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What is Baykar Group Doing in Pakistan?

In August 2023, the private Turkish defence contractor Baykar announced that it will conduct research and development (R&D) work at Pakistan’s National Aerospace Science and Technology Park (NASTP).

Founded in 1984, Baykar started out as a subcontractor for precision machining equipment. However, in the 2000s, the company set out to supply defence equipment to the Turkish Armed Forces. It started out with drones, specifically a miniature unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for surveillance roles.

Since then, Baykar has grown into not just one of Turkey’s leading UAV suppliers, but a prominent player in the global drone market. Today, the company has several dozen customers across the Middle East, Sub-Saharan and North Africa, Central Europe, and South Asia.

Today, Baykar is moving towards developing more sophisticated UAVs, including a new loyal wingman and unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV), the Bayraktar Kızılelma.

The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) is a confirmed user of two Baykar drones: the Bayraktar TB2 medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAV and the Bayraktar Akıncı high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) UAV.

No other details were provided, but high-level officials attended the signing ceremony, including PAF Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Chief Marshal (ACM) Zaheer Ahmed Babar, then Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, and the Chairman of Baykar’s board, Selçuk Bayraktar.

It appears that the R&D deal was instituted as part of the PAF’s purchase of Baykar’s UAVs. It is possible that Baykar is planning to co-produce one or both of the UAVs in Pakistan at NASTP. The R&D element and local production work could be part of an offset package from Baykar to Pakistan.

However, the R&D work seems to have begun materializing. For example, during a tour of NASTP, the PAF CAS showcased a new munition, “KaGeM V3.” The munition had the emblems of both NASTP and Baykar, with a statement printed to its side, “Developed by RE & RP Group NASTP.”

The KaGeM V3 seems to be an original project. Baykar’s other smart munition, the Kemankeş, is appears to be a smaller design (weighing 30 kg) than the KaGeM V3. Moreover, the KaGeM V3 draws more on the design characteristics of a cruise missile, while the Kemankeş is more unique. For example, the Kemankeş has an electro-optical (EO) system configured to record and transmit videos and images. It is meant to be used as both a reconnaissance asset and strike weapon all-in-one.

In contrast, the KaGeM V3 is not only larger, but its design mirrors other more conventional air-launched cruise missiles (ALCM), like the Ra’ad-series and Taimur-series. To be clear, the KaGeM V3 is unrelated as it is a NASTP project; the Ra’ad/Taimur are Air Weapons Complex (AWC) programs (hence marketed by the conglomerate Global Defense Industrial & Defense Solutions or GIDS).

However, the KaGeM V3 may have a similar role, i.e., to ferry a large warhead at long-range, potentially in excess of 200 km. It is certainly an ALCM as one can clearly see air-intakes at the rear of its fuselage. The KaGeM V3 also seems to leverage fixed wings instead of retractable ones, thus indicating that the design is meant to be less sophisticated and, in turn, lower cost than the Ra’ad/Taimur-series. Despite that, the KaGeM V3 may be large enough to carry enough fuel to provide long range coverage, likely between 200 and 280 km. There also seems to be heavy use composite material; Baykar/NASTP could potentially source this material from PAC, which had locally built the Leonardo Falco under license using that infrastructure.

Assuming the requirements were set by Air Headquarters (AHQ), it is possible that the PAF wants a smaller and lighter weight ALCM complement to the Ra’ad/Taimur-series. The KaGeM V3 could be something the PAF wants to one day deploy from its UAVs, such as the Bayraktar Akıncı. The PAF may also look to deploy the KaGeM V3 from its multirole fighters, such as the JF-17 and J-10CE.

There is certainly controversy and doubt surrounding NASTP’s value. While it purports to drive aerospace R&D in Pakistan, it still misses the need for developing critical inputs that would go into solutions like the KaGeM V3, such as electronics and propulsion technology. However, focused development on new smart munitions and, potentially, drones could be a promising sign.

Basically, Baykar’s work at NASTP could reflect the entity’s actual capacity. Currently, NASTP is not as well equipped in terms of either personnel or infrastructure for R&D work as National Engineering & Scientific Commission (NESCOM). However, a project like KaGeM V3 is feasible, especially when its design itself is less sophisticated than the Ra’ad/Taimur series. Thus, Baykar could be approaching NASTP with a clear and realistic understanding of its capabilities and, in turn, is starting with more modest initiatives.

Through the long term, Baykar and NASTP can develop the KaGeM V3 into a versatile platform. It could look at enlarging the size to emulate the specifications of the Joint Strike Missile, for example, thus giving the PAF a conventionally focused, low-cost ALCM to replace the H-2 and H-4-series of glide bombs.

They can even bring in parts of the Kemankeş, such as adding an EO system to turn the KaGeM V3 into a loitering munition that carries out surveillance and reconnaissance work prior to engaging as a munition. Finally, Baykar can also tap into its drone expertise and, in turn, design a variant of the KaGeM V3 that can work as a decoy or electronic attack system. The one design can spur many different applications, but it is up to the PAF to drive Baykar and NASTP to pursue those different ideas.

If AHQ properly manages NASTP, there is a chance that the Baykar partnership could materialize into more ambitious and complex programs. For example, Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) sought to develop a MALE UAV, but its project did not succeed past a single (and sub-optimally performing) prototype.

If given time and capacity building, Baykar could help PAC – via NASTP – to design and develop an original MALE UAV to compete with NESCOM’s Shahpar-series. This could potentially draw on the Bayraktar-series of drones and, potentially, original R&D work at NASTP through the Baykar partnership. In fact, the work can even aim to complement Pakistan’s existing drone efforts by developing new munitions, helping with autonomous flight and combat technologies, and designing new subsystems.

For Baykar, the foothold in NASTP could serve as an entry point to market additional goods to the PAF, like the Bayraktar TB3 and, potentially, the Bayraktar Kızılelma. Baykar could offer co-production work and/or additional investment in NASTP as a means to draw PAF interest in its other programs.


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