MERSIN, Turkey — Turkish drone manufacturer Baykar Tech on Dec. 14 conducted the first flight test of its next-generation unmanned fighter jet, known as the Bayraktar Kizilelma.

The drone is expected to be the air force backbone of the Turkish Navy’s future flagship, LHD Anadolu.

Selcuk Bayraktar, the technology chief at Baykar, announced the first flight with a video on Twitter. The test took place at Corlu Airport, approximately 80-85 kilometers (50 miles) west of Istanbul. The drone flew for 18 minutes and landed at the same airport.

“Today marks the maiden flight of Bayraktar #KIZILELMA, our unmanned fighter jet,” Bayraktar, the technology executive, said in the presentation video he released. “Our country has stepped into the domain of unmanned fighter aircraft, which is ushering the future of air warfare.”

The first flight was initially planned for 2023.

Baykar unveiled the unmanned fighter jet project (initially called MIUS) in summer 2021, and the Kizilelma was spotted on the assembly line in March 2022.

In September 2022, the company conducted the first engine integration test for the unmanned jet. As part of its ground tests, Kizilelma conducted a “taxi test” at slow speed and a roll test at takeoff.

On Dec. 3, the future unmanned combat aircraft conducted a jump test in which it did not actually fly, but the aircraft’s landing gear lifted off the runway for a few seconds. The jet moved from prototype to maiden flight within ten months.

Kizilelma is a private project Baykar has been working on with its resources for over a decade. According to the company, it will have a maximum takeoff weight of 6 tons, including 1.5 tons of ordnance, and will fly at a height of 35,000-40,000 feet. The initial prototype will fly at speeds ranging from 0.6 to 0.9 mph.

Kizilelma will be able to stay in the air for up to 4 to 5 hours and will be controlled by satellite via the SATCOM antenna, Baykar said. It’s powered by AI-322F turbofan engines from Ukraine’s Ivchenko-Progress company.

The jet will be outfitted with an AESA radar built by Aselsan and will be capable of launching indigenous Bozdogan and Gokdogan air-to-air missiles. For surface warfare, the future unmanned plane will be armed with SOM-J cruise missiles with a range of more than 250 km and Roketsan-made MAM family guided bombs for small attack missions.

According to the company, Kizilelma will be able to take off and land on aircraft carriers with short runways and conduct missions with internally carried munitions.

Tayfun Ozberk is a Turkey correspondent for Defense News.

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