Chad operating Aksungur UAVs

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It has emerged that Chad’s military is now operating Aksungur unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), adding to the growing list of Turkish-supplied military equipment.

Video released on 21 April showed a single Aksungur in Chadian markings taking off from Adji Kossei Air Base at N’Djamena International Airport, and Chadian Air Force personnel being trained in Turkey by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI/TUSAS).

TAI describes the Aksungur as being able to carry out day and night Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and strike missions with electro-optical/infrared and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) payloads, and a variety of air-to-ground weapons. Three hardpoints can carry 750 kg of weaponry, such as TEBER-81 and TEBER-82 laser-guided bombs, and L-UMTAS, MAM-L, Cirit, and MAM-C guided munitions. Chad’s aircraft have been seen with eight MAM-L munitions and what appears to be a Hensoldt Argos II electro-optical gimbal.

The aircraft is powered by two PD-170 twin-turbocharged diesel engines enabling long endurance operations up to 12 000 metres. An optional satellite communications payload can allow beyond line of sight operations. The Aksungur is 12.5 metres long, has a wingspan of 24.2 metres and endurance of 50 hours (without weapons).

A maritime patrol version of the UAV is available, and this is fitted with a synthetic aperture radar, Automatic Identification System (AIS), sonobuoy pod, and magnetic anomaly detector (MAD) boom. TAI is also working on fitting a lightweight torpedo to the Aksungur.

The Aksungur was developed from the combat-proven Anka UAV and has been in Turkish Navy service since October 2021.

Angola became the first African nation confirmed to have ordered the Aksungur, with TAI confirming the contract in March 2023. The Angolan deal appears to go back to 2021 when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in October that year Angola had asked to acquire Turkish UAVs and armoured personnel carriers. In October 2022, the Angolan government approved a $93 million contract with Turkish Aerospace Industries for UAVs, with the acquisition moving through Angolan public corporation Simportex.

Algeria was earlier reported as the first African export customer for the Aksungur, with Algerian media in October last year stating that the North African nation would acquire six of the aircraft, but this has not been officially confirmed.

Chad’s receipt of Aksungur aircraft comes less than a year after it received three Hurkus-C trainer/light attack aircraft and two Anka UAVs from TAI. These were unveiled by President General Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno in July 2023. MAM-L and MAM-C munitions were also introduced into service. In January, Chad’s Air Force awarded certificates to three pilots and seven technicians who completed qualifications on Hurkus aircraft.

In May 2023, TAI revealed that it had delivered two Hurkus aircraft to neighbouring Niger, which placed the first confirmed export order for the type.

The Hurkus is a tandem two-seat, low-wing, single-engine turboprop aircraft that was designed as a new-generation trainer as well as a platform for performing light-attack and armed reconnaissance combat missions. The Hurkus-A is the basic version that can be used by non-military customers while the Hurkus-B is a more advanced version with more sophisticated avionics.

The Hurkus-C is the armed variant that can be used for close air support. It is fitted with a forward-looking infrared (FLIR) sensor and can carry 1 500 kg of weaponry. It has been seen fitted with L-UMTAS anti-tank guided missiles, Cirit laser-guided rockets and external fuel tanks. It will also be able to carry bombs, 12.7 mm machineguns and 20 mm cannon pods.

The Anka-A first flew in 2010 and entered service with the Turkish military in 2014. The improved Anka-S entered service in 2017. It has a payload of 200 kg and can carry eight Cirit 70 mm rockets or four MAM-L guided missiles. The Anka-S can be fitted with a variety of payloads including Aselsan SARPER radar, Star Safire 380-HDL forward-looking infrared and satellite communications link. Endurance is 24 hours, with a maximum altitude of 9 000 metres. The aircraft is powered by a diesel engine driving a three blade propeller, giving a cruising speed of around 200 km/h.

Chad has received a variety of military hardware from Turkey in recent years. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s Arms Transfers database, the African nation received 20 Ejder Yalcin armoured personnel carriers (APCs) from Turkey in 2018 and 30 Nurol Makina NMS armoured vehicles in 2021.

Other recent deliveries include several Bastion APCs from France in 2019; 20 Ara-2 APCs from Nigeria that same year; 18 MCAV-20 and 60 Terrier LT-79 vehicles from the UAE between 2021 and 2023; and 28 David armoured vehicles from the United States in 2020.