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TRANSFORMATION OF UAVS FROM A RECONNAISSANCE SURVEILLANCE PLATFORM TO A FORCE MULTIPLIER IN TURKEY

With the GNAT 750-45 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) System, which entered service in 1994, the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) became the second NATO armed forces, after the USA, to use MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) class advanced UAVs. Unfortunately, since the Turkish Air Force (TurAF) did not want to use an unmanned aircraft system at that time and the Turkish Army Aviation Command initially perceived UAVs as an extension of artillery units rather than an ISR platform, the GNAT 750-45 system, which was one of the most advanced UAV solutions of its time, was used only for artillery reconnaissance missions in Çorlu until 1997.

Issue 101

Finally, the GNAT 750-45 UAV System (6 x aircraft, 1 x Ground Control Station/GCS, and 1 x Transportable Image Exploitation System/TIES), which was deployed to Batman Air Base in May 1997, was actively used by the 2nd Army UAV Unit in Internal Security Operations. Upon the successful performance of the 2nd Army UAV Unit (1st Fleet) in Internal Security Operations, two Improved GNAT (I-GNAT) UAVs and two more GCS were ordered under a contract signed in May 1998, and the systems were delivered in the same year. 

The first studies were started on arming UAVs of different models (such as GNAT 750-45, I-GNAT, BAYRAKTAR, and MALAZGİRT Mini UAV, Heron, Searcher II, Dominator II, Aerostar, GÖZCÜ-I/Heron, ANKA Blok-A, BAYRAKTAR TB2, and KARAYEL) and classes (Mini, Tactical and MALE), which have been procured since May 1997 through purchase or lease, and were mainly used for reconnaissance and surveillance (Imagery Intelligence/IMINT) in Internal Security and Urban Operations, on the TUSAŞ ANKA Block-A MALE UAV in the early 2010s. Turkey's first armed ANKA Blok-A UAV, with double pack smart launchers under each wing, fired two live (with warhead) Roketsan Semi-Active Laser (SAL) guided CIRIT Missiles in May 2013 and scored two successful hits on the fixed target illuminated by the AselFLIR-300T FLIR system. However, according to the information I received, during the CİRİT Missile (entered the TAF inventory in May 2012) firing test conducted with the ANKA Block-A UAV, the aircraft had to descend to an altitude almost 10.000ft. because the missile was not suitable for firing from higher altitudes like 25,000 – 30,000ft (the rocket engine ignites immediately at launch and the missile has to descend/dive at a certain angle due to altitude). Therefore, to increase the mission's success and the survival of the UAV, smart micro munitions that can be fired from higher altitudes were needed (flight at low altitudes increases the chances of being detected due to visibility and engine noise). 

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