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Drones: How Pakistan Can Learn From Turkey

Though a newer entrant in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) design and production, Turkey is arguably the first country to extensively use armed drones in conventional operations. In other words, Turkey is setting an example of how to use armed UAVs against opposing military forces both today, and in the future.

In contrast, Pakistan has not yet reached the level Turkey is at in drone design and deployment, despite it actually being ahead of many countries in the early 2000s. There are multiple causes for Pakistan lagging in this area, among them a lack of funding (and focus) for domestic research and development (R&D) until very recently (e.g., 2017, when Pakistan announced Project AZM), the armed forces’ lack of trust in private sector suppliers, and hollow policy support for rapid indigenous UAV development and production.[1]

Turkey, on the other hand, had committed to the opposite action across each of the aforementioned areas – and the results are now paying off into programs that could alter conventional warfare itself. However, Pakistan can still correct its course, but the chances of it making the right changes are slim at this time.

Turkey’s ‘Drone Wars’ in Syria and Libya

Militaries had traditionally used drones for either intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) and carrying out targeted strikes against non-state actors. In most scenarios, drones were a weapon of choice for counterinsurgency (COIN) and counterterrorism (CT) operations.

UAVs offered a relatively low-cost – and low-risk – pervasive monitoring solution over areas of interest as well as means of inflicting sufficient damage against targets (e.g., strikes against specific individuals). But the leading drone users (e.g., the United States) were reluctant to extend the use of current designs, which are mostly piston or turboprop-powered designs, for conventional operations. The main concern for the U.S. was that it would incur major drone losses (and capability loss) against conventional threats.[2]

Turkey had started out by using its UAVs for COIN and CT, but in recent years, extended drone utilization to conventional operations. Arguably, its most notable use was its drone attacks against Libyan National Army (LNA) Pantsir-S1 air defence systems.[3] Though technically an attack against a conventional system, the Turks still operated in a hybrid/proxy-type of conflict situation, i.e., by supporting specific factions in Libya (or Syria) against opposing groups backed by other players.

In other words, one can argue that Turkey’s use of drones was a means to use air power without escalating the conflict situation in those countries. So, in one sense, its ‘drone war’ may have come out of necessity (to limit escalation) than a game-changing strategy. But nonetheless, its UAVs did degrade a conventional threat (i.e., SAMs), which is a noteworthy achievement, one that Turkey is looking to expand upon.

Turkey’s Drones

Presently, Turkey is relying on two locally developed – and mass-produced – designs to spearhead its operations in Syria and Libya: the Bayraktar TB2 and the Anka-S. Both UAVs are medium-altitude and long-endurance (MALE) designs, but from two different Turkish original equipment manufacturers (OEM).

Bayraktar TB2

The Bayraktar TB2 seems to be the most prevalent UAV in the Turkish Armed Forces’ (TSK) inventory. The TB2 was designed by a private company, Baykar Makina, which was established in 1984 as an automobile or auto-parts manufacturer and exporter. It started undertaking R&D in UAVs in 2000, and in 2005, started trialing a series of internally developed miniature UAV designs, and delivered its first order in 2007.

Baykar Makina continued developing its in-house UAV technology and, by 2009, moved into larger designs until starting its tactical drone project in 2012. This project would result in the TB2, which flew in 2014. In 2015, the TSK received its first TB2s, and began using the TB2s operationally from 2016.

The TB2 can operationally fly up to 18,000 ft, though it can reach a maximum altitude of 27,000 ft. It can fly for up to 27 hours, and can deploy up to four laser-guided air-to-ground munitions (AGM). The TB2 has a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 650 kg, and uses a 100 hp internal combustion injection engine.[4]


Designed by state-owned Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), the Anka-S is larger than the TB2. The Anka had required a longer development period than the TB2, a probable result of TAI’s efforts to indigenously develop a number of critical inputs it could not secure from overseas.

The Anka first flew in 2010, and the TSK ordered the operational variant – i.e., Anka-S (i.e., equipped with a satellite communications terminal) – in 2013. TAI delivered the first Anka-S to the TSK in April 2018. The TSK has been making significant use of the Anka-S (and TB2) in its recent operations.

The Anka-S has a MTOW of 1,600 kg. It can reach a maximum altitude of 30,000 ft, and has an endurance of 24 hours. It has a payload weight of 200 kg, which the Anka-S use through laser-guided AGMs and laser-guided rockets. The Anka-S uses an indigenously developed 170 hp engine, the PD170.[5]

Bayraktar Akıncı

Having succeeded with the TB2, Baykar Makina is moving towards a significantly larger and more capable UAV design, the Bayraktar Akıncı. With a payload of 1,350 kg, the Akıncı can potentially carry air-launched cruise missiles (ALCM), air-to-air missiles (AAM), and stand-off range precision-guided bombs (PGB).

Thanks to its sizable payload capacity, endurance (24 hours), and operational ceiling (30,000 ft), the end-user could potentially use the Akıncı for conventional operations. In fact, thanks to its payload capacity – and ability to use stand-off range weapons – the Akıncı eliminates a number of drawbacks to current UAV designs, such as the risk of loss to enemy fire (since the Akıncı can deploy weapons from a safer distance).[6]

Baykar Makina flew a prototype of the twin-engine Akıncı in December 2019.


