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Aircraft carrier-tailored Turkish drone undergoes 1st ski-jump test

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Türkiye’s new unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV), tailored for the country’s first aircraft carrier, successfully completed its first ski-jump test on Saturday from a land-based runway.

The trial marks a critical stage before the Bayraktar TB3, developed by the drone magnate Baykar, starts its flight tests from the TCG Anadolu itself. The amphibious assault ship Türkiye commissioned last year is also dubbed the world’s first drone carrier.

A short-runway-capable version of Baykar’s famed Bayraktar TB2 platform, the TB3 is the first of its kind, boasting the ability to fold its wings. It is poised to become the world’s first combat drone capable of taking off and landing on short-runway vessels like the TCG Anadolu.

A video shared by the company showed the drone rolling out on a runway in northwestern Türkiye’s Edirne before taking off from an upward-curved ramp under what the company said were conditions similar to those of the TCG Anadolu.

The TB3 performed four successful takeoffs from a 12-degree inclined ramp, mirroring the ship’s deck, marking the beginning of a critical phase in the campaign leading up to eventual operations from the aircraft carrier.

“Step by step to TCG Anadolu,” Selçuk Bayraktar, Baykar’s chair and technology leader, wrote on social media platform X, formerly Twitter.

“And from there to the boundless blue seas.”

The drone will continue its testing from a specialized ramp runway at the Baykar Flight Training and Test Center in Edirne’s Keşan district.

TB3 made its maiden flight in late October last year. It has already completed low, medium and high-altitude performance and system identification tests.

To date, the platform has logged more than 395 hours of flight time during its test flights.

In a test flight last December, the homegrown UCAV remained airborne for 32 hours and covered a distance of 5,700 kilometers (3,542 miles).

This March, it flew for the first time equipped with the homegrown ASELFLIR-500 Electro-Optical Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Targeting System, developed by defense firm Aselsan.

First flight from ship

The TB3 is expected to be able to stay in the air more, climb to higher altitudes and carry more weapons than the TB2, which helped swing conflicts in multiple countries, such as Azerbaijan and Libya, and lastly, in Ukraine.

The TB2s played a pivotal role in countering Russian forces early into Moscow’s invasion.

Selçuk Bayraktar, Baykar’s chair and technology leader, has announced plans to start tests of the UCAV from the TCG Anadolu later this year.

The ship’s air wing will also consist of Baykar’s unmanned fighter jet, Kızılelma, which completed its maiden flight in December 2022.

Kızılelma represents a significant expansion of capabilities for slow-moving reconnaissance and missile-carrying drones. It promises to increase the existing platforms’ top speed and carrying capacity.

Powered by a jet engine, the platform features an exterior similar to that of fifth-generation fighter jets. In addition to conventional drone missions, it will be capable of conducting air-to-air engagements.

The Bayraktar TB3’s capabilities boast key innovations for unmanned aerial vehicles in this class.

The homegrown drone, which will also have beyond-line-of-sight communication capability, can be controlled from very long distances.

With reconnaissance/surveillance, intelligence and attack missions on overseas targets with its smart munitions, it is expected to have a multiplier effect on Türkiye’s deterrent power.

Baykar has relied on exports for 83% of its revenue since 2003. It was Türkiye’s top defense exporter last year with $1.8 billion, constituting nearly one-third of the sector’s record $5.5 billion worth of sales.

To date, the company has signed export deals with 34 countries. These include agreements with 33 countries for the TB2 and with nine countries for the Akıncı UCAV, Türkiye’s most advanced and sophisticated drone.

Source: DailySabah

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