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Saudi signs for Akinci UAVs in record deal with Turkey

The Akıncı will be operated by both the Saudi air force and navy. (Janes/Akshara Parakala)

Saudi Arabia has signed for the Baykar BayraktarAkıncı armed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) as part of a record-breaking defence procurement deal with Turkey.

The Saudi Arabian Minister of Defense, Khalid bin Salman, announced the buy on 18 July, saying it was the “culmination of the course of co-operation between the two friendly countries in the defence and military fields”.

While bin Salman did not disclose the number of Akıncı systems included in the buy, the CEO of Baykar, Haluk Bayraktar, described the deal as “the biggest defence and aviation export contract in the history of the Republic of Turkey”. The agreement also included co-operation in the fields of capabilities and defence industries, as well as research and development.

The 4.5 tonne twin-engined Akıncı UAV will serve in both the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) and Royal Saudi Navy (RSN), “with the aim of enhancing the readiness of the Kingdom's armed forces and bolstering its defence and manufacturing capabilities”, bin Salman said.

The RSAF is known to operate the Chinese-made CH-4B and Wing Loong II armed UAVs and is understood to be acquiring the domestically developed Karayel and Saqr UAVs as well. The RSN does not field any fixed-wing or unmanned aviation.

No delivery timeline was disclosed, but when Saudi Arabia receives its first Akıncı it will join Turkey and Pakistan as operators of the type.

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