Certification is a common hurdle faced by Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) that offer solutions in the aviation sector, particularly in their efforts to expand their businesses abroad. The Turkish defence and aerospace sector as a whole has yet to attain the necessary level of knowledge of certification requirements, as well as their implementation in corporate processes, to ensure the satisfaction of the flight and airworthiness factors that are unique to the aviation field. The collaboration model adopted by Unidef and Aeros in recent months aims to resolve this problem in terms of its results, setting an example for the rest of the sector.
The design, development and testing processes of aircraft differ from those of land and naval vehicles in various ways, with flight safety being the most important factor. Aircraft must be designed with high levels of safety, and applications and requirements that may be non-critical in land and naval vehicles can be vital in aircraft, requiring the strictest implementation of correct processes, standards, traceability and testing.
These applications and requirements may include many unknown issues and development challenges, and can lead to various costs, particularly among SMEs. It may thus be much easier for SMEs to operate in the aviation sector in line with the requirements if the right approaches are taken and appropriate business partners are chosen to work with. The cooperation between Unidef and Aeros stands out as proof of this.
Special Weapon Integration Solutions for Aircraft
Unidef has become one of the leading companies in Turkey in the field of weapon integration solutions for air, land and naval platforms, thanks to the successful projects it has undertaken.
The projects Unidef has completed to date in the aviation field include:
- Integration of M134 Miniguns onto AS532 COUGAR Helicopters: The integration has been completed and qualified for the AS532 COUGAR Helicopters of the Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) Fleet of the Turkish Air Force, and has been accepted by the user and taken into the inventory. The project is a global first; being is the first time a Minigun-type weapon has been integrated onto AS532 COUGAR helicopters.
- Integration of M134 Miniguns onto S70i/UH-60 BLACK HAWK Helicopters: Weapon integration works have been carried out for the BLACK HAWK helicopters of the Department of Aviation under the Turkish National Police and of a special union. In this solution, the support and the weapon can be retracted into the helicopter, preventing the weapon from affecting the helicopter’s flight performance.
- Integration of M134 Miniguns onto AB412 Helicopters: Unidef has also developed a weapon integration solution for AB412 helicopters to satisfy a requirement of a country in the Middle East. The solution includes an ammunition box that can be located either inside or outside the helicopter, along with an external weapon and mounting.
The systems integrated by Unidef onto AS532 COUGAR and S70 BLACK HAWK helicopters have, since entering into service, taken part in many exercises and operations of their respective end users, meaning that these integration works can now be considered combat proven.
Unidef continues to work on the integration of different weapons onto different aircraft, as well as on its land and naval projects.
A Dose of Aerospace for the Industry by Aeros
Aeros was established in 2019 as a design office offering engineering
services to the defence and aerospace sector. The company, which supports the
development, testing and integration of projects and final products in the
sector, has taken part in a number of programmes since its establishment.
The Aeros team includes professionals with experience in such critical engineering fields as systems engineering, structural design and analysis, avionics and electrical system design, aerodynamics, flight performance and aviation tests, and flight safety and certification. With over 100 years of aviation expertise in total, the engineering team has gained deep knowledge and broad experience that comes from being involved in more than 20 national and international defence and aerospace projects.
Aeros focuses mainly on collaborating with companies developing equipment and systems for aircraft, providing them with the support they need in the aerospace sector. Aeros’ services in this area include detailed supervision, job-specific training, in-house process design and improvement, and even the provision of engineering solutions for projects. As part of its activities, Aeros has equipped the organisations with which it cooperates with the aviation culture they need – with a dose of basic aviation design processes. Aeros offers its expertise in the engineering fields in which it specialises as a strategic partner to its customers in their aviation projects. As part of this business partnership, it offers effective solutions to its customers in terms of time and budget, offering solutions of high quality and according to schedule.
Aeros has contributed to the sector in terms of popularising the aviation culture in technology-based SMEs. Building on the experience it has gained in engineering and aviation projects, Aeros continues to work and to improve itself in its efforts to come up with design solutions that satisfy the requirements of the users of both military and civil aircraft.
In its domestic projects, Unidef comes up with solutions that meet both the project requirements and aviation standards, drawing upon its own experience, and the feedback and guidance of the end users. Among the company’s goals in the coming period are to integrate different weapons systems onto different platforms, and to increase focus on exports. These goals, however, demand a new approach to weapons integration.
