TAI's ANKA unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) program has produced and delivered finished products to the Turkish Armed Forces and is undergoing development for new, more advanced models. What does the future of the ANKA program look like?
So far, we have delivered more than 18 ANKA-S UAVs. We are also in the process of securing some export deals. Regarding development, our newest UAV ANKA-AKSUNGUR has twin engines but the same control system as the ANKA-S; hence, it was not a big leap to develop. AKSUNGUR incorporates some additional capabilities—it has more payload, uses bigger cameras, and has an improved rudder for better land observation. The ANKA system is mature, but we want to develop it further.
What new technologies does Turkish Aerospace's Gökbey Helicopter use, and what are your production and sales targets?
Gökbey uses the latest design, and is a lighter and stronger helicopter with new systems, including a transmission system. The company is going through the certification process and once that is completed by 2021, Gökbey will be really successful and will likely sell several hundreds of units. At present, Turkish Aerospace builds 25 helicopters a year, but once the new technology program is complete that number will jump to 100. Our objective is to be a key player. In 2019, it is not hard to build aircraft and helicopters, but to be a key player requires having a strong brand and good products.
TAI is producing the T129 under license from AgustaWestland, based on its A129 model. What additional capabilities does the T129 ATAK Helicopter have?
We have the license to produce it, but we are currently the only producers because AgustaWestland stopped producing it. The engine has changed from the A129 model, and the T129 is a new machine in terms of structure. The T129 ATAK helicopter is a great product, but our target is to produce a bigger version. For example, the current version weighs five tons and we are targeting to increase it to 10 tons, adding a bigger, better engine and replacing the 20mm guns with 30mm ones. The bigger model will be completely produced in Turkey. Given that we are able to design a new transmission, which is a crucial part, and we have new milling machines and so on, we can do all the process at the micro level easily.
The T129 ATAK Helicopter's export has been in doubt because of US export license restrictions. Why is it important to resolve it?
We are still working on this and since NATO countries have invested in the company, all countries should support us. There is no conflict with the US—it is just an ongoing process.
What percentage of Turkish Aerospace's revenue comes from making components for commercial airlines?
In 2019, our total revenue will be about USD2 billion, and a quarter of that comes from exports. We make about 30% of our overall revenue from the commercial side and moving forward our plan is to expand that to 50%. If we want to make money and reinvest in our company, we have to rely on commercial products because the market for defense products is volatile. Undoubtedly, our future will be in the commercial aerospace sector.
How will TAI ramp up production over the next 12 months?
We have been investing heavily on both the labor and the infrastructure side of the business. We have a great deal of construction going on and are ordering new equipment and machines. The important and difficult part is the labor. We are hiring about 1,000 engineers and technicians and training them. Finding the right people is not difficult but training them is. Our plan is to grow TAI's presence on the global stage. This is why we have offices in London and Seattle, and there are plans in place to open an office in Malaysia.