A little over six years after construction started on Turkey’s helicopter carrier Anadolu (L-400), first helicopters landed on the ship’s flight deck as part of sea trials.
The Turkish defense ministry shared the footage on social media this week, after Anadolu began sea trials in June this year.
The footage showed AH-1W Super Cobra and SH-70 helicopters landing and taking off from the ship, as part of trials that are expected to be completed by the end of the year and ahead of the delivery of the ship to the Turkish Navy. In addition to the AH-1W and S-70, the ship is expected to operate locally-developed T129 attack helicopters.
Built by Sedef shipyard based on a design by Spanish designer Navantia, the landing helicopter dock (LHD) had been expected to be commissioned by 2021, but a fire outbreak in 2019 postponed this schedule.
Anadolu measures 232 meters in length and features a “ski-jump ramp” that was supposed to help the ship launch Lockheed Martin’s F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) fifth-generation fighter jets. However, the United States removed Turkey from the F-35 program over Ankara’s purchase of the Russian S-400 air-defense system.
With F-35B fighters no longer an option, Turkey decided to turn the LHD into a “world’s first” unmanned aircraft carrier. For this purpose, Turkish defense technology major Bayraktar is working on an unmanned jet dubbed Kizilelma.
The company completed first trials on the integration of Ukrainian engines with the unmanned jet in September this year before announcing the completion of first automatic runway taxi trials this week.
Kizilelma is poised to take to the skies for the first time sometime in 2023. By the time the system is ready for shipborne operations, Turkish industry will continue work on TB3, a folding-wing variant of the TB2 unmanned combat vehicle that gained fame during this year’s war in Ukraine.
Anadolu has a flight deck that spans over 5,000 square meters, and can accommodate up to 25 medium size helicopters. In addition to the flight deck, the ship also has a well deck through which it can launch landing craft for amphibious assault operations.