Speaking about the company’s goals and its path for the future, Cem Kurter, Managing Partner and Co-Founder of Unidef, said: “Unidef always aims to deliver the best solution to end-users as a turnkey project. After designing our weapon integration system and applying it to an air platform, we are not in a position to tell our customers ‘finalise the airworthiness and platform qualification processes!’. We need to reach a level where we can work with the appropriate civil or military aviation authorities abroad.”
This is where the paths of Unidef and Aeros cross. Aeros provides aviation-related training, as part of its efforts to provide the necessary support to the sector. In its training, programmes it provides participants with knowledge and experience that will make it easier for them to develop their solutions in such a way that universal aviation processes and certification requirements are met.
Speaking about the training they provide, Serdar Çora, Co-Founder of Aeros, said: “As a design office, Aeros focuses on projects that involve engineering activities on aircraft. For us, the training and the effort we put into transforming company processes into a structure that can satisfy aviation standards are tools that pave the way for projects, and these tools ensure to work together. The aviation and engineering experience of our team also allows us to provide direct practical training.”
Training Completed Successfully
Aeros has developed a comprehensive training programme for Unidef that covers the design, testing and certification processes of aircraft systems. The training programme is applied over 24 full days, and involves approximately 3,500 slides, four case study analyses, a test instrumentation demonstration and hands-on training on an aircraft. Çora summarises the programme as follows: “Unidef has outlined what it needs and its future goals, based on the know-how attained from past projects. Using both our experience and our knowledge of the internal dynamics of sectoral companies, we have created a tailor-made training programme that is based on Unidef’s needs.”
This training programme, prepared by Aeros specifically for Unidef, was successfully completed in July, and at the end of the programme, a four-day workshop was held in which what had been learned from the training were demonstrated in a virtual project. In addition to Unidef personnel, officials from Samsun Yurt Savunma (a partner of Unidef) and UNIROBOTICS (a Unidef subsidiary) also joined the programme. Speaking about the training, Kurter said: “The training and knowledge we received from Aeros has carried us to a significantly higher level, and certainly met our expectations. Today, we can make plans for the future with a much clearer view.”
Collaboration to Continue with Export Goals
The collaboration between Unidef and Aeros is expected to continue to increase following this initial training. Unidef and Aeros, as complementary institutions within the aviation culture, aim to play a role as joint stakeholders in different projects in the coming period. In such collaboration, Unidef can benefit from the design office capabilities of Aeros in the projects it has been awarded, while Aeros can knock on Unidef’s door with work packages in its projects that require payload integration capabilities. The two companies share a common understanding of their business cultures, and are expecting to move very quickly from ideas to solutions.
The Path is Easy for Technology-Based SMEs
Kurter emphasized that their collaboration with Aeros is crucial for the sector: “This cooperation can be considered a historic step for the Turkish defence and aerospace sector, expanding its ability to take on aviation projects that are subject to certification. Breaking new ground is always a challenge, and Unidef and Aeros have taken the first step, but the next step will come very soon. As we keep moving together, we become even stronger. We find the opportunities we see ahead of us to be very exciting.”
Noting that this cooperation is a good example of attempts to bring technology-based SMEs into the aviation sector, Çora said: “With the cooperation of Aeros and Unidef, we achieved the first example of what we wanted to do. We now speak the same language and have the same understanding as Unidef – one of the leading technology-based SMEs in the sector. We are confident that we can create a stronger team by increasing the number of companies that operate with an aviation culture, and that do business with wise efforts, and so develop significant business volume for the sector, both in Turkey and abroad.”
The collaboration between Unidef and Aeros will continue with the development of the aviation and certification processes that Unidef will need, particularly in the export markets, as well as in different projects and fields.
Military Aircraft must be as Safe as Civil Aircraft
Aircraft and their subsystems must operate with high safety levels. Although this issue would seem to be more important in civil aviation, the safety requirements in military aviation are no different from those applied in civil aviation. There are many examples in history where heavy prices have been paid on this issue, one recent example of which related to the Nimrod Maritime Patrol Aircraft of the United Kingdom Royal Air Force that crashed in Afghanistan on 2 September, 2006. Following this incident, the United Kingdom established the Military Aviation Authority (MAA), as a leading example of the importance now attached to safety.