Turkey is expected to launch international competitions for two separate new unmanned air vehicle (UAV) procurements, possibly as early as the end of this year, according to US and Turkish sources.

The advanced drones would be used to supplement the General Atomics Gnat 750 UAV systems that Turkey already operates. Ankara has reportedly purchased six Gnat 750 air vehicles and two control systems, worth $14 million.

Turkey wants a foreign partner willing to accept local licensed production. Turkish industry participation is considered essential for winning future UAV work. Some UAV manufacturers are concerned, however, about sharing too much technology with a nation keen to develop a defence industry.

One US industry source believes that Turkey may buy two UAVs: a medium altitude endurance UAV such as the General Atomics Predator - an improved Gnat 750 - operated by the US Air Force - and a shorter-range tactical unmanned air vehicle (TUAV).

The source expects a request for proposals (RFP) soon for the more capable UAV. A TUAV contest would follow, although there is disagreement over whether the RFP could be issued this year or in two or three years. Turkey seeks a drone offering greater endurance and more payload than that of the Gnat 750. With an operating radius of 925km (500nm) and a 25,000ft (8,750m) maximum altitude, the Predator can loiter on station for up to 24h and is considered a strong contender.

Turkey would then move to buy a TUAV. Alliant Techysystems officials have recently been in Turkey to brief military officers on their Outrider.

The contest could be launched in the next three months for a single drone system to fulfil Turkish military needs. No preference is stated for a vertical take-off and landing or a conventional fixed-wing TUAV, but Ankara is expected to buy 10 systems, each with six air vehicles and a control station.

Source: Flight International