On 29 August, the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) added a new unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) named Akıncı to its inventory. As the accompanying article from Turkey’s state-owned news agency Anadolu Ajansı reports, the Akıncı is technologically more advanced than Turkey’s Bayraktar TB2 drone with heavy firepower and flexible concepts of operations (CONOPS). It can fly at a higher altitude, stay in the air longer, and carry a variety of missiles. The article states that its payload capacity of 1,350 tons makes it a more lethal weapon. The Akıncı’s live-fire test flights were conducted with MAM-T smart munitions, the new and heavier variant with more destructive firepower. Among Akıncı’s combat payload configurations, SOM-A, Turkey’s air-launched cruise missile, will provide the TAF with deeper strike capabilities.

The article states that the technological advancements of Akıncı signal significant advancement in Turkey’s defense posture. First, Akıncı has the ability to serve as the mothership for smaller drones including Turkey’s Alpagu and Kargu drones with swarming strike delivery capabilities. The article points out that such CONOPS are an indication of “a true Lethal Autonomous Weapons systems era for Turkey.” Second, Turkey’s defense industry has made significant progress in the integration of electronic warfare capabilities with drone warfare as implemented during Operation Spring Shield in 2020. Turkey will likely improve on this concept but it is unclear what kind of integration will be operationalized between the Akıncı and the TAF’s capabilities in electronic warfare. Third, drone strikes have become a key pillar of Turkey’s counterterrorism strategy, and Akıncı will take Turkey’s drone strike capabilities to a different level. Finally, it has been speculated that the Akıncı might have air-to-air warfare capabilities because it can be configured for Turkey’s air-to-air missiles, Gökdoğan and Bozdoğan. However, the author considers this unlikely as the Akıncı is a high-end strategic UAV and not an air warfare system.

Another article from the pro-government Turkish think tank SETA Foundation provides some background on the research and development of Akıncı, as well as details about its technical specifications. It notes that Akıncı, with its capability to carry air-to-surface cruise missiles like the SOM-A, will be able to destroy targets without entering the range of the enemy’s air defense systems. This will significantly improve the Turkish military’s combat capabilities. The article states that Akıncı makes Turkey a competitive drone manufacturer and gives Turkey the opportunity to shape the global UAV industry.

With the Akıncı’s longer-range, smart, and heavier payload capability, the Turkish intelligence’s targeted drone strikes can graduate to a whole new level.

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