The Turkish press has been running stories about the domestically-produced Akıncı (sometimes AKINCI) unmanned combat aerial vehicle recently having established a Turkish aviation record for altitude by flying at a height of over 38,000 feet and remaining in the air for 25 hours and 46 minutes.
The assault drone is manufactured by Turkey’s Baykar arms company, which also produces the Bayraktar TB2 combat drone. The latter has been used by Turkey in its wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh.
In the last-named conflict it was used extensively in the Turkish-supported attack last year; in one estimate Bayraktar TB2 drones successfully hit 535 targets in Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia, thereby establishing it as the most proven unmanned aerial vehicle in the world. In addition to supplying the drone to Azerbaijan, Turkey has also provided it to Qatar and Ukraine (twelve in the first tranche) and has recently announced for the first time sales of the drone to fellow NATO member states – Poland and Albania.
In the soon-to-be-concluded NATO Sea Breeze war games in the Black Sea, co-hosted by Ukraine and the U.S., Ukraine deployed one of the Bayraktar TB2s. It’s hard not to imagine them being used against the Donetsk and Lugansk republics in the Donbass.
Turkish sources state that Turkey is now the world’s fourth-largest producer of drones.
The Bayraktar Akıncı has been under development since 2019. During previous flights it has flown over 7,500 kilometers in 870 sorties.
Ukrinform reported that the drone is in fact a joint Turkish-Ukrainian product, designed by Bayraktar and equipped with a Ukrainian engine. It was described as “one of the most successful projects in Ukraine-Turkey defence cooperation.”
In April the Akinci drone successfully destroyed targets with MAM-C, MAM-L, and MAM-T smart munitions (precision-guided bombs and missiles). (MAM: Mini Akıllı Mühimmat/Smart Micro Munition. MAM-C: laser-guided high explosive variant. MAM-L: thermobaric multi-purpose warhead. MAM-T: global positioning system/inertial navigation system high-explosive blast fragmentation.)
According to Defense Turkey, the combat drone has a payload capacity of 1,350 kilograms, external and internal. In addition to carrying the MAM-C, MAM-L and MAM-T munitions, it is also equipped to accommodate other smart weapons (Turkey’s HGK, KGK and LGK), Mark 81 (Mk 81) and Mark 82 (Mk 82) all-purpose bombs and the SOM (Satha Atılan Orta Menzilli Mühimmat) next-generation, high precision cruise missile. If the latter capacity is utilized, the Akinci drone will be the first to fire cruise missiles.
All the well-wishers of the Vladimir Putin-Recep Tayyip Erdoğan strategic partnership may want to ponder where such weapons will be used and against whom. After nations and forces allied with Russia as in Nagorno-Karabakh, Syria and Libya, that is.