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Algeria tries to catch Morocco in drone race with Aksungur

The Algerian armed forces have reportedly closed the purchase of a MALE drone with a greater range, speed and payload capacity than the Bayraktar TB2 operated by Morocco
PHOTO/ Turkish Aerospace Industries, Inc.-  El ANKA-AKSUNGUR es un sistema UAV de clase MALE capaz de realizar misiones diurnas y nocturnas de vigilancia y de ataque con cargas útiles EO/IR, SAR y SIGINT

PHOTO/ Turkish Aerospace Industries, Inc  -   The ANKA-AKSUNGUR is a MALE class UAV system capable of day and night surveillance and strike missions with EO/IR, SAR and SIGINT payloads

The Algerian General Staff has approved the purchase of six Aksungur drones from the Turkish company Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI). Algeria is thus the first international purchaser of this MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) unmanned aerial vehicle, which is due to enter service in Turkey in 2021. 

Algeria is thus significantly expanding its drone capabilities with this heavy-lift UAV, designed for surveillance, intelligence or attack missions. The Aksungur, which the Turkish air force already operates, stands out, according to TAI, for its payload capacity, which is far superior to that of other Turkish drones such as the Bayraktar TB2, produced by Baykar and operated by Morocco. 

REUTERS/UMIT BEKTAS - Fábrica de Turkish Aerospace Industries Inc (TAI) en Ankara, Turquía
REUTERS/UMIT BEKTAS - Turkish Aerospace Industries Inc (TAI) factory in Ankara, Turkey

Turkey is once again shining in the sale of drones to emerging or second-tier international players such as Algeria, and once again demonstrates that it has strongly penetrated the defence market in North Africa. In the case of Algeria, it could mark the beginning of a strong commercial relationship between Turkish industry and Algerian forces going forward. Until now, Algeria has almost exclusively favoured unmanned aircraft of Chinese and Emirati origin. For its strike drone force, the Algerian air force makes use of a flotilla of Chinese CH-3A and CH-4B Rainbow CASCs and the Emirati Adcom Yabhon Flash 20 and United 40 drones, renamed El-Djazair-54 and 55 for their Algerian versions. 

It should be noted that, unlike its North African neighbours, Algeria has put considerable effort into developing its own panoply of drones, even if they have not been very successful. Despite a long list of projects, none of the Algerian-designed prototypes are currently operational. The Aksungur gives Algeria a chance to match the Chinese-made Wing Loong II CAIGs that the Moroccan FAR has, which some OSINT sources claim to have spotted flying over Morocco. Algeria also placed an order with the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group in 2021, which is not yet on Algerian soil. 

The new Aksungur is 11.6 metres long and 24 metres wide with a fixed wing. It has a height of 3 metres and an unladen weight of 1,800 kg. It has a payload capacity of 750 kg, which in the case of armament can be distributed over 6 anchor points. Its maximum take-off weight is around 3,300 kg. 
Two propellers propel the drone thanks to its PD-170 duel diesel engines. They enable it to reach a cruising speed of 250 km/h over a range of 6,500 km, up to 12,190 metres in altitude and with a range of 60 hours empty.  On a full charge, it can fly for an estimated 12 hours, according to the manufacturer's estimates. 
 
With this purchase, Algeria has decided to strengthen its strike capability, while neighbouring Morocco has a drone surveillance capability that already exceeds that of Algeria. Morocco began developing its UAV acquisition programme very early on, and thanks to the partnerships that accession to the Abraham Accords brought it, it has been able to make considerable progress along this path. 

PHOTO/ Turkish Aerospace Industries - ANKA-AKSUNGUR está propulsado por dos motores diésel PD-170 de doble turbocompresor que permiten realizar operaciones de larga duración
PHOTO/ Turkish Aerospace Industries - ANKA-AKSUNGUR is powered by two PD-170 twin-turbocharged diesel engines for long endurance operations

The Moroccan kingdom now has a fleet of highly capable Israeli-origin drones with operators trained in hundreds of hours of flight time. Morocco's unmanned aerial surveillance resources are supported by Israeli Heron drones, three of which are reportedly stationed in the Sahara. Three other Airbus Harfangs are said to have been bought from France in 2020, but there are no images to confirm this. Sources close to the Moroccan authorities have also announced the purchase of four Israeli-made Hermes 900s, which have not yet been spotted by OSINT sources or the media. The fleet is completed by an unspecified number of WanderB and ThunderB from the Israeli company Blue Bird, which are in the same situation as the previous aircraft. 

There is also no confirmation yet that Morocco operates the MQ-1A Predator and MQ-9B SeaGuardian from the US company General Atomics. If Morocco were in possession of these unmanned aircraft, it would make the Royal Moroccan Air Force the most capable drone force in North Africa.