The new Bayraktar TB3 unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) successfully completed its maiden flight at the Akinci Flight Training and Test Center in the Çorlu district of Tekirdağ, Turkey, on October 27, neatly presaging the nation’s 100th annual Republic Day celebrations.
The TB3 (dubbed ‘PT-1’) took off for the first time at 0830hrs (local time) and remained airborne for one hour, during which Baykar Defense was able to successfully complete system identification tests. Since then, flight testing of the TB3 has rapidly pushed forward, with the new UCAV performing a four-hour test sortie on November 2, followed by a five-hour flight on November 4 that saw the platform reach a speed of 130km/h (80mph). On November 10, Baykar revealed that the TB3 had completed its fifth test flight, in which the UCAV flew with its landing gear retracted for the first time.
In announcing the type’s first flight, Baykar’s Chief Technology Officer, Selcuk Bayraktar, said that the TB3 was “the first of its kind, boasting the ability to fold its wings and capable of landing and taking off from a ship.”
The TB3 is the latest version of Baykar’s Bayraktar UCAV family and was optimised to operate from short runways – its short take-off and landing (STOL) capabilities also making it well suited for operating from carrier decks. With Turkey’s ejection from the F-35 programme, the Turkish Navy's amphibious assault ship, TCG Anadolu (L-400), was left without its planned aircraft, and the decision was taken that the ship would become a drone carrier.
Therefore, the TB3 was developed as a naval derivative of Baykar’s combat-proven TB2, with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and light attack capabilities. The aircraft made its public debut in March 2023, but has been under development for several years. Flight testing of the TB3 aboard the Anadolu is expected to begin in 2024.