The Rise of Turkey's Baykar Technologies, Part II: Operations

In partnership with Johns Hopkins University and written by Owen LeGrone
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Drone Production Increased Exponentially
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Published
Sep 4
2022
2 months, 4 weeks
Overview

Baykar Technologies, based in Istanbul, Turkey, is one of the predominant manufacturers of Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAV) today. This report examines Baykar's production, flight testing, training, and delivery operations using satellite imagery and open sources.

Activity

The following analysis provides a brief history of Baykar operations in each category, then attempts to quantify their current status.

Introduction

Baykar Technologies is one of the world’s most successful manufacturers of Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAV). Part I of this report examined the development and status of the company's physical infrastructure. This part contains analysis of the ability of that infrastructure to support four key activities: production, testing, training, and delivery.

Key Intelligence Questions

  1. What is Baykar's production and training capacity?
  2. What visual aspects are associated with Baykar operations?
  3. How do UCAV systems move from production to testing and delivery or deployment?

Methods

This GEOINT-enhanced economic analysis, like other standard economic analyses, is focused on capability and company efficiencies. It incorporates commercially available satellite imagery alongside numerous other open sources. Baykar and its most prominent executives, Haluk Bayraktar (CEO) and Selçuk Bayraktar (CTO), generate a substantial amount of content via social media and through their corporate website. Turkish and international media also contributed useful information. In many cases, social media and other media content were geolocated to a particular site, providing coverage of that site unavailable through satellite imagery alone.

For further clarity, the source of each observation cited is noted in the text or in a caption. A lexicon of specific terms listed in Table 1 is used to communicate estimative probability.

Executive Summary

  • Baykar likely increased annual production of its flagship Bayraktar TB2 UCAV by as much as 40 times between 2014 and 2022. This was accomplished by adding production space, hiring more workers, and streamlining production processes.
  • Akıncı UCAV production has likely trended moderately upward since series production began in February 2021, although the outbreak of war in Ukraine probably caused some disruption to supply chains.
  • Baykar likely has the ability to produce between 142 and 240 TB2 UCAVs, or 23 to 40 standard Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), per year. Yearly production of the Akıncı UCAV is likely between 6 and 15.
  • Baykar uses separate training centers for the two UCAV models that it manufactures. Both can likely process three to four classes of drone pilots and ground crew per year, totaling between 150 to 320 personnel for the TB2 and between 300 and 400 for the Akıncı.
  • Baykar likely delivers all or nearly all of its products, including weapons, to customers by air freight through Tekirdağ-Çorlu Airport. The pace of deliveries likely increased rapidly between 2019 and 2022.


Production

History

When it first transitioned to manufacturing UAVs in 2004, Baykar operated within a rented workshop in the Topkapı district of Istanbul (Topkapı Maltepe Yolu Cad. Canayakın sitesi A blok No: 6). While its exact size is unknown, contemporary images indicate that it was small, likely 200m² or less. Today, this space houses the Turkish Technology Team, a nonprofit organization founded by Haluk Bayraktar. In 2006 the company relocated production to the nearby Ikitelli Organized Industrial Zone (OSB Metal İş Sanayi Sitesi 15. Blok D:1 İkitelli, Başakşehir, İstanbul) in two separate workshops totaling 1,000m². Photographs and videos of the interior show that one or both shops were divided into upper and lower floors, with components manufactured on the upper floor and final assembly taking place on the lower. Unfortunately, analysis of satellite imagery revealed little to no distinctive activity around this building while it was occupied by Baykar, likely due to the many other manufacturing businesses nearby, the lack of open storage space, and the low production rate. Haluk Bayraktar stated in 2022 that this factory could produce one TB2 UCAV per month, although the number of deliveries made (see Deliveries) indicates that actual production was closer to one unit every two months until 2017, the last year of operation.

