The Turkish defense company behind the pioneering unmanned aircraft that earned fame for its critical role in several conflicts is preparing to show off its latest platform that promises to extend the country’s drone capabilities from land-based to naval operations.
Deployment of Bayraktar TB2 unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) has been credited with helping tip the balance of conflicts in Libya, Syria, Karabakh and lastly, Ukraine. This pushed the aircraft’s developer Baykar into the global spotlight and transformed it into a major manufacturer and exporter.
Baykar is also working on the TB3, a short-runway-capable version of the TB2 . The new drone is expected to finish its testing phase by the end of 2023, according to the company's officials.
The TB3 will be put on display and make its first public appearance on the sidelines of this year’s edition of Türkiye’s largest aviation, space and technology festival Teknofest, scheduled to begin in late April.
Baykar on Monday shared the first official photos of the drone that, unlike its predecessor the TB2, has been designed as a naval drone capable of landing and taking off from short runways and ship decks.
The aircraft is tailored for the landmark Turkish navy ship, TCG Anadolu , intended to be used mainly as a drone carrier.
The multipurpose amphibious assault ship and flagship-to-be, the TCG Anadolu, is planned to be delivered to the Naval Forces Command soon.
“The #BayraktarTB3 UCAV, which will have the ability to land-take off from ships with short runways, is counting down the days for its maiden flight,” Baykar wrote on Twitter.
The post came a day after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan paid a visit to the Özdemir Bayraktar National Technology Center, before posing for a photo alongside Baykar’s landmark unmanned fighter jet Kızılelma , with a TB3 seen in the background.
Baykar’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Selçuk Bayraktar said the aircraft would be the first of its kind boasting the ability to fold its wings.
The company says the platform would start performing flight tests within 2023.
The platform will be equipped with long-range communication capabilities, allowing it to be remotely controlled from great distances. This will enable it to carry out missions such as reconnaissance, surveillance, intelligence gathering and attacks against targets located overseas.
Baykar has managed to sell its battle-proven TB2 to 28 countries, including NATO member Poland. It has also signed deals with six countries for exports of its much larger sibling Akıncı, dubbed the most advanced and sophisticated drone built by Türkiye.
While the TB2 can lift off with up to 150 kilograms (330.69 pounds) of missiles or equipment, Akıncı, first delivered to Turkish armed forces last year, can fly much higher and take off with 10 times the weight.
Meanwhile, Baykar’s first unmanned warplane Kızılelma completed its maiden flight in December. It represents a significant expansion of capabilities for slow-moving reconnaissance and missile-carrying drones.
Kızılelma promises to increase the top speed and carrying capacity of the existing unmanned aircraft in Türkiye.
Powered by a jet engine, it shows similar exterior features to fifth-generation fighter jets. Baykar says in addition to conventional drone missions, Kızılelma will be able to conduct air-to-air engagements.
The autonomously maneuvering platform will be capable of operating in tandem with piloted aircraft and may carry air-to-air missiles, according to the company.
It will also be capable of taking off from and landing on short-runway aircraft carriers, including TCG Anadolu.
The landing helicopter dock (LHD) type ship, TCG Anadolu, is said to be the first of its kind in the world as a vessel that allows the landing of UCAVs on its dock.
Baykar made around $1.18 billion worth of exports in 2022, making it the country’s defense company with the highest sales. Its turnover amounted to $1.4 billion.
The company lastly secured a contract with Kuwait worth $370 million for the delivery of an undisclosed number of armed drones, surpassing its peers from the United States, Europe and China.
Baykar has been financing all its projects internally since its UAV research and development (R&D) process started in 2003, and it has been generating 75% of its revenue on average from exports.