft to the operations centers and to evaluate this information before deciding to launch an air strike using combat aircraft.

Later in 2006, Turkey requested access to armed Heron drones from Israel that had been using military drones since the 1970s, but it took five years for Israel to supply the aircraft to Turkey, before Ankara accused the Israelis of sabotaging their engines. The plane and its remote imaging systems and its return for the sake of a repair process that also took a few years, and even after Turkey recovered the planes - which were being operated with the help of Israeli technicians - Turkish officials remained skeptical that the footage collected from these aircraft was secretly finding its way into the hands of the intelligence services. Israeli suspicions exacerbated in particular after the diplomatic rupture between Ankara and Tel Aviv following the events of the "Marmara" ship in 2010 when Israel killed nine Turkish citizens on board the ship that was trying to break the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip.

While realizing these facts, Ankara made early efforts to launch a local program for the manufacture of unmanned aircraft, and it is estimated that Ankara began working on designing the airframe, software and communication systems since the early 1990s, but the actual start of this path occurred in 2004 when the Turkish army issued a tender. The government agency for the design and development of a medium-altitude high-endurance drone (MALE) won by the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), which then launched an unmanned aircraft named "Anka", is said to have been able to fly at an altitude of up to 30,000 feet for a period of up to Up to 24 hours, but the first flight of "Anka" in 2010 did not go well, apparently, as the plane crashed ten minutes after takeoff. Other than that, the plane was dependent on radio waves in its communication system, which reduces the range Connectivity and limits the data transfer rate, which reduces the utility of the aircraft in general.

The main problem for Turkey was that the "Anka", like the "Heron", were not armed drones

At the same time, Turkey faced no less complicated problems in importing engines and technical parts needed to manufacture its own aircraft after the German company "Thielert", which was supplying engines to Ankara, stopped working, and the Chinese purchasing company, "AVIC International", also stopped exporting military engines. What prompted Ankara to launch a program to manufacture a local engine, but these problems did not completely stop the efforts to develop "Anka" completely, as the Turkish plane succeeded in making its first successful flight before the end of 2011, and by 2013, the "Anka" aircraft had been accepted to operate from Before the Turkish Air Force.

Despite all of this, the main problem for Turkey was that "Anka" aircraft, like the "Heron", were not armed, which means that the missing link in the operational chain between information gathering and carrying out operations was still missing, and that defect became apparent in 2011. For example, when hundreds of PKK militants launched simultaneous attacks on Turkish bases in Hakkari district in the southeast in an attack described as the most prominent of the party in decades, and while the "Heron" planes were able to transmit footage of the attacks from above, they It did not have any built-in weapons systems to intervene in the scene, and Turkey eventually found itself forced to respond traditionally by sending thousands of troops to launch ground operations across the border in Iraq.

At that time, Turkey was also getting some footage and intelligence signals from American "Predators" planes, but Washington insisted on refusing to sell armed drones to Turkey due to concerns over Ankara's hostile stance towards Israel, so by 2015, Turkey had made a final decision. To stop relying on the unreliable American ally and to fight its own arms race against Washington and NATO countries, the development of an armed drone was Turkey's top priority in this race, which paved the way for the emergence of the second generation of Turkish drones.

In fact, the journey of the second generation of Turkish drones began almost parallel with the first generation, but with less government support. In 2005, a 26-year-old Turkish man who had studied electrical engineering in Turkey and obtained a master's degree from the University of Pennsylvania in the United States before To apply for a doctoral study at the University of Massachusetts of Technology, he succeeded in persuading a group of Turkish officials to attend a small demonstration of a homemade drone that he was working on himself, and in order to convince the officials to adopt his project, the young "Selcuk Bayraktar" told them that his colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute are working on Similar models to US military projects.

As the heavily circulated video clip in recent years shows, Turkish officials have seen with their own eyes - perhaps for the first time - a small Bayraktar plane taking off on its own and deploying its mock weapons before it gently descends on the way to the landing and settles again in Bayraktar's hands. Turkish officials were not very satisfied with the offer made by the young Selcuk, who until that time was unknown to the authorities in Ankara, despite his being from a family that has a large activity in the auto industry in Turkey.

Later, Selcuk presented a special scientific research at the Massachusetts Institute that contained an algorithm for landing a drone in extremely rugged terrain and even vertically on the wall, but the young Turkish man decided by 2007 to cut off his studies at the prestigious American institute, and to return to Turkey to participate in the management of the family company Bayraktar Makina, a company specializing in automotive components, was established in 1984 as part of Turkey's efforts to manufacture cars locally. After the company succeeded in winning a tender put forward by the Turkish army to manufacture a model of a small unmanned aircraft, Ankara finally ordered the manufacture of 19 units of them. And published in the provinces of the southeast of the country.