Development

Production moved to Baykar's current Esenyurt production campus by August 2017 (see Esenyurt section in Part I). Usage of the two operational factory buildings at Esenyurt likely changed over time as Baykar took steps to increase the rate of production and, in the case of the Akıncı program, initiate a new production line. From 2017 until 2019, the entire production cycle took place inside the main factory building. Video taken in 2019 showed that large parts of the second factory were empty, with its primary visible function being to host a large structural test rig for the Akıncı. The January 2021 diagram of the TB2 production process in Figure 2, which largely matches architectural renderings of the main factory interior, suggests that most production activities took place there.

Between 2019 and 2022, Baykar optimized usage of floor space within the main factory building. The production floor layout observed from 2017 onwards was last seen on 28 Jan 2021. Photographs from March 2022 showed that bulky fixed equipment, including a gantry-based Coordinate Measuring Machine, had been removed from the Load Test area of the floor along with the test rigs themselves. Rather than moving through the factory parallel to the north and south walls, TB2 UCAVs under construction from 2021 onward have been lined perpendicular to them, possibly in an effort to maximize use of space. The image in Figure 3, dated 12 Mar 2022, shows at least 13 TB2s on the southern half of the floor arranged perpendicular to the south wall, including 6 in an advanced stage of completion.

Baykar also likely relocated some processes from the first to the second factory building to increase production efficiency. While in 2019 26 TB2s were sighted simultaneously on the production floor, about half that number was more typical in 2022. TB2s in the Structural Integration and Structural Load Test stages were no longer present in ground images captured in March 2021. Their place was occupied by Akıncı and more advanced TB2 airframes. It is likely that Structural Integration and Structural Load Test activities for both the TB2 and Akıncı were relocated, freeing space on the main floor for aircraft in final assembly. In addition, the corner of the main factory previously devoted to ground equipment was occupied nearly or fully by aircraft in 2022, implying that this production area was moved to the second factory as well. See the attached file Baykar TB2 Production Stages for additional observations on the production process. Figures 4 and 5 are intended to show some of the changes that took place within the main factory building between 2021 and 2022.

The expansion of Baykar's production efforts is reflected by the expansion of its workforce. The company initially grew at a measured pace, from an initial 7 employees in 2004 to 35 by 2011. From 2014, however, it began hiring much more quickly. The number of employees expanded by over 5 times between October 2015 and December 2019, from 110 to 600, and again by over 4 times between December 2019 and September 2022, reaching 2,700. It is highly likely that most, though not all, of these employees work at the Esenyurt campus. See the attached Baykar Employee Growth file for more information.

In addition to expanding its factory in Esenyurt, Baykar has attempted to open production facilities abroad. In September 2021, the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that the company would construct a factory in Ukraine for TB2 UCAVs, an action anticipated in a December 2020 agreement between Turkey and Ukraine. Ground had not been broken at the time of the Russian invasion in February 2022, but Baykar continued its efforts. On 08 Aug 2022, the Turkish ambassador to Ukraine stated that Baykar had acquired land and begun construction on a factory, with foundations to be laid by the end of 2022. Haluk Bayraktar indicated that the plant would eventually produce the Akıncı and Kızılelma UCAVs in addition to the TB2, and would feature a complete production line similar to the one in Turkey. Rumors of a second planned production line in the UAE were denied by Baykar.

Current Operations

While Baykar serially produced three types of unmanned aircraft and a myriad of related systems in 2022, this section of the analysis will focus on its two large UCAVs, the TB2 and Akıncı, as a measure of overall production capacity. Credible sources have made several claims about Baykar’s production rate which we may assess. In September 2019, the Turkish government stated that the company could manufacture 46 TB2s per year, a figure projected to increase to 92 TB2 and 24 Akıncı over 10 years. CTO Selçuk Bayraktar claimed in August 2021 that Baykar had a production capacity of “1 or 2” Akıncı per month (12-24 per year) and in May 2022 that Baykar could produce 200 TB2 UCAVs per year. In August 2022, Haluk Bayraktar claimed that the production capacity was 20 TB2s per month, or 240 per year.

