Erdoğan lauds Turkish drone for aiding search for Raisi

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has praised the Turkish drone Bayraktar Akıncı for its role in locating the wreckage following a helicopter crash involving Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his delegation.

“Akıncı UAV took an active role in search and rescue operations upon the request of our Iranian brothers. Despite the difficult weather conditions, it carried out search and scanning activities in the region for 7.5 hours and flew a total of 2,100 kilometers,” Erdoğan told reporters after a cabinet meeting late on May 20.

The drone returned to Türkiye after successfully completing its mission, Erdoğan said.

A model produced by the Turkish drone manufacturer Baykar since 2019, Akıncı can fly at altitudes of up to 40,000 feet and remain airborne for more than 24 hours, covering vast areas.

Iranian search and rescue officials reported late on May 19 that they believed the helicopter had made a “hard landing” in the mountainous northwest reaches of Iran. However, adverse weather conditions, including dense fog and rain, significantly delayed the search efforts.

As the search intensified and proved challenging, Tehran requested assistance from Ankara.

“The importance of UAVs was once again revealed in the helicopter crash in which Mr. Raisi and his accompanying delegation died,” Erdoğan said.

“Currently, more than 50 countries from Africa to Europe use unmanned aerial vehicles produced by Turkish companies. UAVs play a critical role not only in the military field but also in natural disasters and search and rescue activities.”

Erdoğan highlighted Türkiye’s commitment to “meeting the needs of friendly and allied nations.” He noted that the volume of defense exports, which stood at $1.2 billion a decade ago, had risen to $5.5 billion in 2023, with the country exporting 230 types of defense industry products to 185 nations last year.

During the cabinet meeting, Erdoğan spoke on the phone with Iran’s acting president, Mohammad Mokhber, to express his condolences.

“Iran is our border neighbor, and the Iranian people are our brothers. We have been sharing the same geography for centuries and working side by side in peace,” Erdoğan said. “We have multi-dimensional cooperation in a wide range of areas, from trade to energy, from transportation to tourism, from security to the fight against terrorism.”

Erdoğan announced that the cabinet decided to declare a day of national mourning in Türkiye to share in the grief of the Iranian people.

“To date, in their most troubled times, Türkiye has given sincere support to its Iranian brothers and displayed an uncompromising stance on this issue,” he said.

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