Kızılelma vs. F-35: In a daring initiative to establish its autonomy in defense capabilities, Turkey is actively progressing in the development of its indigenous fifth-generation stealth fighter, the Kızılelma. Positioned as a formidable contender against the US-manufactured F-35 Lightning II, the Kızılelma, also recognized as the National Combat Aircraft (MMU), emerges as a notable achievement by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI). This milestone underscores Turkey’s aspirations to emerge as a key player in the aerospace industry.
The Kizilelma’s Journey
Following its expulsion from the F-35 program due to the acquisition of the Russian S-400 missile system, Turkey has expedited the progress of the Kızılelma project. This endeavor seeks to address the vacuum created by the absence of F-35s, intending to equip the Turkish Air Force with an advanced, versatile stealth fighter. Anticipated to take its inaugural flight in 2023, the Kızılelma is scheduled for full-scale production in the latter part of the 2020s.
During an interview, Selcuk Bayraktar, the Chief Technical Officer (CTO) of Baykar Makina, a prominent drone manufacturer in Turkey, asserted that the Kızılelma supersonic unmanned fighter jet from Turkey would surpass the capabilities of the American F-35 and pose a significant challenge to traditional fifth-generation aviation. This statement was widely covered by Russian media.
“We plan to produce a supersonic version of an unmanned fighter. Kizilelma will revolutionize aviation; it can be used in aerial combat against classic combat aircraft. Perhaps, after the drone’s first flight, it would be wrong to compare it with aircraft used in many countries, but when it is fully ready, it will surpass the same F-35 in several respects,” Bayraktar said.
He additionally emphasized that the Kızılelma is classified as a fifth-generation fighter, comparable to the United States’ F-35. However, a notable distinction between the two aircraft lies in the fact that the Kızılelma is operated remotely, deviating from the traditional piloted approach of the F-35.
Kizilelma Vs F-35 Lightning II
The National Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle System (MIUS), known by the codename Kızılelma (Red Apple), represents a highly significant and strategic undertaking by Baykar. This initiative is particularly noteworthy as Baykar’s combat drones have already generated substantial global interest.
Turkish drones, exemplified by the TB2, have convincingly demonstrated their combat capabilities in conflicts such as those in Ukraine and Azerbaijan. This success has intensified the anticipation and interest surrounding the upcoming next-generation Kızılelma.
As per the manufacturer’s statements, the unmanned fighter jet is anticipated to undertake an extensive array of military operations, encompassing tasks such as close air support (CAS), missile offensives, suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD), and destruction of enemy air defenses (DEAD).
On the flip side, the F-35, produced by the American defense contractor Lockheed Martin, stands as a fifth-generation manned aircraft equipped with sophisticated stealth features. Functioning as a versatile multi-role fighter, it excels in diverse operations, including but not limited to suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) and destruction of enemy air defenses (DEAD), strategic attacks, close air support, air superiority, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR), and electronic warfare.
The Turkish Kızılelma unmanned aircraft is projected to have a flight endurance of five hours and achieve speeds of up to 800 kilometers per hour or Mach 0.64. Featuring a maximum take-off weight of 6 tons, the drone is designed to accommodate a payload capacity of 1,500 kilograms. Additionally, the manufacturer has disclosed plans to develop a supersonic variant of the aircraft.
Boasting a maximum speed of Mach 1.6, the F-35 stands as a long-range, supersonic fighter, maintaining this capability even with a full load of internal weapons and fuel. The aircraft is characterized by an exceptionally low radar signature, and it possesses the versatility to carry weapons both internally and externally.
The Turkish drone shows significant promise. As indicated by Baykar, the Kızılelma will be satellite-controlled through a SATCOM antenna. Its propulsion is facilitated by Ukraine’s Ivchenko-Progress AI-322F turbofan engines.
The aircraft is set to feature an AESA radar manufactured by Aselsan and will have the capability to launch indigenous air-to-air missiles, including Bozdoğan and Gökdoğan. Additionally, the forthcoming unmanned aircraft will be outfitted with Roketsan-produced MAM family guided bombs, designed for small-scale attack missions, and SOM-J cruise missiles, boasting a range exceeding 250 kilometers for surface warfare.
Designed for short runway takeoffs and landings, the drone is expected to have carrier capabilities. The TCG Anadolu amphibious assault ship, currently undergoing cruise tests, is slated to become its operational base in the future.
1. What is the Kızılelma?
The Kızılelma is a fifth-generation unmanned fighter jet developed by Turkey’s Baykar. It distinguishes itself with satellite control via a SATCOM antenna and propulsion by Ukraine’s Ivchenko-Progress AI-322F turbofan engines.
2. What are the key specifications of the Kızılelma?
The Kızılelma is anticipated to have a flight endurance of five hours, reaching speeds of up to 800 kilometers per hour or Mach 0.64. It boasts a maximum take-off weight of 6 tons and a payload capacity of 1,500 kilograms.
3. How does the F-35 compare to the Kızılelma in terms of speed and capabilities?
The F-35, with a top speed of Mach 1.6, is a long-range supersonic fighter known for its low radar signature. It can carry weapons internally and externally, showcasing versatility in various operations.
4. What weapons will the Kızılelma be equipped with?
The Kızılelma is set to be armed with Aselsan-built AESA radar and can launch domestic Bozdoğan and Gökdoğan air-to-air missiles. For small attack missions, it will utilize Roketsan-made MAM family guided bombs and SOM-J cruise missiles for surface warfare.
5. How is the Kızılelma drone designed for carrier capabilities?
The Kızılelma is engineered for short runway takeoffs and landings, a crucial feature for carrier operations. The TCG Anadolu amphibious assault ship, currently undergoing cruise tests, is slated to serve as its operational base.