No readily identifiable completed aircraft or Ground Control Stations (GCS) were observed in satellite imagery of the Esenyurt campus prior to 2021. However, these were identified in all four high-resolution captures from March 2021 onwards, possibly a sign of the facility outgrowing its internal storage capacity.

Both the number of employee vehicles and the average quantity of stored materials and industrial waste present were significantly greater in the two 2022 satellite imagery observations (January and May) than in the two 2021 observations (March and August).

Non-imagery sources provide more detailed information on current production. One analysis of the volume of post-production test flights from January to June 2022, made by the Twitter OSINT account IntelAssess, extrapolated that approximately 80 to 90 new-build TB2s would undergo such flights by the midpoint of the year. At least 71 TB2s were delivered to customers during the first six months of 2022 (See Baykar Product Deliveries), making it highly likely that yearly production would reach 142. It is reasonable to conceive of this figure as a lower bound and Haluk’s claim of 240 as an upper bound on the actual production figure. See the attached Baykar Production Statistics file for more open source information on past and current production rates.

Serial production of the Akıncı began on 04 Feb 2021, and five production Akıncı were delivered before the end of the year with a sixth ready for delivery. In November 2021, Baykar concluded an agreement to procure 30 Ukrainian Ivchenko-Progress Al-450T turboprop engines for the Akıncı over the next twelve months. Accounting for possible spare engines, this indicates that it probably planned to build between 13 and 15 production aircraft during this time. However, the February 2022 outbreak of war in Ukraine likely disrupted plans. By June 18, 2022, only three additional production Akıncı were confirmed to have flown, for a total of nine, although additional unreported deliveries to export customers likely took place as well. It is reasonable to assume a lower bound of six aircraft per year, identical to the rate in 2021, and an upper bound of 15.


Flight Testing

History

Baykar initially conducted flight tests wherever adequate space was available. Early videos cached in archived versions of the Baykar website can be geolocated to various locations near Istanbul, including a ball field, a clearing in a wooded area, and a parking lot beside the Byzantine city walls. Other flight tests took place at civil and military airfields, including Samandira Army Air Base and Hezarfen Airport. The first flight test of the “Çaldıran” occurred at Keşan Military Airport on 08 Jun 2009, but government trials were held at Sinop airfield, on the northern Black Sea coast, during September and October 2009. The initial two “Çaldıran” (later referred to as TB1) prototypes built in 2008 were not seen flying after 2009; one is known to have crashed during flight testing in October or November 2009. There are no indications from available open sources that Keşan was used again for flight tests until 2014.

Development

Once established at Keşan Flight Training and Test Center in 2014, flight test operations were regularized and the test fleet expanded. Two TB2 prototype aircraft used for flight tests, “PT1” (civil registry TC-ERB) and “PT2” (civil registry TC-SRM), were built in 2013. By 2018 they were supplanted by two additional aircraft, “T-PT1” and “T-PT2.” Unlike their predecessors, these were equipped with four wing hardpoints and bomb racks for munitions.

It is possible that two more prototype aircraft, “PT1S,” and “PT2S,” entered service by 2022, as alleged by the presence of the latter tail code on a TB2 based in Keşan; if these do exist, they possibly serve as testbeds for the SATCOM-equipped TB2S variant of the TB2.

The first TB2 flight tests were of the aircraft’s performance parameters and flight control software. Customer acceptance tests took place in November 2014, prior to the initial delivery of six aircraft, for a Turkish government delegation. In 2015, the “PT1” testbed trialed an ADS-B transponder and a Wescam MX-series electro-optical turret.

Initial weapons integration tests for the TB2 were held at Konya Air Force Base in southeast Turkey in December 2015, and the first live weapons tests with MAM-series munitions in April 2016. Weapons tests have been held at Keşan as well. The first one documented, in July 2017, saw a TB2 (likely “T-PT2”) drop a MAM-L laser-guided bomb on a target located on Hedef Island in the Gulf of Saros. “T-PT1” tested the Bozok laser-guided bomb on a similar target on 01 Nov 2018.

