Ukraine to Buy 24 More Turkish Drones

Gulnar Abbasova Feature 13 September 2021
Ukraine to Buy 24 More Turkish Drones

A Ukrainian top military official has announced that his country is planning to purchase buy 24 more Bayraktar TB2 unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV) in the near future.

“One complex was purchased this year by order of the defense ministry. It is also planned to purchase four more such complexes (24 drones) for the needs of the Armed Forces, in 2021-2022. In addition, we intend to include such domestically produced drones in our arsenal, in the future”, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Lieutenant-General Valeriy Zaluzhny, said on September 12. 

Currently, there are 12 Bayraktar TB2 (Tactical Block 2) UCAVs in Ukraine's inventory being used in the air and naval forces. In their previous statements, Ukrainian authorities set an upper limit on how many Bayraktar TB2s should be purchased at 48 units.

The delivery of such a number of combat drones can be realized in just a few years. At the same time, experts do not exclude that Ukraine might to use Bayraktar TB2 drones in Donbass and Crimea against Russia in the future.

“We must take a comprehensive approach to the issue,” Zaluzhny said, addind that if Ukraine had the experience of Azerbaijan, which gained significant leverage over Armenian forces during the recent conflict over the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh, “it would be much easier.”

The Armenian forces in the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region who relied on tanks, artillery and missiles were "easy targets". Several analysts used drone footage to document the Armenian losses, tallying at least 185 battle tanks

The Ukrainian state-run armament agency Ukrspetsproekt signed an agreement worth $69 million with Baykar Makina, a privately owned Turkish drone maker, for the supply of six Bayraktar TB2 UCAVs, two control stations and 200 smart ammunitions in January 2019. Baykar delivered the orders in two months. 

The Ukrainian navy received the first batch of Bayraktar TB2s in mid-July. The UCAVs were ordered from Baykar Defense, one of the two top drone makers in Turkey. Ukraine had ordered the UCAVs and Turkish MILGEM (National Ship) Ada-class corvettes at the end of 2020. 

Most recently, Selchuk Bayraktar, chief technology officer (CTO) of Baykar said the Bayraktar TB2 UCAV has been seeing unprecedented demand from around the world following its deployment in military operations. “This interest has increased greatly particularly following the operations in Idlib and Nagorno-Karabakh (September – November 2020).” 

“There are more than 10 contracts signed so far. Exports of some of these have already been done,” he added.

The Bayraktar TB2 participated in Turkey’s Operation Spring Shield, Operation Olive Branch, Operation Euphrates Shield in Syria. The drones had devastated Bashar Assad regime ground forces during clashes in Idlib province in February-March 2020. They also gave air support to Turkey’s ally in Libya and guided airstrikes that assassinated senior leaders of the PKK terrorist group over the last two years.

In 2020, drone magnate Baykar recorded an astonishing $360 million in exports. In May 2021, Poland became the first European Union and NATO member state to acquire drones from Turkey. Poland will buy 24 Bayraktar TB2 drones from the private Baykar company. 

Other European countries, including Latvia, Hungary, Albania, Belarus, the United Kingdom, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic, are all said to be among potential customers of the UAVs. The Gulf country of Saudi Arabia is also said to have been interested in buying Turkish drones.  

In March 2018, the Baykar Makina company signed an agreement to export six drones to Qatar's armed forces. Under the agreement, six Bayraktar TB2 armed UAV Platforms, three ground control station systems and equipment, and a UAV training simulator will be delivered within a year. After delivering the UAVs, Baykar was set to train Qatar armed forces personnel and provide logistical and technical support. 

The Bayraktar TB2 was developed for tactical reconnaissance and surveillance missions and it can also carry ammo, do assaults, and has laser target acquisition. With its sensors, it can operate at both day and night. Turkey's domestically developed drone has also proven its capabilities overseas, having set a new 27-hour flight record during a demo flight in Kuwait in 2019. 

Now, the Akıncı UCAV is the most advanced and sophisticated drone built by the Turkish defense industry to date. “There is a lot of interest in it (Akıncı), too,” Selchuk Bayraktar said. “We have not yet responded to those requests because we waited to deliver and qualify our aircraft.”