Turkish defense firm Baykar has commenced building a factory near Kyiv that would employ around 500 people, where it is expected to manufacture either its famed Bayraktar TB2 drone model or its new TB3 drone, the company’s chief executive said.
Turkish-made Bayraktar drones have gained prominence globally after helping to swing conflicts in multiple countries including Ukraine, where they played a pivotal role in countering Russian forces early into Moscow’s invasion.
Baykar has said it has signed export deals for its TB2 drone with 30 countries. These include Ukraine, Ethiopia, Libya and Azerbaijan since 2018, according to the think tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
“Our factory is being built … we need about 12 months to finish construction and then we will move on to internal machinery, equipment and organizational structure,” Baykar CEO Haluk Bayraktar said on the sidelines of the World Defense Show (WDS) in Riyadh.
“The factory in Ukraine is a big one, we are planning to employ around 500 people,” he told Reuters.
Bayraktar noted that capacity would total around 120 units every year, but said it was still not clear whether productionat the Ukrainian factory would focus on the TB2 or TB3 drone model.
Boasting the ability to fold its wings and capable of landing and taking off from a ship, the Bayraktar TB3 unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) completed its maiden flight last October. It underwent a system identification and performance test last month, which marked its 15th successfully completed test.
The drone is expected to be able to stay in the air more, climb to higher altitudes, and carry more weapons than the TB2. The aircraft is expected to start both ammunition and short runway landing/takeoff tests this year.
Asked if security issues related to the ongoing conflict would pose a concern for the plant, Bayraktar said that plans were “fully moving ahead” and that “nothing” could halt them.
He also said the Istanbul-based firm’s plans to start production in Saudi Arabia in the next two years were on track.
Expansion, growing exports
The announcement follows an agreement in July to sell the Bayraktar Akıncı, another kind of drone, to Saudi Arabia in what Baykar described as the biggest defense contract in Türkiye’s history.
Other Gulf countries including the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Kuwait, have shown great interest in Baykar-made drones, while the export door opened by Baykar has led to positive reflections on other companies such as missile producer Roketsan and Aselsan, which recently opened its office in UAE.
Since the beginning of the unmanned aerial vehicle-related research and development (R&D) studies in 2003, Baykar has obtained 83% of all its revenues from exports.
The drone magnate, which became an export leader in the defense and aerospace industry in 2021 and 2022, as per Turkish Exporters Assembly (TIM) data, maintained the top position in the sector’s exports last year as well, accounting for 32% of all defense industry shipments in 2023, according to its CEO.
The Turkish defense and aviation industry achieved a new record in export figures in 2023 with total exports amounting to around $5.5 billion.
Bayraktar said that looking at the current year, the firm planned to double domestic production of the Akıncı, which stood at 36 units in 2023, while TB2 output would stay unchanged at 230 units.
It also aims to produce the new models of the Kızılelma and the TB3 drones “in the tens,” he added.
Other defense firms at the event are also announcing deals with Riyadh – on Monday, U.S. weapons maker Lockheed Martin signed agreements for Saudi Arabian companies to manufacture parts of its missile defense system.
Meanwhile, some 63 Turkish companies have taken the stage at the second edition of the premier defense event, showcasing their cutting-edge technologies and contributions to the global defense landscape.
Source: Daily Sabah