In November 2020, “T-PT1” testbed performed flight tests with the Aselsan CATS electro-optical system, including a drop of an inert munition on Hedef. CATS subsequently became standard on production TB2s for the Turkish military due to the Canadian embargo of the MX-15 system. In December 2020, a SATCOM-equipped TB2S UCAV, possibly a prototype, conducted a test flight from Keşan. This was the first test flight known to have been conducted alongside a Baykar-owned Pipestrel Sinus motor glider acting as a chase plane.

The first prototype of the Akıncı, “PT-1,” flew from Çorlu Flight Training and Test Center in December 2019. It was soon followed by “PT-2” in August 2020 and “PT-3” in March 2021. All of these aircraft were representative of the initial A variant equipped with Ukrainian Al-450T turboprop engines. “PT-4” first flew in March 2022, and “PT-5,” likely in May 2022. These were representative of the B variant with Canadian PT6 engines.

Similarly to its smaller predecessor, most early Akıncı flights in 2019 and 2020 were dedicated to testing performance. An Akıncı prototype conducted the type’s first live weapons test with a MAM-T laser-guided bomb on Hedef Island in April 2021. At least one new prototype has been manufactured per year since 2019, including two in 2022; this is likely due to the complexity of the aircraft, the variety of payloads it can carry, and the fact that at least three different engine configurations are planned for production models.

In September 2021, Baykar concluded an agreement with Ukraine to open a new test facility there. Construction of this facility, as well as the training and production facilities also planned in Ukraine, was delayed by the outbreak of war and had not begun as of August 2022.

Current Operations

Flight test activity by Baykar can be divided into four categories:

  • Prototype Tests. This includes tests of engines, software, and all onboard equipment as originally designed for the aircraft. Performed by Baykar-owned aircraft with tail codes in the “PT” (prototype) range, although many of these have now transitioned into other roles as well.
  • Pre-Delivery Tests. This includes tests intended to ensure that aircraft are ready to be delivered to the customer. Typically performed with production aircraft.
  • Acceptance Tests. This includes tests performed to satisfy the terms of a contract signed with the customer. The TB2 underwent its acceptance tests for the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) in 2014, although other customers have held their own acceptance tests since then. Typically performed with production aircraft.
  • Product Development Tests. This can include new software, weapons, or equipment that will be applied to new aircraft in the future, including weapons. Note that this is distinct from military exercises by UCAVs that are serving with operational units. Commonly, though not exclusively, performed with the "PT" and “T-PT” series aircraft (“T-” may stand for Test).

All production Baykar UCAVs undergo pre-delivery flight tests and possibly acceptance tests as well. Analysis provided by IntelAssess, derived from flight tracking data, supports the notion that complete UAS, including multiple UCAVs with contiguous serials and their ground systems, undergo flight tests together. Most UAS are composed of six aircraft, although some variation is known. After arriving in disassembled form at the Keşan or Çorlu facilities from the Esenyurt factory, the aircraft are re-assembled, then undergo technical inspections and pre-delivery test flights. Individual production UCAVs are known to have undergone at least five such flights before delivery.

Developmental flight test operations appear to normally involve company-owned aircraft and occur sporadically as new equipment, weapons, or software is integrated. The most recognizable test aircraft is the black-painted TB2 “PT1.” At least four TB2 testbeds (“PT1,” “PT2,” “T-PT1,” and “T-PT2”) and five Akıncı testbeds (“PT-1,” “PT-2,” “PT-3,” “PT-4”, and “PT-5”) existed in July 2022. “PT1” was filmed at the factory hangar in Esenyurt in August 2019, indicating that test aircraft are returned to the production campus for diagnostics, repairs, or new modifications. Standard production TB2s, likely aircraft owned by the Turkish armed forces, have also occasionally been used for tests.

