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Bayraktar Kızılelma: Turkey’s Homegrown Jet UCAV Takes Flight

On 14 December 2022, Baykar Technology (BaykarTech) announced that it carried out the maiden test flight of its unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV), the Bayraktar Kızılelma.

BaykarTech’s CEO, Haluk Bayraktar, said that the company lifted the Bayraktar Kızılelma from the drawing board and into the skies in a record time of just one year. The company’s CTO, Selçuk Bayraktar, said that with the Kızılelma, Turkey “has stepped into the domain of unmanned fighter aircraft, which is ushering in the future of air combat. It has opened the doors to this new world.”

Undoubtedly, the Kızılelma’s flight signifies a key breakthrough for BaykarTech, Turkey’s wider aerospace industry, and, not least, Turkey’s airpower growth.

Background on the Bayraktar Kızılelma

The origins of the Kızılelma date back to at least 2015, if not earlier. Turkey’s government set a goal for the country’s defence industry to design and develop a robust ecosystem of drones.

One of these drones was to be a jet-powered platform designed for high-risk missions, such as suppression and/or destruction of enemy air defence systems (i.e., SEAD and DEAD).

BaykarTech had committed itself to developing such a drone.

The early design proposals had centered on a jet-powered platform called Muharip İnsansız Uçak Sistemi (MİUS). The MİUS had a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 3,000 kg to 4,000 kg, a payload of 1,000 kg, an endurance of 4 to 5 hours, a flight ceiling of 40,000 ft, and cruising speed of Mach 0.8.

However, Turkey’s exit from the Lockheed Martin F-35 program and the subsequent need for an alternate combat aircraft platform for the Turkish Navy’s landing helicopter dock (LHD), TCG Anadolu, added a new dimension to the MİUS project. Basically, Türkiye needed this new UCAV to be able operate from the LHD, thus making it an all-rounded naval combat aircraft asset.

In July 2021, BaykarTech revealed the finalized design of the MİUS, i.e., the Bayraktar Kızılelma. Generally, in line with the original MİUS specifications, the Kızılelma has a MTOW of 6 tons, payload of 1,500 kg, an endurance of 5 hours, an operational altitude of 35,000 ft, and cruising speed of Mach 0.6…

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