No need to convince anyone about the commercial and marketing success of the Bayraktar TB2 drone. Regardless of how much you believe their success stories, the Turks were able to sell it all over the world. However, TB2 manufacturer Baykar Tech has much more ambitious plans.
From MIUS to Kizilelma
Plans to produce a large jet-powered combat drone began more than a decade ago with the launch of the MIUS program in Turkey. For a long time there were almost no specifics about its theme, the conceptual work probably did not go so well for Turkish engineers, because we saw the first visualizations only after 2020.
It was probably about engines, because the project was in full swing only when Ukrainian engines appeared on the poster, and cooperation between these countries began in the field of drones. As a result, on December 14 of this year, the prototype of the Bayraktar Kızılelma unmanned aerial vehicle, which corresponds to the old designation of the MIUS-A subsonic structure, took off.
Stealth with a Ukrainian engine
Powered by the Ukrainian Ivchenko-Progress AI-25TLT turbofan engine, the aircraft must be fast (around Mach 0.9), have a high payload, and short takeoff and landing capabilities necessary for use from aircraft carriers. It should also be a Stralth class drone with a reduced radar signature due to the appropriate shapes, materials and internal ammunition compartments. The weight of the drone should be about 6,000 kg, and the payload should be 1,500 kg.
The Turks immediately planned an ambitious development path for their construction. Next, a development version, Kızılelma-B, will be developed, which will receive the Ivchenko-Progress AI-322F engine and reach supersonic speeds. Kızılelma-C, in turn, should have two such engines. Meanwhile, the Turks are also planning to build their own TEI TF-6000 engine, which will eventually replace the imported engines.
The drone will be equipped with satellite communication, Turkish AESA radar by Aselsan company. Armament will consist of guided bombs of the MAM family known from Bayaktars, SOM-J cruise missiles and Bozdogan and Gokdogan air-to-air missiles. Unfortunately, I have not come across any information on what advanced autonomous systems the Turks are working on for this drone.
Instead… the F-35
The Red Apple, as the exotic-sounding name implies, is to be used on the Turkish TCG Anadolu landing craft originally intended for the F-35B. However, the exclusion of Turks from the group of customers of this aircraft meant that Turkey will use drones. First of all, it should be the future Bayraktar TB3, and secondly, Kızılelma.
The flight test itself went smoothly, the drone flew about 85 km in 18 minutes and returned to Korlu Airport. The Turks are certainly happy, especially since the first flight was scheduled for 2023. However, Ukrainian engines could be a concern, Ivchenko-Progress is based in the city of Zaporizhia, and both it and the city’s power grid could come under fire.
You may have a different opinion about Turkey, but it must be admitted that they are very consistently developing their own arms industry, regardless of possible problems, as I describe in the case of the Altai tank. On the other hand, Kızılelma can be one of the most interesting projects of this arms industry.