Turkey uses superior tech to deal heavy blow to Assad army

Turkey’s use of armed drones to strike Syrian government targets in Idlib, northwest Syria, has broken new ground by allowing aerial assaults in areas closed to larger jets, Middle East analyst Seth J. Frantzman wrote for the Jerusalem Post.

The extent of the damage wreaked by the drones has served as a challenge to Russia to step in and save its allies in Syrian President Bashar Assad’s armed forces, the Business Insider said.

Footage shot by the drones and published by official Turkish channels shows numerous armoured units being blasted from the air. Turkey’s Defence Ministry says its forces destroyed 100 tanks and 72 artillery units since a Syrian government assault killed dozens of Turkish troops last Thursday.

Turkey’s retaliatory strikes were launched from the air in a province that Russia, one of Assad’s main backers which has deployed air and ground forces to support the Syrian president, had designated a no-fly zone.

The weekend’s operation has proven the effectiveness of Turkey’s drone programme, which President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law Selcuk Bayraktar kicked into gear in 2005 and which has produced advanced drones including the Bayraktar TB2 and ANKA, both armed with Turkish-produced weaponry.

“Turkey’s widespread use of drones in Idlib, if the accounts are accurate, may be one of the largest concentrations of drones used in this manner before,” Frantzman said.

“The United States and Israel have used drones in widespread operations, but Turkey’s employment of them in Idlib may be unique and may herald a new kind of operational ability of drones to be studied by militaries in years to come,” he said.

This leaves Russia in the difficult position of weighing how far it can push its support for Assad, as thousands of Turkish troops are deployed in Idlib to help rebels push back the Syrian government forces.

Russian jets resumed air strikes on rebel positions, but have refrained from hitting positions with Turkish troops, the Business Insider said. Erdoğan is due to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday to discuss developments in Idlib.