Although Baykar aircraft in operational military service conduct exercises at a variety of locations, flight tests administered by Baykar are typically conducted from either Keşan or Çorlu. TB2 test aircraft operate primarily from Keşan with some deployments to Çorlu, and all Akıncı test aircraft operate from Çorlu. On 01 Jul 2022, production TB2 “T172,” operating from Keşan, performed “buddy” laser designation for a guided munition dropped by Akıncı prototype “PT-4” at the Hedef range, an example of cooperation between the two test sites.

Aircraft flying from Keşan use the test range on Hedef island in the Gulf of Saros for weapons tests. Akıncı UCAVs based out of Çorlu have conducted live weapons tests on Hedef and along Turkey’s northern Black Sea coast near Sinop.

Baykar-operated Pipestrel Sinus motor gliders, likely serving as chase planes in support of test activity, have been sighted at Çorlu in satellite imagery dated 25 Mar 2021, 20 Nov 2021, and 09 Feb 2022. One of these also operated from Keşan during tests of the TB2S in December 2020.

In addition to flight tests, GCS and other ground systems also undergo testing at both locations. Baykar retains two truck-mounted TB2 GCS trailers and one Akıncı trailer at Keşan and Çorlu, respectively, which can likely support both test and training operations.


Training

History

Flight training on the first operational Baykar UAV, the Baykar Mini, was conducted alongside army units in southeast Turkey from 2008 onward, while training on the Malazgirt helicopter UAV took place in Şırnak. Baykar began conducting operator training on the TB2 for its first customer, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), in July 2015. The first training course for which details are available took place in the summer of 2016 at Van Ferit Melen airport for EGM (General Directorate of Security) drone operators.

Development

It is likely that training moved permanently to Keşan after the current main hangar was completed there (see Keşan section in Part I). The first training course known to have been conducted at Keşan was a class for TSK personnel totaling at least 40 people which began in October 2016. The first foreign personnel, from Qatar, graduated from a TB2 training course on 01 Feb 2019. In January 2021, Selçuk Bayraktar announced that “Bayraktar TB2 UCAV trainings continue without slowing down.” The first Akıncı training course at Çorlu Flight Training and Test Center concluded in August 2021; since then three further courses have been held. See the attached Baykar Training Sessions file for more information.

Some facilities used for training are known to have undergone certain refinements. For instance, rooms were installed on the previously empty eastern part of the upper floor of the large hangar at Keşan between 2018 and 2019, some of which serve as classrooms. The large hangar at Çorlu contains two floors of side offices on the second and third floors. Compared to those at Keşan, they seem to have been completed at approximately the same time as the hangar itself.

As with its production and testing operations, Baykar planned to open additional facilities in Ukraine to support UCAV training. According to a 2021 memorandum, the first such facility would be located near Vasylkyiv in Kyiv Oblast, likely on the site of the existing Vasylkyiv Air Base. Russian forces inflicted considerable damage on this base and much of the surrounding area during the initial stages of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022; the current planned location of the training center, if different, is unknown. Construction had not yet begun in August 2022.

Current Operations

Using its two training facilities, Baykar can instruct trainees for the Akıncı and TB2 UCAVs simultaneously. The main hangars at both facilities host matriculation and graduation ceremonies, and likely most ground instruction as well. It is unknown whether personnel train on the same aircraft that have been delivered to their organization. Baykar has stated that the Keşan Flight Training and Test Center possesses “its own UAV fleet” for training, but this is likely supplemented in some cases, as TB2s with Azerbaijan Air Force roundels were seen at Keşan in 2021 during a course for Azeri personnel. Most classes for the TB2 course appear to consist of between 50 and 80 people, including pilots, payload operators, and ground crew. This class size likely corresponds with the number of personnel needed to operate one UAS.

