The standard-bearer of the latest armed-drone revolution emerged last year on the battlefields around Turkey

Monday, June 7th, 2021

On the first day of the Nagorno-Karabakh War, Azerbaijani drone strikes focused heavily on Armenian short-range air-defense vehicles, and now, the Wall Street Journal reports, armed low-cost drones made by Turkey are reshaping geopolitics:

The standard-bearer of the latest armed-drone revolution emerged last year on the battlefields around Turkey, the Bayraktar TB2.

Compared with the American MQ-9, the TB2 is lightly armed, with four laser-guided missiles. Its radio-controlled apparatus limits its basic range to around 200 miles, roughly a fifth of the ground the MQ-9 can cover.

Yet it is utilitarian, and reliable — qualities reminiscent of the Soviet Kalashnikov AK-47 rifle that changed warfare in the 20th century. A set of six Bayraktar TB2 drones, ground units, and other essential operations equipment costs tens of millions of dollars, rather than hundreds of millions for the MQ-9.

The drone’s Turkish producer, Baykar, which started in 1984 making auto parts, boasts of more bang for the buck. Qatar and Ukraine are customers. Poland, a North Atlantic Treaty Organization member, said last month it would buy 24 TB2 drones. Several other NATO allies are interested, as well as countries in Africa and Asia, Turkish government and company officials said.

The TB2 drone gained international notice in the skies over Syria in early 2020.


Last spring, the TB2s helped turn the tide in the Libyan civil war for the Tripoli-based government, which is backed by the United Nations.

Turkey had sent arms in 2019 to stem an assault on the capital by militia leader Khalifa Haftar, who is supported by Russia and others. In 2020, Turkey increased military support. Improved drone tactics honed in Syria provided the upper hand against Russian-made surface-to-air missile systems known as Pantsir, handing the Tripoli government aerial supremacy. By June, Mr. Haftar’s forces retreated from Tripoli.

I was amused to see “honed in” used correctly there.

Ukraine signed a deal in January 2019 to buy TB2 drones from Turkey, receiving at least six so far, and Kyiv is in talks for joint production. A Ukrainian company is manufacturing engines for the latest Baykar drone, a larger model with a heavier payload than the TB2.

The country hopes the drones will discourage a repeat of the Kremlin’s 2014 invasions.

The TB2 was born of Turkey’s dissatisfaction with available models from the U.S. and Israel and its desire for systems under its control to fight the PKK:

Baykar emerged as a leader among several Turkish drone producers after spotting a niche in the early 2000s, said Mr. Bayraktar, the company’s chief executive. His brother Selcuk Bayraktar, who took advanced studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, came up with flight-control software and guidance systems while using off-the-shelf components.

During development, company officials set up a workshop at a military base to get a firsthand understanding, including from a colonel who took them to a patch of bloodied ground where, they said, Turkish soldiers were killed by the PKK.

In 2007, Turkey launched a national competition to supply mini drones, which yielded an order of 76 from Baykar. At the time, the U.S. wouldn’t sell armed drones to Turkey. Baykar developed the TB2 and gradually replaced foreign components with locally produced ones. In 2015, the company successfully test-fired a precision-guided munition.


  1. Bob Sykes says:

    The mess in Ukraine was created by the US-led coup d’etat the removed Yanukovich, Ukraine’s democratically elected President. We tried to kill him, too. Out of the ensuing chaos, still going on, Russia was able to recover control of Crimea and set up a pro-Russian enclave in the east.

    That has been the situation for going on 7 years. It is evident that Russia has no intention of invading and taking over a failed state, simply because of the economic costs of rebuilding it. The only way Russia goes in is if the US/NATO try to set up bases there.

    The recent US-led attempt to remove Belarus’ President is stupidity itself. If it had succeeded we would be involved in yet another general war in Europe, and maybe East Asia and the Persian Gulf, as well.

    The stupidity of our Ruling Class is unlimited. It appears we can attribute Covid-19 to their machinations as well.

  2. Bruce Purcell says:

    I don’t say America did any good, but it looked to me like ethnic Ukrainians stole back the good jobs from ethnic Russians, Russian ethnics objected, things got messy, and Putin stole back the good Ukrainian land. Thirty mile strip out from the big river, twice second-line howitzer range, and the whole Crimea so Sevastopol is secure.

    Yes, US color revolution weasels are clumsy and stupid enough to try to kill an elected president. I thought Trump might go that way, and he still might.

  3. VXXC says:

    You are correct that Turkey has jumped ahead of the world on Drone Warfare. I’ve been watching this since 2020. The Turks are now ahead of the USA, Russia, Israel, UK, et al.

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