Turkey to replace F-35s with drones on carrier ship - report

Turkey is hoping to retrofit its first aircraft carrier to use drones rather than F-35 combat aircraft, Defense News said on Friday.

The Anadolu light aircraft carrier was originally designed to be compatible with the next generation F-35 fighter jets.

However, the United States removed NATO ally Turkey from the F-35 programme in July 2019 over Ankara’s decision to purchase the Russian-made S-400 air defence system, which U.S. officials said risked giving Moscow insights into the aircraft’s technology.

Defense News said Turkey was instead looking for ways to integrate the Anadolu with domestic made drones.

“To give (drones) takeoff-and-land(ing) ability on aircraft carriers, their structure must be strong because they are subjected to very high G-shocks. We aim to develop a new (unmanned combat aerial vehicle) UCAV that will successfully land and take off on LHD Anadolu in one year,” the news outlet cited Haluk Bayraktar, the CEO of Turkish drone-maker Baykar, as saying.

Bayraktar TB2 drones made by Baykar have proven highly successful in combat missions including Libya, Syria and the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, where they are credited with giving Turkish-baked Azeri forces the edge in clashes with Azerbaijan.

A Bayraktar TB3 is currently under development. And the new model could allow the Anadolu to carry between 30 and 50 of the armed drones, 10 of which could be operated simultaneously, head of Turkey’s Presidency of Defence Industries (SSB) İsmail Demir said, according to Defense News.

The Anadolu is expected to be launched later this year. But Defense News said changes to allow drone take off could now delay delivery of the vessel.