August 3, 2021

Drones, the new flagship weapon of Turkish defense

Crowned with their exploits in Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh, Turkish drones are selling like hot cakes, gaining great success among the countries of the former Soviet glacis. After Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Poland, Latvia in turn plans to acquire Bayraktar TB2 combat drones, designed by the private company Baykar, whose technical director is none other than Selçuk Bayraktar, the son-in-law of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

On a visit to Ankara on June 7, Artis Pabriks, Latvian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, visited the premises of Baykar, where he raved about the high level of research and development of the Turkish defense industry. No deal was signed, but Pabriks touted the need for military cooperation on his Facebook page « constructive » between Latvia, a member of the European Union and the Atlantic Alliance, and Turkey, “Partner within NATO”.

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Two weeks earlier, Polish President Andrzej Duda had signed a contract in Ankara for the purchase of 12 Bayraktar TB2s, intended for a Polish army anxious to equip itself “Modern equipment”. “We are one of the best three or four” drone manufacturers, then congratulated Mr. Erdogan. “In terms of quality / price ratio, we are the best”, likes to repeat Ismail Demir, the boss of SSB, the government agency that oversees the national defense industry.

This satisfaction is justified. In less than a decade, Turkey has risen to the rank of the most important drone manufacturers, alongside the United States, Israel and China. Efficient and inexpensive, its UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicle) changed the course of three conflicts in 2020, destroying tanks, armored vehicles, munitions depots and air defense systems of opposing forces in several theaters of operations.

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In Libya, the deployment of TB2 and kamikaze drones of the Kargu type contributed to the rout of the Libyan national army of Marshal Khalifa Haftar, in June 2020, ruining its hopes of conquering Tripoli, for the benefit of the unity government of national accord of Faïez Sarraj, supported by Ankara.

In March of the same year, in Idlib, the TB2 destroyed several Russian Pantsir-type air defense systems, as well as armor and installations of the Syrian army loyal to Bashar Al-Assad, which, despite air support that assures him Russia, had to temporarily give up the reconquest of the last stronghold of the rebellion, in northeastern Syria. Finally, in the fall of 2020, these same TB2s enabled the Azerbaijani forces, supervised and equipped by the Turkish ally, to neutralize a good part of the Armenian air defense, artillery and armor.

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