Drone making minced meat of Putin’s army: Turkish TB2 so loved by Ukraine that the soldiers sing it

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

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, this Turkish aerial drone has proven to be one of the biggest “hits” of the war – at least for Ukrainians. Since February, the Bayraktar, which costs in the order of one to two million dollars, has wiped out an astonishing amount of Russian equipment, including ten helicopters, thirteen surface-to-air missile systems, seven armored vehicles, twenty-seven other vehicles, six warships and many other targets such as command posts and fuel dumps.

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

A fearsome Bayraktar drone is pictured at a test center in Istanbul ahead of its July shipment

Footage recorded by Bayraktar drone over Snake Island shows Ukraine destroying targets

Footage recorded by Bayraktar drone over Snake Island shows Ukraine destroying targets

The Bayraktars played a vital role in the early days of the conflict with Russia, helping to keep Kyiv out of Putin’s reach. They were in play just days after the war began. Most famously, they were sent to destroy Russian tank trucks, rendering inoperable the tanks that had formed a mile-long military convoy heading for the Ukrainian capital. Images of beleaguered Russian armored vehicles abandoned on the side of the road were a first victory for Ukraine in the most important propaganda war.

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

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

In fact, the Bayraktar is proving so troublesome to Putin’s ambitions that it has been reported that Moscow is now offering a 50,000 ruble (£800) reward for each drone destroyed. Furthermore, it has also been said that Russia, with its own somewhat rudimentary drone program, is eyeing Iranian drones in an attempt to restore balance in the “drone wars”. It remains to be confirmed whether an agreement has taken place.

Turkish-made drones are so troublesome that Moscow is offering money to destroy them

Turkish-made drones are so troublesome that Moscow is offering money to destroy them

Defense officials wheel a vehicle to an airbase in Lithuania in July as it prepares to deploy to Ukraine

Defense officials wheel a vehicle to an airbase in Lithuania in July as it prepares to deploy to Ukraine

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

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

Sure, Putin would love to get his hands on the Bayraktar, but Turkey won’t sell them to Russia. In turn, Moscow has complained to Ankara about stopping supplying Bayraktars to Ukraine, but the Turks have insisted that sales – and in some cases donations – from the manufacturer, Baykar, are private matters. between the company and the Ukrainians, and have nothing to do with the state.

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

Another advantage of the Turkish kit is that it is cheaper than drones made in the United States or Israel. At a meeting of American servicemen, a senior Danish official present made some enemies when he wondered aloud how many TB-2s could be bought instead of an F-35 fighter plane from American made.

Even the most superficial cost-benefit analysis shows it to be obvious: with an F-35 costing around $80 million and a Bayraktar costing no more than $2 million, you get forty times more bang for your buck, and they’re a lot easier. replace and maintain only a fighter aircraft and its pilot.

Despite their cheapness and efficiency, the Russians recover at Bayraktar. The Russians shot down their first drone in March, and of course they would have examined the wreckage and identified the frequency it uses and its telltale electromagnetic signatures, which means the Russians would be better able to target the drones, as well than being able to jam the signals for them.

“Given their limited supply of TB2 drones, the Ukrainian military is unlikely to fly them in areas where there is a high potential for them to be shot down, so they limit their use in the Donbass region. ”, says Professor Vikram Mittal of the Department of Systems Engineering at the United States Military Academy.

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

However, Ukraine may well be in line for the Akinci, a Baykar-designed drone that is ten times the size of the 21-foot TB-2 and could be a 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 as lethal as a fighter jet and capable of staying in the air. for 12 hours.

Five of them are already operating in the Turkish Air Force. Two client states are reportedly expecting delivery of their order very soon, although it is unclear when an order will be sent to Ukraine. Additionally, a next-generation supersonic drone, the TB-3, will soon enter mass production.

Although the outcome of the war is uncertain, what seems clear is that the conflict makes it clear to the world that countries like the United States and Britain do not have a monopoly on drone development – and other technologically sophisticated weapon systems.

Far from there. The growing role played by the Turkish defense industry is now unavoidable, whether on the battlefields of the Donbass or around the negotiating tables of NATO or even the European Union.

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

Erbil Gunasti’s week-by-week analysis of Turkish and US foreign policy

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