Turkey to Use Target Practice UAVs as “Kamikaze Drones”

Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) has begun converting the Simsek Training System into a Loitering Munition System, alternatively known as kamikaze or suicide drones, Temel Kotil, head of TAI revealed in an interview.

The Simsek high-speed target-drone program was initially launched in 2009 to provide the Turkish military with aerial target drones simulating aircraft and missiles for training purposes. The turbojet-powered high-speed drones were designed to be air-launched and reach speeds of 740 kilometers per hour (400 knots) at altitudes up to 4.5 kilometers (~15,000 feet). 

Up until 2020, the Simsek would be launched through a catapult system (image courtesy of defenceturk.net)

The drone successfully launched from the larger ANKA UAV for the first time last year, bringing the project to repurpose it as a cruise missile with “Human-in-the-Loop” (HITL) guidance capability closer to completion. “It can carry 5 kilograms of explosives, and it can fly around 100-200 kilometers when launched from a UAV. We produce 100 Simsek drones per year,” Kotil said.

Unlike traditional loitering munition drones, such as the Israeli Harop, Harpy, and Delilah, the Simsek better resembles an aircraft, possessing greater speed and agility at the expense of load capacity and range. It is also considerably cheaper to produce.

Integration into larger UAV systems such as TAI Anka and Aksungur can make up for the relatively limited range of the Simsek. However, its limited load capacity of 5 kilograms renders it ineffective against armored units and structures. It will likely be deployed as a decoy or against infantry and other soft targets.

The Simsek can be mounted on TAI Anka and Aksungur UAVs to increase their effective range (image courtesy of defenceturk.net)

Turkey has become a leading exporter of drones in recent years, rivaling established suppliers like China, Israel, and the USA. While Turkish enterprises profit from sales to various countries such as Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Qatar, and Tunisia, amongst others, the advancement in Turkish drone technology has enabled the Turkish state to win several geopolitical and military victories in Nagorno-Karabakh, Libya, Syria, and aid in suppressing insurgencies in its Kurdish majority eastern provinces.