Turkey taking lead in drone technology - report

The main player in drone technology, controlled by the United States and Israel in early 2010s, is now Turkey, Francis Fukuyama, a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) said in American Purpose on Monday.

Turkey has developed its indigenous drones and used them in recent military combats such as in Libya, Syria, in Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as in its fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) inside its own borders, Fukuyama said.

“Turkey has elevated itself to being a major regional power broker with more ability to shape outcomes than Russia, China, or the United States,” according to the analyst.

Turkish company Baykar Makina, owned by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s in-laws, the Bayraktar family, is the manufacturer of Bayraktar TB2 drones that leads the way in the country’s drone technology.

The company is now starting to work on conceptual designs for a combat and plans to finish the design phase by 2023, analyst Burak Bekdil said last month. The combat drone will be powered by artificial intelligence, fly at an altitude of 40,000 feet, cruise at up to Mach 0.8, and will be able to carry one ton of ammunition.

“The most recent Turkish drones are quite impressive,” Fukuyama said, Bayraktar TB2 can fly for 24 hours and can perform both reconnaissance and attack missions, he said.

These drones were initially used in Syria in March 2020 in response to a Russian-backed Syrian attack which killed 36 Turkish soldiers, then in May, Turkish drones were used to attack an air base in Libya used by Libyan National Army of General Khalifa Haftar, and finally during the Nagorno-Karabakh clashes in last autumn, fighting for Azerbaijan against Armenia, Fukuyama said.

“It seems to me that Turkey’s use of drones is going to change the nature of land power in ways that will undermine existing force structures, in the way that the Dreadnaught obsoleted earlier classes of battleships, or the aircraft carrier made battleships themselves obsolete at the beginning of World War II.”

Military powers are trying to find ways to defend themselves against the drones and it is yet unknown whether the drones or “drone counter measures” will win the battle, Fukuyama said. “But it is possible that the world saw its last massive tank battle during the 2003 Iraq War.”

“Drones have done much to promote Turkey’s rise as a regional power in the year 2020. The country has now decisively shaped the outcomes of three conflicts and promises to do more of the same,” he said.