Baykar stated in a 2019 product catalog that its overall training program for the TB2 consumed 11 to 13 weeks, including a “one-week introduction, followed by three to four weeks of theoretical and system trainings, and seven to eight weeks of flight simulations, payload operator flight trainings and applied flight trainings.” The exact length likely varies based on the logistical demands of transporting, housing, and processing each group. It is likely that the maximum training capacity for TB2 crew is three to four classes, or 150 to 320 personnel, per year. The true number would depend on the number of trainers employed by Baykar as well as the amount of time required to transition between courses.

Available information indicates that the Akıncı training course is equivalent to the TB2 course in length, despite the greater complexity of the platform. The first course lasted approximately seven months, but it also had an unusually large number of students. It was likely intended to establish a baseline of trained personnel who were familiar with Akıncı within the Turkish military. The classes that followed graduated approximately three months apart. It is therefore likely that Baykar can process up to four classes per year, as with the TB2. The Akıncı classes completed by July 2022 averaged approximately 102 persons, about twice the size of the average TB2 graduating class. This makes it likely that Baykar can graduate between 300 and 400 personnel per year from its Akıncı training program.


Delivery

History

Baykar likely delivered its early products directly to the customer without making use of a designated transshipment hub. The first batch of TB2 aircraft built could have been transferred from their flight test location at Keşan to Batman Air Force Base by road, considering the length of the journey, although air transport is possible. The base variant of the TB2, incapable of venturing more than 300km from its ground station even with relay systems, lacked the communications range to attempt the approximately 1,300km direct flight between these two locations.

The need for long-distance shipments to customers arose after the TB2 obtained its first export order from Qatar in March 2018. Transport aircraft large enough to make these deliveries could not land at Keşan Military Airport, so another airport or sea port must have been used, considering the cost, duration, and customs difficulties of making such a journey by land. However, the exact location from which shipping occurred is unknown. The TB2 aircraft and GCS were delivered to Qatar by 01 Feb 2019.

Development

The first detailed information about shipping practices for Baykar products emerged in late 2019, after the Turkish government supplied the TB2 system to the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) in violation of UN sanctions. A subsequent investigation by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Panel of Experts revealed several key facts:

  • Between 14 and 18 May 2019, the cargo ship MV Amazon transported at least two green-painted Ford 2533 trucks with antenna platforms like those of TB2 mobile GCS, but with no GCS trailers or antennas mounted, to Libya. The ship departed from Samsun, Turkey, and stopped at Izmir before reaching Tripoli. This suggests that the trucks were shipped separately from the rest of the system.
  • While the Panel noted unconfirmed reports that the first four or six TB2 UCAVs were also shipped by sea, no images or conclusive evidence existed. However, it did find evidence that at least eight TB2, the majority of the 12 known to have been shipped to the GNA, were delivered by air using a fleet of chartered Ukrainian An-12 and Il-76 transport aircraft.
  • The TB2s were disassembled for transport and reassembled after arriving at their destination. Manifests obtained by the Panel indicated that the aircraft transported TB2s in separate fuselage, wing, and tail sections. Other UAS equipment, including Ground Control Stations, was disassembled and transported in the same flights as the UCAVs.
  • All flights delivering TB2 systems to Libya originated at Ankara Esenboga International Airport. This location is substantially removed from Baykar’s facilities, which are much closer to several Istanbul-area airports. It is possible that Ankara was used due to the direct government-to-government nature of the assistance, which made it different than a standard commercial sale by Baykar. Ankara could also have been chosen to conceal the nature of the cargo.

Tekirdağ-Çorlu Atatürk Airport possessed dedicated cargo storage and handling facilities as early as 2012. However, Baykar likely adopted it as a primary transshipment center during 2019, when the Çorlu Flight Training and Test Center there became operational. The airport had certainly assumed this role by 2021. On 12 Jun 2021, a Turkish Air Force (TuAF) A400M transport flew from Çorlu to Northern Cyprus coincident with the appearance of the TB2 system in this disputed territory. In September, another A400M flew from Çorlu to an unknown location, probably within Turkey. Between July 2021 and July 2022, a series of chartered and military transport aircraft made flights from Çorlu to Azerbaijan, Niger, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, and Ukraine, all of which are TB2 customers.