Thanks to his new work with the army, Bayraktar finally found the opportunity to test his new theories and models in the field and succeeded in persuading generals to be with them in the field in order to make detailed notes about the types of technologies required for his aircraft, and by 2015 the young engineer had finally succeeded in making a successful demonstration of the most advanced drones. "Bayraktar TB2", which attracted the attention of the Turkish army strongly after it succeeded during performance tests in hitting a target 8 kilometers away using a Turkish-made guided missile while flying at an altitude of 4 kilometers. In the same year, Bayraktar gained a great personal step With the Turkish president after he married his youngest daughter, Sumaya Erdogan.

The wedding of his son Erdogan "Sumaya" from "Selcuk Bayraktar" (communication sites)

In a short period, the new Bayraktar aircraft became the backbone of the Turkish Air Force, thanks to its relatively high technical capabilities, as today's Bayraktar aircraft can fly at an altitude of 24,000 feet (about 7.3 km) for up to 24 hours and have an average range of 15 km. With the ability to carry a payload weighing 55 kilograms, and with this remarkable development in the capabilities of the local drones, Ankara decided to rely on it as a main weapon in its fight against the Kurdish organizations in the southeast of the country and on its borders with Iraq, and by June 2019 the Turkish Bayraktar aircraft had achieved A record number of 100,000 flying hours in less than four years, and according to Turkish media reports, the Drones participated in air strikes against Kurdish organizations in at least 11 provinces in southeastern Turkey, and they were also used in five cross-border operations in Syria and Iraq, The last of them was Operation Peace Spring in October 2019.

With the great success demonstrated by the plane, especially in Turkish operations against the Kurds, Turkey decided to expand its use of drones along the coasts of the Aegean and Mediterranean, which caused successive frictions between Turkey on the one hand and Cyprus and Greece on the other hand, as the latter complained that the Turkish aircraft were without A pilot repeatedly flew over the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, while Nicosia expressed, on more than one occasion, complaining about the Turkish drones flying over the gas exploration ships sent by Turkey to explore the disputed waters between Cyprus and Greece, otherwise Turkey made no less than in 2019. About 12 Bayraktar aircraft to the Libyan Government of National Accord to help it repel the attack launched by General Khalifa Haftar on Tripoli, at a time when Ankara launched vigorous efforts to promote its drones to interested countries, especially Qatar, Malaysia and Azerbaijan, before it actually succeeded in signing A contract to export 12 advanced UAVs toUkraine.

Thanks to these successes, the Drones gained confidence and a great position within the army, and turned into a cultural icon outside it to the point that President Erdogan himself took care to take pictures with the drones and put his signature on some of them, and on the same mistake the rulers of the Turkish provinces - especially in the southeast, which is witnessing A revolt from the Workers' Party - who became regular guests of drone hangars to offer praise and ritual praise for the new icons of the Turkish military.

Erdogan takes memorial photos with his country's drones and puts his signature on some of them (Anadolu Agency)

As a result of this official and popular interest, the drone program in Turkey has received a big boost over the past three years, as the country's fleet of Bayraktar aircraft has doubled from 32 in 2017 to nearly 94 aircraft before the end of 2019, at least half of which are armed aircraft, and at the same time it has grown. The size of the Anka fleetTo at least 30 aircraft, to turn the drones into a basic pillar for at least six security and military organizations in the country, namely the army, the air force, the navy, the gendarmerie (the military police), the intelligence apparatus and the General Directorate of Security (the civil police), which prompted Ankara to establish a special network of sites prepared to receive Drones in the southeast of the country, along its borders with Syria and on its coasts on the Aegean and Mediterranean seas, and provided these sites with the necessary equipment, starting from receiving hangars to flying towers, and today, the total number of drone bases in Turkey is estimated at at least nine bases, These facilities are absolutely necessary to operate the longest Turkish drones, given that the range of most Turkish drones does not exceed a hundred miles at the present time, and most of them depend on traditional communication systems and not on satellites.

However, the Turkish drone boom was not limited to the increase in the number of aircraft and drones bases only, but the Turkish drone developers have succeeded in achieving remarkable technical leaps in recent months. In August 2018, Anka aircraft carried out the first controlled air raid via satellites. In December of the same year, ANKA completed its first flight with a locally produced engine. In 2019, Bayraktar and Anka broke their endurance records and flew each for longer than 24 hours. In the same year, a product was revealed. The country's two major UAVs, Bayraktar Makena and Turkish Aerospace Industries, have announced plans to manufacture High Altitude Heavy Duty UAVs (HALE) in the name “Akinci” and “Axungor” respectively, putting Turkey on the cusp of possessing a new generation more. An evolution of armed drones.

The Akinci aircraft in particular is a very ambitious step in Turkey's huge project to produce unmanned aircraft, with a wing-to-wing circumference of 20 meters, an operating time of more than 24 hours, an altitude of more than 40,000 feet (about 15 kilometers) and a payload of 450 To 900 kg and the ability to carry and launch long-range cruise missiles and precision-guided bombs, and other advanced equipment that includes an advanced radar, a special electronic warfare system and space communication systems, "Aksense" will not only be the first long-range armed UAV in the Turkish Drones fleet, but it will make The Bayraktar TB2 and the Anka aircraft seem, in comparison to them, to be just a killer game.

