Turkey’s unmanned fighter jet production kicks off

Turkey’s drone magnate Baykar on Saturday announced it has reached a new phase in its unmanned combat aircraft project, unveiling that the first prototype has entered the production line.

“A larger and more agile fish has entered the production line three and a half years later,” Selçuk Bayraktar, the chief technology officer (CTO) at the drone maker, said on Twitter.

Bayraktar was referring to the period when Baykar started manufacturing its landmark combat drone Akıncı, dubbed “the flying fish.”

The National Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle System (MIUS) has been named Kızılelma (“red apple”), Bayraktar said, referring to an expression in Turkish mythology that symbolizes goals, ideas or dreams that are far away, but are more attractive the further that distance may be.

The first prototype was earlier said to be expected to make its maiden flight in 2023, if not before.

MUIS will be jet-powered and is expected to be capable of taking off from and landing on Turkey’s flagship-to-be amphibious assault ship TCG Anadolu.

The landing helicopter dock (LHD) type ship is said to be the first of its kind in the world as a vessel that allows the landing of unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) on its dock.

It will be used in multipurpose operations and is set to be delivered this year.

Baykar is currently working on the Bayraktar TB3 UCAV, an upgraded version of the company’s famed Bayraktar TB2.

MIUS and TB3 will both extend Turkey’s drone capabilities from land-based to naval operations as they will both be able to take off from TCG Anadolu.

The autonomously maneuvering MIUS will be capable of operating in tandem with piloted aircraft, and may carry air-to-air missiles, the company says.

“With the 5th generation fighters, the world is witnessing the end of manned fighters. No new manned combat aircraft will be developed. Unmanned systems will increasingly become the strongest elements on the battlefield in the future,” Bayraktar earlier said.

The unmanned fighter jet is projected to conduct a multitude of military actions, such as strategic offensives, close air support (CAS), missile offensives, suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) and destruction of enemy air defenses (DEAD).

Baykar in November signed a contract with Ivchenko-Progress, one of the leading Ukrainian companies for the procurement of engines for the MIUS. Ivchenko-Progress was projected to supply the AI-322F Turbofan engine for the jet under the agreement.

The aircraft is set to feature a high operational altitude and takeoff weight of 5,500 kilograms (12,125 pounds). It is envisaged to carry 1.5 tons of useful payload.

It is projected to be capable of flying for five hours and reaching speeds of up to 800 kph (500 mph or Mach 0.64).