Turkish private venture’s drone success obscures ‘Anka story’

Turkish private venture’s drone success obscures ‘Anka story’

Burak Bekdil
Turkish private venture’s drone success obscures ‘Anka story’

Turkish engineers have been working on the Anka since the beginning of the 2000s, but with no delivery to date.

The successful production of an indigenous tactical unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) developed by a partnership of two privately owned Turkish companies has unwittingly highlighted major delays in a government-run program for the development of a more advanced UAV, the Anka.  

“We have reached [a technological level] that we can produce unmanned aircraft,” then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan proudly said in a speech in Parliament April 29. The country’s first drone Erdoğan was referring to was none other than the Anka, one of his pet projects in Turkey’s ambitious efforts for indigenous systems development.  

Turkish engineers have been working on the Anka since the beginning of the 2000s, with no convincing delivery date yet. TAI officials have said they are working hard to achieve deliveries between 2016 and 2018.

Despite crash landings during earlier flight tests, the Anka has in the last year gone through a couple of successful tests. The Anka is a medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) drone that can usually operate for 24 hours at an altitude of 10,000 feet. Anka, meaning Phoenix, is the first MALE-type UAV to be produced by Tusaş Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI).  

In 2013, more than a decade after the work for the Anka took off, the Turkish government signed up with TAI for an order of 10 Ankas and ground stations.  

Earlier this year, Turkey’s military and defense officials moved on a plan to add satcom capabilities to the Anka. At the same time, they brought together a task force that would design and develop an indigenous engine for the Anka. Yet no one in Ankara knows which engine manufacturer will power the Anka or how soon.   

Meanwhile, a joint venture between Turkish companies Kale and Baykar has recently made the Bayraktar, the tactical drone they developed ready for deliveries – in less than three years after the project took off.

Company officials have said the first Bayraktar could be delivered before the end of the year, and five others in the first half of 2015. They will make an initial batch of six under contract with the Turkish government.   

The Bayraktar went through its first fully automatic flight test at a military airport in Kesan in northwestern Turkey on April 29. On May 3 the aircraft went through its second and third tests and flew for three hours at an altitude of 18,750 feet.

The June 14 test saw the Bayraktar at an altitude of 27,000 feet during a six-and-a-half hour flight – although under its contract, the Bayraktar is expected to fly at an altitude of 18,000 feet. During an Aug. 5 test flight, the drone flew at 18,000 feet for 24.5 hours.  

Kale-Baykar boasts that under the Bayraktar program, the consortium successfully developed various critical systems in drone technology, including a flight control with three back-up systems, inertial navigation and GPS systems, static pilot system, power control unit, a lithium-based smart battery, aerial data recording computer, video link system, tail camera, ground control station and command and control software.