Kızılelma drone, T-FX fighter, Altay tank: Turkish industry under pressure for its next-generation programs

Since the Turkish ground intervention in northern Syria in 2018, Ankara's military involvement in the Libyan civil war in 2019 and the tensions between the Turkish and Greek air and naval fleets in the Aegean Sea in 2020, and especially the delivery of the first S-400 anti-aircraft battery in July 2020, the Turkish defense industry, hitherto very dynamic under the impetus of President Erdogan who had made it a key marker of his political action, experienced very difficult times under the combined effects of European and American sanctions. In fact, many key programs, such as the new generation battle tank Altay, the combat helicopter Atak or the new generation combat aircraft T-FX, experienced serious difficulties, deprived as they were of key components to be completed, such as the engine and transmission for the Atlay, the turbines for the Atak and the turbojets for the T-FX.

Despite certain attempts by Ankara to lift the sanctions through negotiation, the vast majority of them were maintained, leading to significant delays, loss of export contracts and certain impasses, and these major programs emblematic of the The regime's public actions were counterproductive, from a political point of view. Ankara therefore multiplied initiatives to try to find alternatives, national replacement solutions, at one time presented as close to delivery, not being able to offer, to date, the performance and reliability required to equip systems weapon. This is how the drone specialist Baykar, behind the now famous TB2 Bayraktar, approached Ukrainian solutions to power its new drones, such as the Akinci. For the propulsion train of the Altay tank, Ankara moved closer to South Korea by borrowing the solution of the K2 Black tank Panther, while for the T-FX prototype, TAI turned to the F110 reactor which already powers the Turkish F-16s, and which, moreover, is entirely produced and maintained by Turkish industry.

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The combat drone manufacturer Baykar remains very dynamic, despite Western sanctions. It took less than two years to go from the end of the pre-military phase to the entry into service of the MALE twin-engine AKinci drone.

In fact, in recent days, announcements have multiplied from Ankara, to show the dynamism and technicality of its defense industry. Thus, at the end of October, the manufacturer of the Atlay BMC announced that the production of the first batch of 100 tanks had started, and that the first copies will be delivered to the Turkish authorities in 2023. 3 weeks later, on November 21, it was Baykar's turn to publish a video showing the test drives of its new high-performance combat drone Kızılelma, suggesting that the first flight of the device will take place in the coming weeks. Finally, on November 23, the aircraft manufacturer TAI published photos showing the progress of the assembly of the prototype of the T-FX, specifying that the device will leave the hangar in 2023. Many other programs, in the field of missiles, naval drones, or even various models of armored vehicles, have also been presented in recent weeks, giving a radically different perception of the dynamism of the Turkish defense industry than it has been in recent years. And for good reason: on June 18, 2023, the next presidential elections will be held in the country.

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