the field of military technology is constantly evolving, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are playing an increasingly important role in modern warfare.
Turkey has recently commissioned its largest warship, the TCG Anadolu, which is being touted as the world’s first unmanned combat aerial aircraft (UCAV) carrier. It is a significant milestone for the country as the ship is the first in the world to have an air wing primarily consisting of unmanned aircraft.
The ship is a multifunctional landing helicopter dock (LHD) type amphibious assault ship designed to operate unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs), and uncrewed fighter jets, in addition to helicopters.
Initially intended to transport a fleet of helicopters and short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) fighters such as the F-35B, the TCG Anadolu was modified to serve as a light aircraft carrier for combat drones after Turkey was excluded from the global F-35 fighter jet development program. The ship’s air wing is expected to include Bayraktar TB3s with a short-runway capability and a variety of helicopters. In addition, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an emphasized that the ship would host many Turkish manned and unmanned aerial vehicles.
The Bayraktar TB3, the latest iteration of the TB range of assault drones produced by Baykar Technologies, was flown onto the carrier’s flight deck on the day of the inauguration. The TB3 is designed for ship decks and short runways and will become operational from this deck by 2024.
Moreover, the ship will be used as a carrier for various classes of armed drones, including the Bayraktar Kizilelma, a carrier-capable “unmanned fighter jet,” which will become operational by 2025. The Bayraktar TB3 has superior capabilities to its predecessor, the Bayraktar TB2, and will be used for exports in addition to its domestic deployment in the seas.
However, it is still necessary to thoroughly test the TB3, mainly to see how well it functions in naval warfare. The TCG Anadolu underwent minor infrastructure upgrades to enable drone operations, including the installation of drone control stations, a “roller system” at the ship’s bow, an arresting gear system on the deck, and safety nets for the recovery of smaller drone types. As the saying goes, “necessity is the mother of invention.”
Turkey’s exclusion from the global F-35 fighter jet development program prompted the country to rethink the development strategy for the TCG Anadolu and modify the ship to serve as a carrier of unmanned aerial vehicles.
While the TCG Anadolu cannot support classic warplanes, it can transport light and heavily armored vehicles, including tracked and wheeled vehicles.