The Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) have primarily used UAVs for internal security operations and MOUT to obtain imagery intelligence, also becoming one one of the TAF’s most important strike capabilities in counter-terrorist operations, both within and beyond Turkey’s borders, against the PKK, PYD/YPG and IS. Soon after, the BAYRAKTAR TB2-S tactical UCAV, equipped with a pair of Roketsan MAM-L Smart Munitions (SAL-guided free-fall micro munition without a rocket engine), was declared operational in late August 2016.
In less than two months, more than 70 terrorists were neutralised in the Hakkari region alone, using a pair of BAYRAKTAR UAVs. The second air vehicle became operational during the second half of October. The number of neutralised terrorists rises to more than 300 when taking into account the results of air assaults by Turkish Air Forces Command and artillery strikes from Land Forces Command (TLFC), supported by existing UAV systems, such as HERON/GÖZCÜ-I, ANKA Blok-A, BAYRAKTAR TB2, and KARAYEL in operational use in different regions of the country.
Faced with threats and constant attacks from multiple terrorist organisations, Turkey has decided to take more pro-active measures to fight them and UAVs are taking an increasing role in this new strategy. Realising the importance of UAVs and UCAVs, Turkey has speed up its procurement programmes to enrich its UAV inventory, especially the number of UCAVs.
Two tactical BAYRAKTAR TB2 UAS, totalling 12 air vehicles and related ground segment systems, were procured under a contract signed on 20 December 2011 to improve the ISR capabilities of TLFC. Located at Batman AFB they have been operational since December 2015.
Each BAYRAKTAR TB2 Tactical UAS [TIHA] includes six air vehicles, two ground control stations, two generators, two FLIR payloads (Airbus Defence & Space GOSHAWK-II HDT with laser designator), three ground data terminals, two remote video terminals and ground support equipment. There are also two simulators for training purposes.
The TLFC BAYRAKTAR TB2 fleet achieved an aggregate 1,000 flight hours on 9 December 2015; by 18 September 2016 this total had risen to 8,000 hours. Only four ground control stations have been procured under the contract, which, coupled with the number of FLIR payloads ready to use, limits the maximum number of BAYRAKTAR TB2 that can be flown at the same time will be four.
In addition to the two existing systems in TLFC service, however, a procurement contract for a third system of six UAVs and related ground systems was signed between the SSM and prime contractor Baykar Makina on 26 July 2016. MT understands this system is likely to be accepted into service by June 2017.
Two BAYRAKTAR TB2 systems, each with three air vehicles and related ground systems, have been procured for the Aviation Department of the Turkish National Police (EGM) under a contract signed with Baykar Makina on 15 October 2015. Testing and acceptance procedures for the first UAS were completed on 9 June 2016. It was declared operational on 16 June and was deployed to the city of Van. Delivery of the second system was completed in September; all air vehicles are believed to be equipped with a FLIR Systems Star SAFIRE 380-HD payload.
For the Gendarmerie General Command (GGC), two BAYRAKTAR TB2 TIHA systems, each with six air vehicles and related ground systems, will be procured by the SSM, although MT understands one of these is an option. A decree from the Defence Industry Executive Committee (DIEC, Turkey’s top decision-making body on defence and security related procurement) is awaited prior to confirmation.
A contract between SSM and Baykar Makina for the procurement of four BAYRAKTAR TB2-S Tactical UCAS, each comprised of four air vehicles, was signed under the Armed UAV Project on 13 May 2016.
The BAYRAKTAR TB2-S can carry two Roketsan MAM-L or four MAM-C Guided munitions (two under each wings), currently under development and scheduled to be ready for use in 2017. Under the contract, the first two systems (eight UAVs) are scheduled to be delivered to the TLFC on 17 October 2017 and the second package, of two systems, on 17 June 2018. The first of at least two prototype air vehicles deployed at Batman Air Base since June became operational in late August; the second during the second half of October.
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