Turkey's state-owned aircraft manufacturer is finally embarking on production of the country's first modern indigenous manned aircraft and medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle.
The small but important orders for both the Hurkus turboprop trainer and the Anka MALE UAV provide a critical business and confidence boost for Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI). Engineers there are preparing to commence the next set of complex programs, including the development of the country's first indigenous helicopter and potentially fifth-generation combat aircraft to supplement theJoint Strike Fighters being purchased by the Turkish air force.
An order announced by the country's Defense Industry Executive Committee at the end of September for 15 Hurkus turboprop training aircraft represents a major hurdle for TAI following its delayed first flight at the end of August. The Hurkus is the first wholly indigenous manned aircraft to emerge from the country for close to 80 years, but its future looked bleak before the program got underway, when Ankara, eager to replace the air force's aging T-37 Tweety Bird trainer, selected Korean Aerospace Industry's (KAI) KT-1 Woongbi trainer in 2007 and chose TAI to assemble it in-country.
Further work was generated Oct. 28, when Turkey's Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM) announced a defense ministry order for 10 Ankas in the new Block B configuration, adding new capabilities and performance compared to the pre-production Block A variants. Satellite-based, beyond-line-of-sight control, an encrypted data link and high-definition camera will be in the new configuration, but there is still no mention of an armed variant, a capability long desired by Ankara.
Images of the configuration released by SSM show the Anka with a new nose fairing to accommodate the satellite communications antenna. TAI has also begun looking for a replacement for the Anka's Centurion engine, after China's Avic International took over German engine manufacturer Thielert.
Deliveries of the Anka are scheduled to begin in 2016 and finish in 2018.
The development of a turboprop trainer is a strong foundation for future aircraft design and development work. TAI has formally begun developing Turkey's first indigenous helicopter, a five-ton-class, twin-engine rotorcraft capable of carrying up to nine passengers and three crew. The SSM signed an agreement with TAI to start work in June, and the helicopter's first flight is expected in late 2018, with(EASA) certification just 18 months later, after the 78th month of the program.
An artist's concept released by SSM shows a traditional helicopter configuration with wheeled landing gear, a wide fuselage and five-blade main rotor and four-blade tail-rotor systems. The rotorcraft bears some similarities to theAW139.
The Turkish air force is expected to use the Hurkus to supplement training conducted on the T-38 Talon. The Hurkus was developed to compete with other turboprop trainers in the market, including Beechcraft's T-6 Texan,'s and 's T-29 Super Tucano.
Turkey's trainer is being developed in three versions. The basic version, Hurkus-A, will be certified to EASA standards. The Hurkus-B will feature more advanced avionics, including a head-up display, multifunction displays and navigation systems, and mission computers to conduct more advanced training. It is likely to be the variant purchased by the Turkish air force. The Hurkus-C is a concept light-attack, counterinsurgency aircraft capable of delivering a mix of precision-guided and conventional weapons.
TAI is also looking at the development of a jet trainer, but as the Turkish air force fast-jet training program closely mirrors that of the U.S. Air Force, commanders are awaiting the outcome of the U.S. T-X next-generation training aircraft competition before making any decisions. The air arm has begun a search for a new primary training aircraft, however, to replace theT-41 Mescalero and (SIAI Marchetti) SF.260.