Turkish unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) manufacturer Baykar has signed a comprehensive deal with state-owned Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) for the production of Bayraktar Akıncı high-altitude long-endurance unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs) in Saudi Arabia.
The agreement was announced on X (formerly Twitter) on 6 August 2023 by Baykar CEO Haluk Bayraktar, who stated, “With Bayraktar Akıncı exports, we signed the biggest export agreement in the history of the [Turkish] Republic in defence and aviation with the Saudi Ministry of Defence last week.”
Bayraktar added, “Thus, a strong and strategic co-operation takes place between Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Our bond of friendship is getting stronger. Historical steps are being taken for regional and global stability.”
The deal will also bring significant benefits to the wider Turkish defence industry, with Bayrakter noting in his message, “Our collaborating companies also follow the path we have opened and make a great contribution to our ecosystem. … Aselsan and Roketsan, with whom we work together in many fields, will use their experience and experience in this context for the development of the defence industry in Saudi Arabia. In this way export doors and new business areas will be opened for hundreds of our companies that produce subsystems in the Turkish defence and aerospace industry.”
SAMI was founded in 2017 to grow Saudi Arabia’s defence-industrial base and reduce its reliance on foreign defence products. While the group has signed memoranda of understanding and established joint ventures with numerous Western defence companies, the relationship with Turkey’s Baykar promises not only technology transfer but a significant advance in the country’s indigenous unmanned airborne strike capabilities.
The Bayraktar Akıncı can fly at an altitude of 40,000 ft and has an endurance of 24 hours. Equipped with a multi-function active electronically scanned-array radar, it has dual-redundant satellite communications and navivigate with internal sensor fusion without having to depend on GPS. Baykar claims the Akıncı can conduct operations in co-operation with manned fighters and can perform air-to-air as well as air-to-ground missions.
The Akıncı can carry a range of ordnance, including Bozok, MAM-L and MAM-C mini-smart munitions; Cirit and L-UMTAS air-to-ground missiles; SOM-A stand-off air-to-ground missiles; Gokdogan amd Bozdogan air-to-air missiles; and a range of guided bombs.
While Saudi Arabia bought 50 Italian Selex Galileo Falco UAVs in 2012, its subsequent armed UAV purchases have been Chinese; an unspecified number of Chengdu Wing Loong medium-altitude long-endurance armed UAVs were ordered in 2016. Since then the kingdom has increasingly sought to develop its own capability to produce UAVs.