Turkey joins the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) race as it unveils its homegrown kamikaze drone this week.

Made in Turkey

Turkish tech firm Robit Technology introduced the “Azab” long-range loitering munition. Analysts and military observers quickly noted its resemblance to the notorious Iranian Shahed-136 UAV Russia has been using to bombard Ukraine.

Last week, Anadolu Agency reported that the delta-winged platform, which has a high payload capacity, has successfully passed all flight tests. Moreover, firing tests of the UAV will soon be carried out.

We have done all the flight tests. We move on to ammunition tests. We will carry out ammunition tests in the coming months,” said Selcuk Firat, company product director, Anadolu quoted.

Firat added that the ammunition tests for Azab will be completed by the end of the third quarter of this year, in which production will shortly ensue.

We are ready for production. We will be able to meet future orders,” the company product director said.

According to news reports, the Azab kamikaze drone is available in two versions depending on the warhead, with wingspans of 2 meters (6.5 feet) and 1.5 meters (4.92 feet). It has a take-off weight of about 55 kilograms (121 pounds) and a maximum payload capacity of 15 kg (33 lbs).

The Azab with a 2-meter wingspan can carry up to a 15-kilogram (33-pound) payload,” Firat said, adding that the drone can likewise carry payloads used by security forces such as mortar, tank guns, and RPG ammunition.

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The Turkish drone can soar up to 500 kilometers (310 miles) at a maximum altitude of 3,000 meters (9,842 feet), Daily Sabah reported, and can operate in two modes: the “throw-and-forget” and “freeroam.”

The UAV can also be directed by a camera with a communication range of up to 200 kilometers (124 miles) and can eliminate targets using fixed GPS coordinates.

Furthermore, Firat explained that Robit had developed two electric catapults for the Azab variants, measuring three and six meters (9.84 and 19.6 feet), respectively. In addition, a “rocket system” is now under development, allowing operators to launch the drone via a truck or container.

The fact that a UAV with these features can achieve flight with the load it has, is not a point reached in Türkiye yet. It is the only one in its class in Türkiye,” Firat said, adding that the promising drone had received positive feedback from the Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB). “We also see great interest abroad. We had contact with two countries this week.”

“It will be a good product for both our exports and our army,” he added.

Looks Familiar

As photos of the Azab kamikaze drone began surfacing online, many military observers noted the striking similarity between the Turkish UAV and the Iranian Shahed-136 drone Russia has been using since October last year to bombard Ukraine amid its “special military operations.”

The unique appearance of Shahed-136 drones in Ukraine has highlighted the significance of UAVs and anti-drone munitions in modern-day warfare.

Nonetheless, obvious differences between the two drones can still be underlined, with the Iranian Shahed-classes having a wingspan of 2.2 m (7.22 ft) and 2.5 meters (8.2 ft), respectively. If my math’s correct, that’s about 0.70 m and 0.52 m (1.7 ft and 2.3 ft)—capable of carrying more take-off weight, ranging between 135 kg to 200 kg—compared to Azab variants.

The Shahed-classes likewise have a maximum range of about 1,000 km (621 miles) compared to the Azab drones’ 500 km.

Another thing about the Turkish drones that makes them different from the Iranian UAVs is that, Robit has stated that they can develop larger versions of the former, capable of carrying potentially greater payloads—a first-of-its-kind system on its own.

Bayraktar TB3 Drone

Another Turkish drone, the Bayraktar TB3 unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV), has made waves when photographs of it surfaced online.

Posted by the chief technology officer (CTO) of Baykar Technologies himself on Monday, Selcuk Bayraktar, the photos showed an eye-catching Bayraktar TB3 fresh out-of-the-production line.

The CTO shared the pictures shortly after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited the Ozdemir Bayraktar National Technological Center a day before.

The unmanned aircraft was first announced in October 2020, initially planned to operate from the TCG Anadolu amphibious assault ship, which would then work alongside Lockheed Martin F-35B fighter jets. However, when Türkiye was removed from the Joint Strike Fighter program for acquiring Russian S-400 missile systems in December of that year, the platform entered a modification process to be able to operate as an unmanned combat drone.

The TB3 drone is basking under the limelight from its predecessor TB2 drone, which garnered quite a reputation for its participation in the ongoing Ukraine conflict.

According to reports, the TB3 drone is better, bigger, and heavier than the TB2.

Firstly, unlike its predecessor, the latest Turkish drone can take off and land on aircraft carriers capable of Fully Autonomous Take-off and Landing via limited runways. Furthermore, it can primarily perform intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance (ISR) missions and assault operations equipped with sophisticated weapon systems under its foldable wings.

With its line-of-sight and beyond-line-of-sight communications capabilities, the TB3 drone can operate an extended range.

Apart from the bigger size and heavier payload capacity, the newest UCAV is also faster, soaring up to 160 knots, whereas TB2’s maximum speed is 120 knots.

Nevertheless, TB2 remains to take the lead in endurance, reaching up to 27 hours compared to TB3’s declared 24+ hours. These numbers could still be updated as the development and testing phase progressed.