In 2018, the Turkish aircraft manufacturer Baykar presented its promising project of the Bayraktar Akıncı heavy reconnaissance and strike drone for the first time. In December 2019, an experienced UAV of this type took off for the first time, and flight tests continued until the summer of 2021. On August 29 this year, the first unmanned complex was adopted for service. Now the development company is mastering the full-scale production of new equipment and is preparing to receive lucrative orders.
The goal of the Akinji project was to create a new UAV with reconnaissance and strike capabilities, characterized by improved flight performance and a relatively large payload. In addition, the project provided for a reduction in the number and share of imported components to the minimum required. In the early stages, they planned to do only with Turkish-made products, but in the end they still had to look for foreign partners.
Bayraktar Akıncı is an aircraft of normal aerodynamic design with a small swept gull wing. The engine nacelles are located in the wing breaks. The tail assembly is traditional, with a swept stabilizer and a keel. The design of the UAV allows the placement of target equipment and weapons inside the fuselage and on the external sling under the wing. Composite materials are widely used in the airframe design.
The first version of the project proposed the use of Turkish-made turbodiesel engines, but the selected products showed insufficient technical characteristics. In this regard, in 2018-19. the company "Baykar" began cooperation with the Ukrainian "Ivchenko-Progress", which offered turboprop engines AI-450T. These products have a take-off power of 450 hp. (no more than 350 hp in continuous operation) and are used in conjunction with five-blade constant speed propellers.
The length of the drone reaches 12,2 m, the wingspan is 20 m. The maximum take-off weight is 5,5 tons. Of these, up to 1350 kg is the payload. Equipment weighing up to 450 kg can be installed inside the airframe; suspended under the wing up to 900 kg weapons... The UAV has a maximum speed of 360 km / h at a cruising speed of 240 km / h. Range - 7500 km, ceiling - more than 12 km. The flight duration is over 24 hours.
To search for targets and use weapons, an optoelectronic "ball" and radar with AFAR are used. A modern digital control system was also applied, allegedly with elements of artificial intelligence. According to the developer, all the avionics of the new UAV are of Turkish origin. "Akinci" has six suspension points under the fuselage and wing, which can accommodate a variety of missiles and bombs, which are in service with the Turkish Air Force.
The first reports of the existence of the Akıncı project in 2018 were illustrated with a photograph from the assembly shop. It captured the fuselage of the first experimental UAV against the background of the assembled vehicles of the previous model TB2. As it became known later, the first experimental drone of the new model received the working designation PT-1. The assembly of this machine was completed in 2019, after which it was transferred to ground and flight tests.
In 2019-20. Baykar built two more prototypes. Products PT-2 and PT-3 began test flights in 2020. How much these machines resembled the first prototype is unknown. It can be assumed that they were built according to a revised design, modified taking into account the development and testing experience of the previous PT-1. In addition, the second or third prototype could become the benchmark for the subsequent series.
To date, the Turkish Air Force has issued an order to the developer for the serial production and supply of new Bayraktar Akıncı. The scope and cost of this agreement remains unknown, but implementation has already begun.
So, last year, the Baykar company started building the first serial UAV with the S-1 number. In May 2021, this device took off for the first time. After short factory tests, it was handed over to the customer. On August 29, the S-1 was put into service, which officially launched the operation of the new "Akinji".
According to the latest reports, serial UAVs S-2 and S-3 are already at the stage of factory tests. The second unit of the series has been flying since the end of September, and the third took off in mid-October. In the coming weeks or months, they will pass all the necessary checks and will be handed over to the customer. Apparently, serial production will not end there, and new samples will be released for flight tests in the near future.
Reportedly, the production of new equipment and components for it is carried out mainly by Turkish enterprises. In particular, all onboard electronics are of local origin - unlike the TB2 UAV, the release of which has recently been under threat. The dependence on imported engines also remains.
Despite all efforts, Turkish industry has not yet succeeded in developing aviation motor with the required parameters. In this regard, experimental and serial Akıncı are still equipped with a Ukrainian-made power plant. Moreover, this situation will persist for the next several years and lead to known risks.
The first Turkish-Ukrainian agreement of 2018 provided for the supply of 20 AI-450T engines. In the year the contract was signed, the first four engines were sent to the customer, six more were delivered in 2019, and the remaining 2020 were shipped in 10. Using the ordered engines, Baykar could build up to 10 new drones. Six UAVs, experienced and serial, have already been manufactured and are flying, and there are still four sets of engines in stock.
At the end of October, the Zaporozhye motor-building design bureau "Progress" them. Ivchenko ordered components for the manufacture of 30 AI-450T engines from Motor Sich. Products with a total value of more than $ 7 million must be delivered by the end of 2022.
The objectives of such an order are obvious. From the supplied parts, Ivchenko-Progress will assemble new theaters to be handed over to Turkish partners. Accordingly, Baykar will be able to build 15 more UAVs - or less, but with the creation of a stock of engines.
Successes and challenges
Baykar, in cooperation with local and foreign enterprises, was able to develop, test and bring to serial production a promising heavy UAV with high performance. However, the assembly of serial equipment began recently and is not yet distinguished by high topics. In addition, there are potential sources of serious problems in these processes.
So far, the "Baykar" company is building new "Akinci" only for the Turkish Air Force, and the exact needs of the Turkish army for such equipment are unknown. Existing agreements with Ukraine show that up to 22 serial UAVs can be built in the coming years, including three ready-made ones. Depending on the rate of production, they will be built no earlier than 2023-24. - and in the absence of problems with the supply of Ukrainian components.
The development company plans to bring its heavy UAV to the international market. Interest has been reported from some potential customers, but no actual negotiations are known. There are no contracts yet, and the timing of their appearance is in question. Perhaps the first export information will appear in the very near future.
Overall, Baykar has a right to be optimistic, but risks remain. Despite all the successes in the development of our own components, it has not yet been possible to create an engine with the required characteristics and it has to be purchased abroad. At the same time, Ukraine was chosen as the supplier, which is a very specific partner for international cooperation. It is not known whether the Ukrainian side will be able to fulfill all orders for engines on time and with high quality.
Thus, the newest UAV Bayraktar Akıncı has been successfully brought to mass production and put into service. Production is still going on at a limited pace, and in addition, it seriously depends on imported components. Time will tell whether it will be possible to increase the pace of construction and get rid of foreign engines.