The surveillance cameras that are set to be installed in the first national unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) have been found to be too heavy to fly at the previously determined altitude of 30,000 feet.
The first domestically manufactured UAV, the Anka (Phoenix), is expected to be launched soon for a test program with the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) in operations against the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
The surveillance cameras, or Airborne Thermal Imaging Systems, called “Aselflir” and produced by ASELSAN, a defense industry giant that produces technology for the Turkish military, weigh between 100 and 120 kilograms. The weight of the cameras has proven to be too much for the Ankas, which are expected to ascend to a height of 30,000 feet, but are not able to ascend to more than 20,000 feet if the cameras are installed.
Sources from Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), which developed the Anka, say the problem stems completely from the ASELSAN-made surveillance cameras, and if the TSK accepts the fact that the Anka will only be able to fly at a maximum altitude of 20,000 feet, mass production of the UAV will soon begin. If the TSK insists on the planned altitude of 30,000 feet, the completion of the project will be delayed by two more years.
The Anka, which was originally planned to be ready for use in early 2012, will be used in operations against the PKK, helping the military locate terrorists. With a 56-foot wingspan, the ability to fly at a speed of 75 knots per hour and capability of reaching an altitude of 30,000 feet (9,144 meters), the drone is expected to mostly monitor the activities of PKK militants who enter Turkey from bases in northern Iraq.
The Anka UAV is able to fly for 24 hours at a time. Turkish engineers have said they are confident the Anka will become part of the country's arsenal. The Anka is expected to replace Israeli-made Heron UAVs. A total of 43 countries have now developed UAVs, which have proven to be extremely effective in gathering intelligence.
A formal decision to arm the Ankas was made at the most recent meeting of the Defense Industry Executive Committee (SSİK), which took place in July under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and was organized to discuss Turkey's plans to purchase long-range missiles.