That’s certainly the case with the Anka, Turkey’s version. While Turkey’s been pushing ahead in its indigenous drone program, the elusive strike mission that so many countries put as requirement number one is still out of reach. Though to be fair, Turkey’s only been researching and developing the coveted drone tech since the 1990s.
Constrained by line-of-sight communication, the Anka is currently restricted to flying short distances—approximately 200 km—from operators on the ground. Which means it’s unlikely this Predator knock-off will be engaging ground targets in Syria or Iraq anytime soon—regardless of Turkey’s pressing needs.
However, Turkey did announce it would develop an armed version of the drone back in 2012. Earlier in January, an Anka Block B was tested which could suggest an armed version is on the way, but so far the company hasn’t confirmed. There’s also been no announcement when an armed variant could be ready for induction.
Historical satellite imagery from 2013 (above) shows one of two Anka Block A UAVs thought to be housed at the Sivrihisar Test airfield in Eskisehir. The UAV was parked on the southeast dispersal apron at the time of capture. With support equipment noted nearby, imagery may have caught the UAV just prior or after a flight. Imagery also confirms the UAVs measurements with a 17 m wingspan and length at approximately 8 m, similar to the US-built Predator.
Built by Tusaş Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), the Anka will eventually fly as high as 30,000 feet and have an endurance of 24 hours before it’s inducted into the armed forces. According to company progress reports from last year, TAI has only managed to get prototypes to fly at 25,000 feet for around 20 hours.
When the Block B (or variant) is eventually armed, Turkey’s weapon of choice will be the indigenous UMTAX anti-tank missile, the official system fitted on the joint developed TAI-AgustaWestland T-129 helicopter gunship. Other locally manufactured munitions have also been tested on the platform. An all weather payload capable of EO/IR/LD/LRF and SAR/ISAR/GMTI will help operators zero in on targets.
Future upgrades could see the system have a satellite communications capability which translates into greater operational distances. Certainly as Turkey’s space program continues to make progress, this option becomes a greater possibility.
In the meantime, Turkey plans to induct at least 10 of the drones between 2016 and 2018, fulfilling a 2013 contract. The 10 Anka will join at least six other Israeli-built Herons still in operation currently based at Batman airbase in southeast Turkey, less than 90 km from the Syrian border.