It’s unusual for a weapon system to be the inspiration for a popular viral folk song, especially one with lyrics about eliminating “inventory” and “Russian tankmen hidden in the bushes,” but the Bayraktar TB-2 has a certain allure.
This Turkish aerial drone has proven to be one of the biggest “hits” of the conflict, at least for the Ukrainians, ever since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The Bayraktar, a one- to two-million-dollar weapon that has destroyed an astounding amount of Russian equipment since February, including ten helicopters, thirteen surface-to-air missile systems, seven armoured vehicles, 27 other vehicles, six naval vessels, and numerous other targets like command centres and fuel depots.
Given that the technology recognises targets and examines the environment before carrying out laser-guided strikes with pinpoint accuracy, it should come as no surprise that it has become an essential tool in the battle against Putin’s soldiers.
In the early stages of the fight with Russia, the Bayraktars played a crucial role in preventing Putin from capturing Kiev. Just a few days into the battle, they were in action.
The tanks were most notoriously ordered to destroy Russian fuel tankers in order to render the miles-long military convoy of tanks moving towards the Ukrainian capital useless.
An early victory for Ukraine in the crucial propaganda battle came with the images of Russian armoured vehicles that had been beaten and abandoned on the side of the road.
Turkish drones have a vital quality that makes them almost invisible to traditional air defence systems.
The newest generation of Russian-developed defensive missile batteries, the S-300s, can be avoided by TB-2s drones. According to reports, Turkish drones in the Nagorno-Karabakh war in 2020 in Azerbaijan not only avoided the S-300s but also destroyed them.
Numerous Pantsirs, a Russian-designed anti-missile system that has served as the cornerstone of defence against Western offensives, were also destroyed by TB-2s in Syria, Libya, and Nagorno-Karabakh.
Putin’s ambitions are actually being hampered by the Bayraktar, and it has been reported that Moscow is now offering a reward of 50,000 roubles (£800) for each drone that is destroyed.
Additionally, there have been rumours that Russia, which has an undeveloped drone programme of its own, is looking at Iranian drones in an effort to rebalance the “drone wars.” It has not yet been confirmed whether a deal has been reached.
Putin would undoubtedly swoon over the Bayraktar, but Turkey won’t give them to Russia. The Turks have maintained that the sales – and in some cases donations – from the maker, Baykar, are private concerns between the firm and the Ukrainians and have nothing to do with the state. In response, Moscow has appealed to Ankara that it should stop providing the Bayraktars to Ukraine.
Naturally, Ankara is overjoyed that a Turkish aerospace company is showing its worth. Drones played a rapidly expanding role in Turkey’s record-breaking $3.2 billion ($2.7 billion) in aerospace and arms exports last year, setting a new high.
Since the TB-2’s first confirmed kill in April 2016 more than a dozen nations have purchased Baykar’s UAVs during the previous two years.
Turkish drones are now regarded as the main competitor to the United States, the market leader, due to their significant impact in other active conflict scenarios, from North Africa to the Caucasus.
Turkish equipment also has the advantage of being less expensive than drones made in the US or Israel.
A high-ranking Danish official who was present at a meeting of US military personnel made a few enemies when he asked out loud how many TB-2s could be purchased in place of one F-35 fighter plane constructed in the US.
That is obvious even from the most rudimentary cost-benefit analysis: You get forty times more aircraft for your money with an F-35 costing roughly $80 million and a Bayraktar costing no more than $2 million. Additionally, they are much easier to repair and maintain than a fighter plane and its pilot.
The Russians are retaliating against the Bayraktar despite their low cost and efficacy.
The Russians shot down their first drone in March, and it stands to reason that they would have examined the debris and determined the drone’s operating frequency and distinctive electromagnetic signatures.
a result, the Russians would now be better able to target drones and jam their signals.
According to Professor Vikram Mittal from the Department of Systems Engineering at the United States Military Academy, “Given their limited supply of TB2 drones, the Ukrainian military is unlikely to fly them into areas where there is a high potential for them to be shot down, so they are limiting their usage in the Donbas region.”
As soon as the Turks can deliver more drones, the Ukrainians are replacing them. Up to 30 additional TB-2s have reportedly been purchased by Kiev, which will be very beneficial.
However, Ukraine might be next in line for the Akinci, a game-changing drone designed by Baykar that is 10 times larger than the 21-foot TB-2.
The Akinci is almost as dangerous as a fighter aircraft and is able to stay in the air for 12 hours when equipped with a 280-mile Som-J cruise missile, two 30-mile Teber guided-bombs, and a dozen more precision-guided miniature ordinances.
In the Turkish Air Force, five of them are already in use. According to reports, two client-states will shortly get their order, but it is unknown when any would be transported to Ukraine.
Additionally, the TB-3, a new generation supersonic drone, will shortly enter mass production.
Although the outcome of the battle is uncertain, it is evident that the world is realising that nations like the United States and Britain do not have the exclusive right to manufacture drones and other highly advanced weaponry.
Not at all. It is now hard to overlook the expanding role the Turkish defence sector is playing, whether it is on the Donbass battlefields or at NATO and even EU negotiating tables.