After TB2’s combat success, attention has switched to the more sophisticated and combat-ready Akinci.
The success of the Bayraktar TB2 UCAV globally is the driving force behind the Turkish drone industry. Akinci UCAV Procurement Agreement with Saudi Arabia was recently hailed as Türkiye’s ‘biggest ever’ aviation export deal. The recent contract could be considered a big win for Turkey because as far back as August 2021, Turkish President Erdogan had vowed to make his country a world leader in drone technology while inducting the first Akinci Unmanned Aerial Combat Vehicle (UCAV) into service.
As evidenced by the continuing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, drone warfare is becoming integral to modern battlefields. Saudi Arabia seems aware of it, especially as it inhabits a volatile region. Turkey has established itself as a leader in advanced drone technology and has promoted its combat UAVs to partners worldwide. After TB2’s combat success, attention has switched to the more sophisticated and combat-ready Akinci.
Earlier in March, the Baykar company revealed that it had signed two export contracts for the Akinci drone. Details of the contract were not disclosed, but it appears that one of the customers is Pakistan. The Akinci, is a high-altitude, long-endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle developed as a successor to the TB2 Bayraktar tactical UAV, which is currently the mainstay of Turkey’s military.
According to reports, Akıncı has a maximum take-off weight of more than 5.5 tons while this payload is over 1,350 kg. Akıncı is powered by two turbofan engines with two different propulsion capacities of 450 or 750 hp. It is not clear what engine the Pakistani version will use. Akinci is equipped with electronic support and countermeasure systems, dual satellite communication systems, air-to-air radar, collision avoidance radar and national advanced synthetic aperture radar.
With the preliminary design phase completed in June 2019, Akıncı started engine ground run in August 2019 with a Ukrainian turboprop engine Ivchenko-Progress AI-450C. The flight test for the first mass-produced Akinci drone was completed in May 2021, following which the unmanned system was delivered to the Turkish Armed Forces in August 2021.
During the test Akıncı was equipped with three different variants of the indigenously developed smart ammunitions, MAM-L, MAM-C and MAM-T. The Akinci drone can fire other weapons, including the Cirit missile, mini smart munition Bozok, long-range anti-tank missile system, and other guided bombs. In addition, the Akinci can also be used as a mother ship for drone-swarming attacks.
According to the manufacturer, Akıncı can reach a maximum speed of 361 km/h, a cruise speed of 240 km/h, a range of 7,500 km, an endurance of 25 hours, a service ceiling of 13.716 m. Compared to that, the Bayraktar TB2 can reach only up to 7,600 m and has a payload capacity of only 150 kg.
The Akinci drone is equipped with an indigenously manufactured active electronically scanned array radar, a SAR/GMTI radar, a surveillance system, electronic warfare, and signal intelligence suite, and SATCOM allowing Akinci to become an UCAV as well as ISTAR+C3 asset for Turkish military. The drone uses advanced AI features to collect and process data received from onboard sensors and cameras.