Procurement: The Benefits Of Failure

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September 12, 2021: Turkey and Pakistan recently signed a deal for licensed production of the Turkish Anka combat UAVs in Pakistan. Anka was developed by the state-owned TAI (Turkish Aerospace Industries) and the Pakistani partner is NESCOM, also a state-owned firm. The deal involves the transfer of technology and Turkish technical staff to Pakistan to establish the Turkish UAV production facility. This deal looks like it will work where the two previous export deals for Egypt and Saudi Arabia did not. The Egyptian sale was made in 2012 when Egypt had just elected its first Moslem Brotherhood president. By 2013 the new president had been ousted because of efforts to adopt Islamic law. New elections selected a president the Turkish president did not get along with and the Anka deal was cancelled. The Saudi sale included a possible licensed production option but the sale was cancelled because lower oil prices made the Anka purchase unaffordable. The Pakistan deal should face neither of those problems because the Pakistani military has more control over the size of its budget despite growing financial problems the nation of Pakistan is facing.

So far only 30 Ankas have been delivered to the Turkish security forces (army, navy and police) while a sale of three Ankas to Tunisia is apparently proceeding.

Anka has had problems. In 2018 Turkey revealed that the military had received six of 40 Anka UAVs they had ordered back in 2013. At that point eight Ankas had been built and two crashed during testing. Anka is usually delivered as a “system”. Each Anka system consists of three UAVs plus ground control equipment and all necessary maintenance and ground operations gear.

Looking very similar to the American Predator, Anka is a 1.6-ton aircraft with a rear facing propeller. The payload is 350 kg (772 pounds) and endurance is 30 hours. Anka can operate up to 200 kilometers from a truck mounted controller or unlimited with a new satellite communications link. Cruising speed is 204 kilometers an hour with max speed of 217. Max altitude is 9,144 meters (30,000 feet). Anka can carry a laser designator and rangefinder to launch several types of Turkish made laser guided missiles. A UAV like this would usually cost about $2 million each to manufacture. Under development since 2004, Anka has been slow to get all its new tech working. The Turkish military was supposed to receive its first Anka by the end of 2013 but that was delayed by technical problems. The delays enabled TAI to upgrade Anka and build an ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) capability and at least one of these ELINT models is in service. Anka has been used in combat since 2016 (for recon) and in 2018 began using laser guided missiles. In 2020 Anka was used in Libya by Turkish forces. So far four Ankas have been lost in combat, two in Syria and two in Libya.

Meanwhile, a more successful military Turkish UAV uing commercial technology that had already proved itself, was developed by Baykar, a small private Turkish firm. The most successful Baykar UAV is the Bayraktar TB2 which entered service with the Turkish Air Force in 2014. So far over 200 TB2s have been built or on order, mainly by the Turkish military. Export sales have been made to Ukraine and nine other countries have placed orders or are close to doing so. Bayraktar TB2 is cheaper than Anka and has a better combat record.

The 650 kg Bayraktar TB2 was initially introduced as an unarmed surveillance UAV. It could be armed and soon was with up to 100 kg of laser guided missiles. TB2 had a max payload of 150 kg which meant vidcams and laser designator could also be carried to find and aim the lightweight laser-guided missiles Turkey was producing. TB2 has a wingspan of 12 meters (39 feet) and a top speed of 220 kilometers an hour but cruises at 130. Max ceiling is 8,200 meters (27,000 feet) and endurance is 27 hours. Max control range is 150 kilometers.

Bayraktar TB2 has proved very effective in combat over the last few years. Bayraktar TB2s have been used in Syria, Libya, Iraq and Armenia. The manufacturer was already working on an upgrade, the TB3, that has a more powerful and reliable engine which also provides more electricity for onboard equipment. Bayraktar TB3 was close enough to delivery to be proposed as the naval combat UAV for the new Turkish Anadolu LHD (amphibious assault ship that looks like a small aircraft carrier). The carrier TB3 version comes with folding wings in addition to salt-water corrosion proofing. At that point it will be sort of carrier-ready.

The Turkish LHD could carry and operate over thirty TB3. The problem with the TB2/3 is that it does not have the payload capacity to carry anti-ship or air-to-air missiles and a more powerful radar for targeting and fire control. Apparently the 700 kg TB3, with the same dimensions and capabilities of the TB2/3, is the largest UAV that can take off and land using the ski-ramp deck on the Turkish LHD. Even with that Turkey could get recon and ground-attack TB3 to anywhere in the Mediterranean or Black Sea very quickly.

There is a much larger UAV in development, the Bayraktar Akinci. This is a 5.5-ton twin-engine aircraft with a 20-meter wingspan and 1.35-ton payload with 65 percent of that carried internally. Cruising speed is 220 kilometers an hour, max ceiling is 12,200 meters (40,000 feet) and endurance is 24 hours, Akinci uses satellite communications for the operator and a range limited by its endurance. Akinci is too large to land and takeoff from the Anadolu, so the TB3 is the apparently the only carrier-capable UAV the Turks have for now and operating it on the LHD Anadolu may be more difficult than expected.

Currently the Turkish military and UAV export customers have more faith in the Bayraktar UAVs than in the Anka. That means more customer-friendly deals must be made to get export orders for the Anka and many potential customers recognize that.

 


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