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Interview

`AKSUNGUR`s Production Will be Increased to Once a Month from once Every Three Months`

On day two of SAHA EXPO 2022, we had an exclusive interview with Ömer YILDIZ, TUSAŞ Executive Vice President of Unmanned Aerial Systems, on the ongoing export activities and new projects.

Issue 119 - December 2022

Defence Turkey: The last time we had the opportunity to meet with you was on June 6th at the TUSAŞ booth during the EFES 2022 Exercise. An agreement was reached for an additional order from Tunisia and a new one from Malaysia. What can you tell us about the recent developments regarding the export market during this time? 

Ömer YILDIZ: The formal process for the additional aircraft to be delivered to Tunisia is in progress. Our production and delivery schedules are moving along as planned. As a result of the evaluation of the bids submitted in the Malaysian tender, we were invited to sign the contract. I can confirm that the process is proceeding successfully. 

Defence Turkey: How many aircraft/systems will be delivered in the initial phase?

Ömer YILDIZ: The negotiations are ongoing for three systems. The contract award is executed there in phases. The first phase is completed. The second and third phases will now take place.

Defence Turkey: Will Malaysia procure three aircraft or three systems?

Ömer YILDIZ: They will procure a system with three aircraft. But afterward, we will deliver three more systems (each system includes three aircraft). I expect that during the next year, contract negotiations for new orders will begin.

Defence Turkey: Which ANKA version will it be then? New Generation ANKA or ANKA-S?

Ömer YILDIZ:  The ANKA UAV is only offered in one version. Satellite and additional payloads are optional.

Defence Turkey: Does Malaysia's order, for example, include Satellite Communication (SATCOM) capability/option?

Ömer YILDIZ: The Malaysian order has SATCOM capability. The UAVs for Malaysia also have radars. They have sea-surface search radars. 

Defence Turkey: Will it be a domestic radar, or will they supply it as GFE?

Ömer YILDIZ: We are working on all the options. 

Defence Turkey: METEKSAN DEFENCE's MİLSAR and ASELSAN's SARPER SAR/GMTI radars have recently demonstrated success in surface mine detecting missions. That's why we wondered if a domestic naval surveillance radar would be employed.

Ömer YILDIZ: These countries seek continuity in the products they include in their national inventories. As a result, even if we offer our own products, we still need to consider what our consumers want.

Defence Turkey: You stated that you would supply two more to Tunisia. Will the platforms be in the same configuration as before? Will they have additional equipment, such as radars?

Ömer YILDIZ: No, the configuration of Tunisia remains unchanged.

Defence Turkey: So, in the Malaysian configuration, will ASELSAN's E/O Camera or a third-party payload be used?

Ömer YILDIZ: This issue will be clarified during contract negotiations. We will offer ASELSAN's CATS. The other cameras we use, WESCAM and HENSOLDT, are also on the table. Right now, CATS would be our first choice. We do not, however, know which option the customer will favor.

Defence Turkey: Is a new order for the AKSUNGUR UAV system on the agenda? It has entered the service of the Naval Air Command and is also serving for the General Directorate of Forestry on a leased basis. 

Ömer YILDIZ: We will deliver the fourth platform of the Naval Forces within this year. The main issue we have with AKSUNGUR is that we have been able to produce one aircraft every three months until today. Starting in November 2022, we will increase this to one aircraft per month, and we will increase it to two aircraft every month beginning in May of next year. However, as you are aware, increasing this production rate, the output rate cannot be achieved overnight.

Defence Turkey: The PD170 engine was to be used in the new production models of AKSUNGUR and ANKA. Making a presentation at the final session of the SAVTEK 2022 Conference held on September 15, 2022, Mesude KILIÇ, Head of Engine and Transmission Systems at the Defense Industry Agency said, "The development testing and acceptance procedures of the PD170 Engine have now been completed. It keeps operating on AKSUNGUR." In our interview during the EFES 2022 Exercise, you stated that you plan to employ the PD170 in the New Generation ANKAs that will be produced by the end of the year. Is this strategy or plan still on the agenda? For instance, will the PD170 Engine be used in the new ANKAs you will deliver to Malaysia, Tunisia, or the Turkish Air Forces?

