The Turkish combat drone “Kızılelma” prototype made its first flight.

In July 2021, the Turkish group, Baykar Defence, known for having developed the Bayraktar TB2 tactical drone, lifted the veil on the MIUS program, which was then to lead to a combat drone [UCAV] that could be implemented from the deck of the amphibious assault ship TCG Anadolu.

The CEO of Baykar Defense, Haluk Bayraktar, explained that this device would be equipped with “artificial intelligence” allowing it to “take certain decisions by itself,” that it would be able to fly at a close cruising speed of Mach 1 and that it would have a carrying capacity of 1.5 tonnes. In addition, its radar signature was to be reduced despite a “duck” plan.

“We will launch it from TCG Anadolu without using a catapult. It will be able to land on the ship using arresting lines and a butt,” he specified before announcing the prototype’s first flight in 2023.

Since then, Baykar Defense has signed an agreement with the Ukrainian engine manufacturer Ivchenko Progress to obtain AI-322F Turbofan engines while waiting to obtain a new engine based on Motor Sich’s MS500.

Anyway, the development of this combat drone, now called Kızılelma, was faster than expected. Indeed, after rolling tests [or during which it briefly left the ground], the prototype of this aircraft successfully completed its maiden flight on December 14.

According to available data, with a maximum weight of 6 tons at take-off, the Kızılelma has a length of 14.7 meters for a wingspan of 10 meters and a height of 3.3 meters. 

As for its performance, this drone can fly at a maximum speed of 590 knots [Mach 0.9] at an operational altitude of 35,000 feet [about 11,000 meters]. Its radius of action would be 930 km. Finally, it will notably be equipped with a Turkish-made active antenna radar [EASA] and electronic warfare and electromagnetic intelligence modules.

That said, there is still a long way to go to make the Kızılelma an onboard device, moreover on board the TCG Anadolu, which does not have catapults.

 In addition, the Turkish Navy has no experience in naval air operations. With the X-47B demonstrator developed by Northrop Grumman, only the US Navy has managed to recover a UCAV on board one of its aircraft carriers using stop lines. And the same will go for the MQ-25 Stingray, a drone dedicated to in-flight refueling.

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