Current Operations

Aircraft engaged in deliveries from Çorlu are known to frequent the commercial terminal on the southern side of the airport (see Çorlu section in Part I). Prior to delivery, UAS components are likely stored at the 3,500m2 warehouse operated by Odrap Air Cargo, which offers “fully computerized” cargo handling and is also conveniently near the airport customs office. This is the only such warehouse at Çorlu. The airport hosts specialized cargo equipment, including loading vehicles and wheeled dollies. As in deliveries to Libya, the aircraft and ground systems are likely disassembled, the former into wing, fuselage, and tail sections, and shipped in multiple flights to the customer.

Baykar likely prefers to separate its transshipment business from its Akıncı test operations as much as possible to improve operational efficiency. However, it is possible that Baykar handles some shipments directly from its test center or the adjacent military apron at Çorlu. An Il-76 or Il-78 transport aircraft was visible on the military apron in ground video footage dated 02 Mar 2022, indicating a visit from a foreign military or civil charter airline. Its appearance coincided with the time period that a Pakistani Air Force Il-78 was present at Çorlu and an interval (February to March, 2022) in which TB2 UCAVs were being delivered from Çorlu to Pakistan.

Especially sensitive items, like GCS, communications systems, or UCAVs themselves, may be stored within the secure Çorlu Flight Training and Test Center before delivery. A video of this area dated 08 Dec 2019 showed two TB2 GCS trailers parked within a rectangular compound of portable offices. The number increased to four by 25 Mar 2021, zero on 25 Mar 2021 and 20 Nov 2021, and between two and five on 09 Feb 2022. Alternatively, the equipment may have been used to support TB2 test flights. A storage building and hangar near the airport's military apron are also candidates for temporary product storage.

Deliveries of the Akıncı to customers within Turkey are likely conducted by direct flights. Two Akıncı flew nonstop from Çorlu to Baku, Azerbaijan on 21 May 2022, demonstrating the long range of the type. Akıncı UCAVs are likely to be disassembled for delivery to more distant customers, like Pakistan, in the same manner as the TB2.

Some social media sources claim that munitions, namely the Roketsan MAM-C and MAM-L laser-guided bombs used by the TB2, are also shipped through Çorlu. Akıncı UCAVs have conducted multiple weapons tests from the site, but no indisputable evidence of weapons transshipment has emerged. However, ground images of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 777F freighter being loaded on the commercial apron near the Odrap warehouse on 20 August 2021 (shortly after Ethiopia purchased the TB2 system) included at least ten containers matching the shape and approximate dimensions of containers used for the MAM-L in training footage of Azeri TB2s. An air shipment of a TB2 and its MAM-series munitions to Ukraine in July 2022 included identical containers.


Conclusion

Baykar has expanded all aspects of its operations to match its emerging stature as a key player in the global arms marketplace. Production of the TB2 UCAV was likely expanded by a factor of between 24 and 40 between 2014 and 2022. It has increased more moderately for the Akıncı UCAV between 2021 and 2022, likely due to the complexity of this system as well as the renewed outbreak of war in Ukraine. Training and flight testing operations, mostly ad hoc between 2004 and 2014, were systematized and localized at purpose-built facilities between 2014 and 2022. Baykar can now conduct comprehensive training for all of its products at these facilities. Finally, the company established an international air transport infrastructure between 2019 and 2022. As its export successes show no sign of abating, Baykar will likely continue to expand its operations commensurately with its infrastructure in the near future.

About The Authors

Owen LeGrone

MS Geospatial Intelligence, Johns Hopkins

National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

Methodologies Reviewed by NGA

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