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Drone making mincemeat of Putin’s army: Turkish TB2 so loved by Ukraine that soldiers sing about it

It’s not often that a weapon system inspires a popular viral anthem, especially one with lyrics that talk about destroying “inventory” and “Russian tankmen hiding in the bushes,” but then it’s hard to appreciate the appeal of to underestimate the Bayraktar TB-2 .

Because since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, this Turkish drone has turned out to be one of the biggest ‘hits’ of the war – at least for the Ukrainians. Since February, the Bayraktar, costing between one and two million dollars, has destroyed an astonishing amount of Russian equipment, including ten helicopters, thirteen surface-to-air missile systems, seven armored vehicles, twenty-seven other vehicles, six naval vessels, and numerous other targets such as command posts. and fuel depots.

No wonder, then, that the technology has become an essential part of the war against Putin’s forces, as it explores terrain and identifies targets before launching precision strikes using laser-guided weapons.

A terrifying Bayraktar drone is pictured in a test center in Istanbul for shipment in July

A terrifying Bayraktar drone is pictured in a test center in Istanbul for shipment in July

Footage captured by a Bayraktar drone over Snake Island shows Ukrainian targets destroying

Footage captured by a Bayraktar drone over Snake Island shows Ukrainian targets destroying

The Bayraktars played a crucial role in the early days of the conflict with Russia, helping to keep Kiev out of Putin’s reach. They were in play just days after the war started. Most famously, they were sent to destroy Russian fuel trucks, rendering useless the tanks that had formed a miles-long military convoy en route to the Ukrainian capital. The images of besieged Russian armored vehicles left on the side of the road were an early victory for Ukraine in the all-important propaganda war.

A crucial feature of Turkish drones is that they are almost invisible to conventional air defense systems. TB-2s drones are capable of evading S-300s, the next generation of Russian-developed defensive missile batteries. In Azerbaijan in the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War, Turkish drones are said to have not only dodged the S-300s, but also knocked them out.

TB-2s were also used to destroy numerous Pantsirs – the Russian-designed anti-missile system that was the mainstay of defense against Western offensives – in Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh.

In fact, the Bayraktar is proving to be so troublesome to Putin’s ambitions that it has been reported that Moscow is now offering a reward of 50,000 rubles (£800) for each drone destroyed. In addition, there are also rumors that Russia, with a somewhat unsophisticated drone program of its own, is monitoring Iranian drones to try to restore balance in the ‘drone wars’. Whether a deal has taken place has yet to be confirmed.

The drones made in Turkey are so troublesome that Moscow offers money to destroy them

The drones made in Turkey are so troublesome that Moscow offers money to destroy them

Defense officials taxi a vehicle at an air base in Lithuania in July as it prepares to go to Ukraine

Defense officials taxi a vehicle at an air base in Lithuania in July as it prepares to go to Ukraine

Each costs about $2 million, just one fortieth the cost of an American F-35 fighter jet

Each costs about $2 million, just one fortieth the cost of an American F-35 fighter jet

Of course Putin would like to get his hands on the Bayraktar, but Turkey will not sell them to Russia. Moscow, for its part, has complained to Ankara that it must stop supplying Bayraktars to Ukraine, but the Turks have insisted that the sale – and in some cases donations – of the manufacturer, Baykar, are private affairs between the company and the Ukrainians. , and have nothing to do with the state.

Ankara is of course very happy that a Turkish aerospace company is proving its worth. Last year, Turkish arms and aerospace exports hit $3.2 billion – £2.7 billion – a new record, with drones a fast-growing part of that success story. In the past two years, since the TB-2 made its first confirmed kill in April 2016, Baykar’s UAVs have been sold to more than a dozen countries. Turkish-made drones have made such an impact in other active war scenarios, from North Africa to the Caucasus, that they are now considered the United States’ biggest challenger, the industry leader.

Another advantage of the Turkish kit is that they are cheaper than US or Israeli-made drones. At a meeting of US military personnel, a senior Danish official made himself some enemies when he wondered aloud how many TB-2s could be bought instead of one American-built F-35 fighter jet.

Even the most cursory cost-benefit analysis shows that this is a good idea: with an F-35 costing about $80 million and a Bayraktar costing no more than $2 million, you get 40 times more planes for your money, and they are much easier to replace and maintain than a jet fighter and its pilot.

Despite their low price and effectiveness, the Russians are getting their own back on the Bayraktar. The Russians shot down their first drone in March, and of course they would have closely examined the wreckage and identified the frequency it uses and the telltale electromagnetic signatures, meaning the Russians would be better able to target the drones, as well as be able to send jam signals to them.

“Given their limited supply of TB2 drones, the Ukrainian military is unlikely to fly them to areas where they are likely to be shot down, so they are limiting their use in the Donbas region,” said Department Professor Vikram Mittal of Systems Engineering from the United States Military Academy.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainians are replacing the drones as soon as the Turks can supply them. Kiev is said to have bought up to three dozen additional TB-2s, which will be of great help.

However, Ukraine may be a candidate for the Akinci, a Baykar-designed drone ten times the size of the 21ft TB-2, and a potential game-changer. When equipped with a Som-J cruise missile with a range of 280 miles, two Teber guided bombs with a range of 30 miles, and a dozen other precision-guided miniaturized ordinances, the Akinci is nearly deadly as a jet fighter and capable of taking to the air. stay for 12 hours.

Five of them are already active in the Turkish Air Force. Two customer states are reportedly awaiting delivery of their order very soon, although it is not known when one will be shipped to Ukraine. In addition, a next-generation supersonic drone, the TB-3, will soon enter mass production.

While the outcome of the war is uncertain, it seems clear that the conflict is making the world realize that countries like the United States and Britain do not have a monopoly on developing drones — and other technologically advanced weapon systems.

Far from. The growing role of the Turkish defense industry is now impossible to ignore, whether on the battlefields of the Donbas or around the negotiating tables of NATO and even the European Union.

Game Changer – Turkey and Erdogan by Erbil Gunasti and Daphne Barak is published by Simon and Schuster

Erbil Gunasti’s Weekly Analysis of Turkish and US Foreign Policy

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