Can Turkey Repeat Drone Success In TFX Programme?

The experience Turkey has gained from developing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and helicopters domestically will be useful in the development of the country’s fifth-generation fighter jet, though there are certain challenges ahead in terms of technology, the head of the Defense Industries Presidency (SSB) said in a recent interview. Ismail Demir also suggested they are one step further in the locally produced main battle tank which will be powered with the indigenous engine.

In an interview with Kriter magazine, which is published by Ankara’s Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA), Demir said an integrated system is needed on the road map for the national fighter jet (MMU) project regarding its engine systems, avionics systems, electronic systems, radar invisibility and flight control systems.

He noted that Turkey has not closed the door on a multi-partner project and is still as open to collaboration as it was during the prototype development phase.

UAV – Bayraktar TB2 and Anka-S

Turkey has shown significant gains in using UAV capacities in the field, especially with the circulating footages from Syria and Libya in which Bashar Assad regime tanks, Russian-made air defense systems and Libyan putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar’s military equipment were destroyed by Turkish drone-led operations. Demir says those drones have multiple uses, apart from surveillance, shooting and other usages in the field of operation.

“UAV technology has the potential to go to such a point that it’s like your airspace is now moving into an automated control system,” Demir explained, which means the unmanned vehicles, which vary greatly in size, can be integrated with an automatic control system, enabling them to conduct operations in crowded airspace without the need for human intervention.

The defense industries’ head pointed out the potential usage of UAVs in civil areas, such as for cargo deliveries, noting that the country currently has cargo projects underway using micro UAVs.

The integration of a wide range of UAVs controlled in a smart system will ensure them to operate very effectively while not blocking air traffic, he noted.

Demir said that ensuring the common communication of the unmanned vehicles will be a definite requirement when they are diversified as unmanned land, sea and underwater vehicles, which is also on the country’s agenda.

“Because, especially for the future, it will be very important to disrupt the communication of the other side while it is as important not to allow the other side to disrupt our communication,” to be able to use and protect these programs in the field, Demir said.

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“The battlefield now requires tremendous brainpower, and the battles are about to become a field where technology is very active,” he said.

F-35 Programme

“The program has identified new sources for 1,005 parts produced by Turkish suppliers, but the program is assessing the effect of 15 key parts not currently being produced at the needed production rate,” it said.

However, Demir reiterated, “We have always said that this spirit of partnership must be adhered to, and we remained loyal to the project.” Turkey continues to produce the parts and is not acting in a retaliatory manner but instead is seeking its rights on legal grounds, he said.

Demir highlighted that March 2020 production continued despite officials saying it would stop, thanks to delivered orders from Turkish partners.

Washington announced last July that it was removing Turkey from the F-35 jet program over its purchase of Russian S-400 defense systems.

Despite the fact that Turkey has been emphasizing that the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems and therefore does not pose any threat to the alliance or its armaments, the U.S. has insisted that the Russian system is not compatible with weapons of the NATO air-and-missile defense system.

Industrial Growth

Speaking on the pandemic period, Demir said that although the coronavirus outbreak had an impact on production and the economy, those who can adapt more easily to the resumption of economic activity will lead development and Turkey’s defense industry will maintain its firm stance.

“Turkey is a country that began to discover its abilities after a long-term dependence on the outside, and this discovery was followed immediately by a process in which the country evolved to a place to manufacture its own local and national products,” the defense chair said.

Demir explained the industry’s priority as becoming self-sufficient in strategic areas and having the level of knowledge and technology needed to move forward, noting “it’s a must-have to become independent in terms of weapons and ammunition in today’s world.”

“You should definitely keep certain technologies in your hands when it comes to electronic warfare,” he said, echoing previous statements on protecting equipment and communication on the ground.

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