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Türkiye’s new, advanced drone camera undergoes 1st test

Türkiye on Thursday announced it had successfully tested a new domestically developed drone optical technology, the latest advancement in the critical system that had been for years imported from abroad.

The ASELFLIR-500 electro-optical reconnaissance, surveillance and targeting system, developed by Aselsan, was tested by the Bayraktar Akıncı unmanned combat aerial vehicle, which struck a moving target at sea, according to a video shared by the drone developer, Baykar.

The video footage showed Akıncı, the larger sibling of its battle-proven Bayraktar TB2 drone, utilizing the ASELFLIR-500 to destroy an Albatros unmanned surface vessel using smart ammunitions MAM-T and MAM-L, developed by Roketsan.

The electro-optic system is a more advanced tech compared to the Common Aperture Targeting System (CATS), which Aselsan had developed after Canada suspended sales of its optical equipment to Türkiye in 2020.

Ottawa suggested that the system attached to Turkish-made drones had been used by Azerbaijan while fighting illegally occupying Armenian forces in Karabakh, the Azerbaijani enclave Baku has since liberated.

The embargoed equipment included Wescam sensors used in Türkiye’s famed Bayraktar TB2 drones, also developed by Baykar.

Last month, Canada announced it had dropped weapon export controls on drone parts, including the imaging and targeting system, shortly after Türkiye formally approved Sweden’s NATO membership bid.

The freeze on sales prompted Türkiye to capitalize on the opportunity to enhance its indigenous defense capabilities and produce what Aselsan General Manager Ahmet Akyol this week said are top-tier alternatives.

The company not only filled the technological gap but also emerged as a significant exporter, with CATS being sold to 10 countries to date.

Dubbed the “eye” of the indigenous platforms, the electro-optical reconnaissance, surveillance and targeting system is designed for fixed-wing and rotary-wing airborne platforms, including unmanned aerial vehicles, helicopters and aircraft.

Akyol also revealed plans for further advancements, stressing plans for new equipment even more advanced than the ASELFLIR-500.

“ASELFLIR-600 is coming to make it even better. We will fly the ASELFLIR-600 this year,” he said.

First delivered to armed forces in late August 2021, Akıncı is Türkiye’s most advanced and sophisticated drone that has accumulated 40,000 flight hours. Its developer, Baykar, has sealed deals to sell Akıncı to nine countries to date, whereas Bayraktar has been exported to 33 nations.

Baykar is Türkiye’s biggest defense exporter, having made sales worth nearly $1.8 billion in 2023, out of the country’s total of $5.5 billion.

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