EADS UAV project may get Turkish development support

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Turkey's undersecretariat for defence industries has confirmed it is in discussions with Germany about joining the EADS-lead Advanced UAV development programme.

Turkey is interested in adopting the Advanced UAV to fulfil emerging requirements for a more capable medium- to high-altitude long-endurance UAV during the next decade.

The undersecretariat's UAV programme manager Demir Cigdemoglu says that "our strategy here is to have industrial collaboration and international co-operation. For that we are working with the German government for the Advanced UAV programme."

Speaking on 28 November at SMi's "The future of unmanned aerial vehicles" conference in London, he said: "We are trying to participate in that as government and as industry through Tusas Aerospace Industries."

The undersecretariat is also exploring options for launch of a new collaborative MALE-plus development effort involving several nations and industrial partners as a fallback strategy. That new platform could be focused around a new turboprop powerplant family being developed by Turkish Engine Industries.

"We have some other options we are also exercising," says Cigdemoglu. "We think that in this kind of large programme, maybe because of budgeting reasons, sometimes because of the technology-sharing reasons, we are definitely looking for international collaboration."

Turkey operates six General Atomics I-Gnats as the core of its existing strategic surveillance UAV capability. That is being augmented by a $183 million acquisition of 10 Israel Aerospace Industries Heron systems, with initial deliveries to occur early in 2008. The aircraft will be used principally to gather intelligence on the Kurdish rebel group, PKK, operating from northern Iraq. The Herons will be equipped with standard 100hp (75kW) Rotax gasoline engine, although IAI also offers a 180hp diesel.

Cigdemoglu says the Heron deal is being treated as an interim solution pending the development of Turkey's own MALE system midway through the next decade. The prime contractor for that indigenous effort is Turkish Aerospace Industries. A demonstrator is due to fly in 2010 and a production prototype is targeted for 2011.

The indigenous MALE is also likely to support a weapons capability, Cigdemoglu says. "Weapons capability is in our vision, but not with a foreign system."

Turkey is one of only four nations participating in NATO's UAV weaponisation study, which was launched this year.