The Turkish Land Forces is due to receive the first of six Karayel tactical UAVs following a series of improvements implemented by manufacturer Vestel Defence.
The company expects to deliver the first example of what had been known as ‘Version II’ but is now the baseline version of the Karayel by mid-year, with the following five by the end of 2013.
Now 6.5m in length and featuring a 10.5m wing span, the upgraded Karayel has a maximum take-off weight of 550kg, doubling its payload and endurance, to 70kg and 20 hours respectively.
Speaking at the IDEF exhibition in Istanbul on 7 May, a company spokesman said after the earlier version had been demonstrated to the Turkish armed forces, the army determined it needed a slightly bigger, more capable aircraft and placed an order instead for six of the upgraded aircraft.
Vestel is confident that should the army determine it needs additional platforms, it has the capacity to be able to increase production to one aircraft per month.
The spokesman noted that while there was early interest from international customers, the company was ‘trying to keep everyone calm’ until the testing regime had finished and the current deliveries are made to the Turkish armed forces.
Vestel also used the exhibition to publicly unveil the smaller Bora UAV, which it is using to derisk the avionics, autopilot and datalink communications of the Karayel.
The company spokesman said many of the critical technologies were first demonstrated on the Bora before being integrated with the larger airframe.
However, the Bora will also be offered to the Turkish Armed Forces as a training aircraft for operators moving onto the Karayel as well as being marketed as a stand-alone product.