Türkiye says ready to sell once-embargoed drone cameras to Canada
A Bayraktar TB2 drone is equipped with Aselsan's electro-optic reconnaissance, surveillance and targeting system CATS, in Tekirdağ, northwestern Türkiye, Nov. 6, 2020. (AA Photo)

Türkiye’s pioneering defense manufacturer, Aselsan, has said it is ready to sell Canada drone optical technology that has been developed domestically after Ottawa placed an embargo on arms exports years ago.

Canada suspended drone technology sales to Türkiye in 2020 after concluding its optical equipment attached to Turkish-made drones had been used by Azerbaijan while fighting illegally occupying Armenian forces in Karabakh, the Azerbaijani enclave Baku has since liberated.

Last month, it announced it had dropped weapon export controls on drone parts, including the imaging and targeting system, shortly after Türkiye formally approved Sweden's NATO membership bid.

The embargoed equipment included Wescam sensors used in Türkiye's famed Bayraktar TB2 drones. More than 30 countries, including Ukraine, Poland, Ethiopia and Pakistan, have bought the Turkish unmanned aerial platforms after their battlefield successes.

But Ottawa's decision came with a cost.

Months after the cancellation of export permits to Türkiye, Canadian electronic warfare systems manufacturer Telemus Systems Inc. filed for bankruptcy.

The freeze on the electro-optic system prompted Türkiye to capitalize on the opportunity to enhance its indigenous defense capabilities and produce what Aselsan General Manager Ahmet Akyol says are top-tier alternatives.

The company not only filled the technological gap but also emerged as a significant exporter, with its Common Aperture Targeting System (CATS) being sold to multiple countries.

"We have exported our products to 10 countries, with over 178 CATS cameras delivered. We are willing to provide the same product to Canada if they desire," Akyol told an event in the Aegean province of Antalya on Sunday.

Dubbed the "eye" of the indigenous platforms, the electro-optical reconnaissance, surveillance and targeting system is designed for fixed-wing and rotary-wing airborne platforms, including unmanned aerial vehicles, helicopters and aircraft.

According to Akyol, Aselsan's success extends beyond the CATS, with the development of an even more advanced electro-optic system called ASELFLIR-500, touted to be the best in its class globally.

"Our drone manufacturers have tested the camera, and it outperforms several well-known foreign products by 20%-30% in each channel," he noted.

"It has reached an exceptionally precise laser marking range, enabling long-range imaging and precise targeting. We are currently in the mass production phase and will soon deliver to our first users."

Akyol still expressed optimism about the future collaboration between Türkiye and Canada.

"Canada is a NATO ally. We consider the lifting of the embargo as a positive step. We are happy and proud to have developed these technologies independently. Our cameras are superior, and we are ready to serve everyone, including Canada," he noted.

Akyol also revealed plans for further advancements, stressing plans for new equipment even more advanced than the ASELFLIR-500.

"This is the level we have reached. ASELFLIR-600 is coming to make it even better. We will fly the ASELFLIR-600 this year," he noted.