Like the Bayraktar Akıncı, the TAI Aksungur is a twin-engine design. However, it is smaller than the Akıncı – it has a MTOW of 3,300 kg and payload capacity of 750 kg.

TAI’s intention with the Aksungur was likely to build upon the development of the Anka-S and, in turn, emulate the design characteristics of the Israeli Heron-series. With a 750 kg payload, the Aksungur offers an endurance of 12 hours, but with a 150 kg load, the UAV can fly for up to 24 hours.[7]

What Pakistan Can Learn From Turkey

Until around 2010-2011, it appeared as though Pakistan’s drone development track was similar to that of Turkey, especially in the private sector. The company at the forefront of UAV development in Pakistan at that time was Integrated Dynamics. However, when Pakistan pursued armed drones, it reportedly took a sizable portion of the work Integrated Dynamics had done to develop the Burraq.

Reports claim that China had weaponized the CH-3 for Pakistan, and exported it to other customers, but neither Pakistan or its key OEM received credit, recognition, or compensation for the ‘transfer.’[8] If this is an accurate report, then it could explain why Integrated Dynamics did not evolve as far as Baykar Makina, which had developed a comparable design to the Burraq in the TB2, and around the same time.

The biggest gap between the two drone programs was that the TSK continued to rely on its private sector OEM to not only finish developing its armed drone, but manufacture and supply it. On the other hand, the Pakistani armed forces took-over the Burraq project (i.e., remaining development and production), which capped Integrated Dynamics from its growth potential.

Bayraktar evidently used the growth it had drawn from the TSK’s TB2 orders to channel resources towards a much more advanced, and ambitious, drone in the Akıncı. There is no comparable in-house project like the Akıncı in Pakistan, certainly not in the private sector. The public sector is working on a MALE UAV akin to the Anka-S, i.e., Pakistan Aeronautical Complex’s (PAC) MALE UAV under Project AZM.

In this respect, PAC is at the stage TAI was nearly 10 years ago with the Anka. PAC had intended to fly the prototype of its MALE UAV by 2019, but there are no reports of successful test flights at this time. It would not be surprising if, like TAI, PAC is working through developing critical inputs (e.g., flight control system).

It is unclear how many years the Burraq set Pakistan back in terms of its drone development, but despite the industry breakdown of that project, the armed forces are still making it difficult for the private sector to move ahead. The head of Integrated Dynamics, Raja S. Khan, had noted that Pakistan lacks a real policy framework to support private sector drone development (e.g., permitting test zones, permissions, etc).[9]

The limiting scope of the armed forces’ regulations are not confined to drones, but the aviation industry as a whole. There are restrictions to developing any of the key inputs for aviation applications, a total lack of firm commitments to offset policies, and little regard for incentivizing the private sector (through grants and limiting procurement orders to solely domestic suppliers).[10]

In a way, the lack of progress in the private sector is proportional to the Pakistani armed forces’ openness and its transparency (or lack thereof). If the armed forces persist in quietly negotiating big-ticket contracts for armoured vehicles, for example, then there is no scope to integrate offsets or co-production (through privately-owned companies) because there is no visibility of such programs. However, given how Pakistan actually has an auto-parts manufacturing base, there is no reason why it could not have supported offsets involving localized production of armoured vehicles (albeit with investment from the selling party).

However, without that visibility (and auditing) for big-ticket procurement, there is no avenue for Pakistani businesses to accurately gauge opportunities. In turn, Pakistani investors will not back growth projects. In addition, there is no commitment to buy locally from the Pakistani armed forces.

In terms of drones, Pakistan lacks a coherent joint-acquisition strategy to generate economies-of-scale. It seems that the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), Pakistan Navy (PN), and Pakistan Army (PA) each have a distinct acquisition project, and in all likelihood, this will probably result in different platforms. Some of these (e.g. from the PN) may be imported, while others, potentially, may be local.

In contrast, the TSK had committed to sourcing UAVs domestically right from the start, thus giving private investors confidence to support Baykar Makina’s efforts to develop the TB2 and Akıncı. Moreover, TAI did not cut into the private sector’s efforts, but instead, worked on addressing partly different TSK needs in a parallel project. It is possible that there is technology sharing between TAI and Baykar Makina as well.

[1] Usman Ansari. “Pakistan wants to create a self-reliant, self-sustained defense industry.” Defense News. 25 July 2019. URL:

[2] Scott Crino and Andy Dreby. “Turkey’s Drone War in Syria – A Red Team View.” Small Wars Journal. 16 April 2020. URL:

[3] Alex Gatopoulos. “’Largest drone war in the world’: How airpower saved Tripoli.” Al Jazeera. 28 May 2020. URL:

[4] Bayraktar TB2. Baykar Makina. URL:

[5] Anka. Turkish Aerospace Industries. URL:

[6] Bayraktar Akıncı. Baykar Makina. URL:

[7] Aksungur. Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI). URL:

[8] Usman Ansari. “Pakistan wants to create a self-reliant, self-sustained defense industry.” Defense News. 25 July 2019. URL:

[9] Ibid.

[10] Usman Ansari. “Pakistan’s private industry clashes with government over regulations.” Defense News. 10 June 2020. URL:

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