BELGRADE, Serbia — One of the newcomers at the Belgrade Partner 23 defense fair was a Kazakhstan-based company that has purposely kept a low profile over the last year while developing a new explosive drone for the country’s armed forces.
Taharqa Technologies, a Kazakh drone startup founded a year ago, has lifted the veil off its new project, the NMD multirotor drone. The system, which remains at prototype stage, weighs 2 kg and has an endurance of 20 minutes.
“The NMD drone was developed for the armed forces of the Republic of Kazakhstan, as part of the country’s ongoing drone program, which seeks to field a wide variety of unmanned aircraft, including reconnaissance and kamikaze ones,” Tair Balbayev, chief executive of Taharqa, told Defense News.
The executive stated that the push for the national armament project began prior to the Ukraine war, and has accelerated in recent years. In May 2022, for example, the Kazakh border guards received hand-launched “Raven” drones from the United States to monitor their borders for terrorist activity.
The same month, Turkish Aerospace Industries and Kazakhstan Engineering also signed a license agreement for the country to begin locally manufacturing ANKA drones. This marked an key decision, as Kazakhstan became the first state outside of Turkey to produce these systems.
However, what has shifted is Astana’s ambition to build up its own manufacturing capabilities and mass-produce military strike drones.
In regards to the NMD system, the requirement from the Kazakh Ministry of Defense was weapon that can target enemy infantry with high-explosive fragmentation warheads. According to the manufacturer, the drone can penetrate armor up to 10 mm.
“Although realistically this will not happen within the next year, our goal is to be able to take the NMD model into production in the near future,” Balbayev added.
This is the first time the Kazakh company attends the Serbian arms fair, and the motivation behind its presence this year was to come to understand its positioning within the international market and secure potential funding.
Aside from drones, Taharqa is also designing gliding munitions to be used with combat aircraft to defeat air-defense positions. That weapon is slated to have an 8 kg high-explosive warhead and be powered by an electric motor to allow it to reach ranges up to 60-70 kilometers when launched from heights of 3-5 km, the company said.
Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.