In light of this, it is not surprising that the Turkish government pays utmost attention to the efforts of the Bayraktar Makina company and the Akinci project in particular, an interest that appeared in the Turkish President's decision in September 2019 to grant the company exemption from taxes on exports and value-added tax. Not to mention, a grant estimated at 120 million dollars aimed at establishing a new factory for drones, with a clear goal of producing 36 Akensee aircraft over the next two years.

This massive and ambitious Turkish program to produce unmanned aircraft cannot be viewed in isolation from Ankara's broader efforts to establish a domestic defense industry.

In order to achieve this huge goal, "Bayraktar Makina" cooperates with the Ukrainian company "Ukrspecexport" to supply it with advanced turbine engines that Turkey is still unable to produce domestically, provided that Kiev will eventually obtain 12 units of advanced aircraft after the completion of the production process. Officials in Ankara are very much anticipating the entry into service of the new aircraft, which is defined as a "surface-to-air unmanned combat aircraft" rather than a conventional unmanned aircraft. With the advanced capabilities of the aircraft in carrying bombs, directing them accurately and launching missiles with a range of 600 kilometers, it is likely to replace F-16s in Turkish operations against the PKK, not to mention that they will provide Ankara with low-cost and risky air surveillance capabilities around the clock in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean regions.

With these great successes, the indication that this huge and ambitious Turkish program to produce unmanned aircraft cannot be ignored in any way in isolation from Ankara's broader efforts to establish a domestic defense industry that can be relied upon and its ambition to achieve self-sufficiency in weapons, so the Turkish defense industries projects Today, it is not limited to drones, and it includes several areas that start from land vehicles and armored vehicles and pass by naval ships and do not end with aerospace projects. In the field of maritime industries, for example, Ankara has established a number of mega projects, headed by the "Istanbul Shipyard" and "Golcuk Naval Shipyard" And it succeeded in securing billions of dollars in export contracts with Pakistan and Indonesia, and at the same time, Sedef ShipbuildingBuilding the first amphibious attack ship for the Turkish Navy, which is the first step in an ambitious project to establish a domestic aircraft carrier, while the prestigious defense company "Otokar" is undertaking a number of huge projects such as manufacturing the "Altai" tank, which has gained a good reputation in recent years, and the company "Aselsan" is active in Defense electronics manufacturing field and exports its products to more than 60 countries around the world.

Turkey is seeking to enhance its self-sufficiency and free itself from the domination of Western arms suppliers, especially the United States and Germany, which have rejected dozens of requests from Ankara.

By revitalizing its domestic defense industry, Ankara aims to achieve several goals simultaneously, and as the prestigious "Stratfor" institution for intelligence studies indicates, the first of these goals is to provide funds and stimulate the country's economic growth. With Turkey possessing the second largest military power in NATO, The country needs huge investments in equipment, especially in light of its desire to get rid of old equipment that dates back to the times of the Cold War, and in this context, having a sophisticated domestic defense industry will save from the burden of exorbitant bills for spending on foreign equipment and weapons, not to mention its contribution to The development of the domestic industrial sector and the country's economy as a whole.

Besides, Turkey is also seeking to enhance its self-sufficiency and freedom from the domination of Western arms suppliers, especially the United States and Germany, which have rejected dozens of requests from Ankara to obtain weapons during the last five years, and it makes reducing dependence on foreign imports a vital goal for Ankara, and finally, Ankara wants to exploit Its arms exports as a means of enhancing its presence in its geographical environment and presenting itself as a reliable ally for many partners within its broader plan to gain influence.

On the level of all these goals, it seems that Ankara's plan is bearing fruit, albeit according to a schedule that is slower than it was aspiring to, whether due to economic restrictions or the huge competition that Ankara receives as a medium power seeking to break into the councils of adults, but in the field of drones on the face of In particular, it seems that Ankara has succeeded in proving a presence that cannot be ignored, and it can be proud - and it will not be wrong in that - that it was one of the few powers that succeeded in breaking the US's hegemony over the sky in the time of the deadly drones.



  • Drone power Turkey

  • Drone Arms Race: The Great Sky Game in the Middle East

  •  The Rising Drone Power: Turkey On The Eve Of Its Military Breakthrough



  • THE SECOND DRONE AGE, How Turkey Defied the US and Became a Killer Drone Power

  •  Turkish drones in Libya are a strategic and family affair

  • Turkey's military drones: an export product that's disrupting NATO

  •  Turkey going full speed ahead with ambitious drone projects

  •  Challenges threaten the rise of Turkey's defense industry

  • Turkey Builds a Military-Industrial Complex to Match Its Ambitions