Enter the Drone Carrier

Check out this depiction of Turkey’s prospective Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD), Anadolu, that showed up in a video this week.

The 25,000-ton/762-foot variant of the Spanish LHA Juan Carlos I, it had been thought that Anadolu would carry up to a dozen F-35Bs. However, as Turkey was exiled from the F-35 program, it is now thought she will be completed later this year with domestically-produced UCAVs such as the Bayraktar TB-3, an aircraft roughly equivalent to a late model General Atomics MQ-1 Predator.

If the Bayraktar sounds familiar, in 2020 Azerbaijan used a few dozen less advanced TB-2 variants of the UCAV to destroy Armenian artillery, infantry positions, and military vehicles including BM-30 Smerch MLRS, T-72s tanks, BMP-1 and BMP-2 IFVs, along with Osa and Strela-10 air defense systems wholesale.

The Bayraktar TB2, with a max takeoff weight of just 1,400-pounds, isn’t fast, pedaling around at just 120 knots, roughly the same speed as a Great War biplane. However, it can carry four laser-guided smart munitions, each capable of zapping a tank, and remain aloft for half a day. The TB3 is twice as big, has folding wings because it is a carrier aircraft, and double the endurance/payload. (Photo via wiki commons)

As the depiction shows Anadolu with upwards of 40 TB3s on deck with the promise of at least that many stowed below, it could point to a very interesting future for naval aviation.

There is no reason something like this couldn’t be done with, say, a surplus converted “roofed over” supertanker or Ro-Ro that has lots of dead space available to soak up hits from enemy weapons and only needs a tiny crew of mariners to sail the ship. Add the UAV technicians with the possibility that the pilots could even be remotely linked safely ashore somewhere, and the whole thing becomes very attractive with a light investment in treasure and souls. 

Can you say CVE + UAV?

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