Ömer YILDIZ: The customer selects the engine for our deliveries abroad. Under domestic contracts, however, the new deliveries must be with the PD170 Engine.

Defence Turkey: Will the PD 170 Engine also be used in AKSUNGUR deliveries?

Ömer YILDIZ: It will be, indeed.

Defence Turkey: You were working on a jet-powered Supersonic Target Drone that could fly at a speed of Mach 0.85 and above, and you exhibited it at your booth during the EFES 2022 Exercise. The speed of sound could not be exceeded with the engine supplied by a foreign company; thus, an engine from a domestic company (IDEALAB) was awaited. What are the recent developments in that project?

Ömer YILDIZ:  The indigenous engine, let's say, intended to reach supersonic speeds, will run on the test bench by the end of this year. With an optimistic estimate, it will take seven months to become airworthy, or one year with a slightly more upbeat assessment, meaning it will take until the end of 2023. We are also organizing our workforce in accordance with the workload and urgency of the other project.

Defence Turkey: Is the other project for ŞİMŞEK?

Ömer YILDIZ:  We are working on several projects, not only for ŞİMŞEK but also for ANKA, AKSUNGUR, new weapon integrations, and improvements. The engine modification of the platform we displayed at our booth during the EFES Exercise included an engine we supplied from Germany. The Germans were supposed to deliver the engines, but they haven't yet. We are waiting for them.

Defence Turkey: Will the testing for the supersonic regime be conducted with that engine until the end of 2023, when the domestic engine is expected to be produced?

Ömer YILDIZ:  In fact, we are very confident in our indigenous engine. But if we manage to have a modified engine from them, we can also conduct a supersonic flight test with that small platform you see over there. In that test, our goals are to fly at supersonic speeds, develop flight control algorithms, and collect data. 

Defence Turkey: TUSAŞ had previously shared the illustrations of the National Combat Unmanned Aircraft concept, named TISU, during a seminar. In a recent statement, Temel KOTİL mentioned that TUSAŞ also has an Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle project without giving names. It was also claimed that there is a scale model of TISU, and flight tests have been carried out. Is it possible to share information about this project?

Ömer YILDIZ:  No, not yet. Hopefully, it will be possible by the end of this year or the beginning of next year. On a conceptual level, we are working on several platforms rather than just one. Additionally, we're conducting small concept demos of some of these. We want to comprehend it and see the big picture on a small platform before building a big one. After all, we are developing these for the first time; we haven't been producing them for a long time. We will also have a learning curve.

Defence Turkey: Do you have any new products?

Ömer YILDIZ: As a new product, we have the ŞİMŞEK High-Speed Target Drone, weighing 70kg. We are also developing a new model that weighs 200 kg and flies at a speed of Mach 0.8-0.9. We hope to share the good news about it soon.

Defence Turkey: How will you solve the engine issue?  Will it have IDEALAB's engine or TEI's TJ300 on it?

Ömer YILDIZ:  We have other alternatives, including the engine of IDEALAB, the engine of KALE, and the engine of TEI. Additionally, we are looking for engines abroad.

Defence Turkey: As the size increases, the range will also increase. Will you use LoS or SATCOM for communication?

Ömer YILDIZ: We are developing this aircraft, especially because ASELSAN and ROKETSAN need it. This target drone will be used to test all newly developed air defense systems. It will be highly maneuverable, which means it will simulate a real plane. It will also have an onboard camera to record the tests while flying. Let's say you fired a missile against a target drone. How will you see whether you hit it or not? Or where did the missile come from? If the missile hit the plane, where did it hit, or how close did it pass if it missed? All these measurement systems and video recording systems are necessary for this. In other words, it is not possible to call an unmanned aircraft a target drone without these features.

Defence Turkey: As the Unmanned Aerial Systems Department of TUSAŞ, what type of interest have you seen so far at this event, now that we are on day two of the SAHA Expo?

Ömer YILDIZ: Last year, I was unable to attend SAHA EXPO. I reserved two days for this year's SAHA EXPO. I wish I had reserved three days instead of the regrettable two. The level of participation is very high. It is quite a big exhibition. Even in this regard, I can claim that it is quite promising and encouraging. 

Defence Turkey: We thank you for your time on behalf of our readers and wish you success in your efforts.