Ukraine receives more armed drones from Turkey during Russia crisis

Turkish-made UAVs could show Ankara switch in support to Ukraine

A Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 armed drone. Victor Besa / The National

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Turkey sent a shipment of Baykar Bayraktar TB2 armed drones to Ukraine this week, Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said.

“New [drones] have already arrived in Ukraine and are on combat duty,” Mr Reznikov said.

Janes reported that rumours of the delivery had earlier circulated after Turkish Air Force planes were seen flying from Ankara to an airport in south-east Poland near the Ukraine border.

The drones significantly boosted morale in Ukraine throughout the early days of the crisis, drone warfare expert Samuel Bendett said on Tuesday.

Before the crisis, Ukraine officials said they had about 20 Bayraktar TB2s.

The country also entered deals with Turkey to buy more and ultimately produce key parts for a new, larger Bayraktar drone.

Stijn Mitzer, an intelligence analyst tracking destruction in the war, said the TB2s have taken out 33 Russian vehicles including two logistics trains.

But that is less than 10 per cent of Russia’s total estimated vehicle losses to date, Mr Mitzer said.

What Mr Bendett calls the “mythology of the Bayraktar” has persisted because Russia has so far failed to properly use its air defence systems and its air force has apparently failed to neutralise Ukraine’s air force and air defence.

“Russia doesn’t seem to display the very tactics, techniques and procedures that it’s practised for years and sought to perfect in Syria … [to provide] adequate cover to its ground forces,” he said.

“The fact that there may be surviving [Bayraktars] somewhere is an embarrassment [to Russia]."

The delivery is also an indication of a shift in support by Turkey to Ukraine, despite President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s silence on the crisis.

Turkey has also blocked Russian warships from entering the Black Sea to join the fight, in line with an international treaty allowing Ankara to do so during times of war.

Mr Erdogan’s son-in-law and one of Baykar’s top executives, Selcuk Bayraktar, denounced Russia’s “unlawful invasion” in a February 25 tweet.

And Selcuk’s brother Haluk Bayraktar, the company’s chief executive, posted an old photo of himself with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday.

He expressed his support for the defenders: “May the victory go to the brave people who passionately defend their homeland from invaders.”

It is not clear, though, how many drones were in the new delivery, nor whether such deliveries will continue as the war drags on.

Updated: March 07, 2022, 12:18 AM
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