Turkey’s low-cost armed drones are reshaping warfare - report

Low-cost Turkish drone technology is reshaping warfare across the world, the Wall Street Journal said on Thursday.

Turkey’s domestically produced drones have proven highly successful on the battlefield, inflicting significant losses on President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria, and giving Azerbaijan the edge over Armenia during their conflict last year.

The Wall Street Journal said this effectiveness, combined with their inexpensive and reliable qualities, have made Turkish drones comparable to the Kalashnikov AK-47 rifle, which became ubiquitous in conflicts throughout the 20th century.

Originally developed to combat the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Turkey has increasingly deployed the technology against more conventional armed forces to devastating effect.

Turkish drones shifted the military balance of forces of the conflict Libya by outperforming the Russian-made Pantsir surface-to-air missile system, one of a growing number of similar examples driving international demand for the weaponry, the Wall Street Journal said. 

Recent customers include Ukraine, which purchased 12 Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drones in October 2019.

“They allow us to deter Russian aggression or to retaliate if they invade,” the newspaper cited Yuriy Mysyagin, deputy head of the defence committee in Ukrainian Parliament, as saying.  

Officials in Ankara point to Ukraine as evidence of Turkey using drones to contain Russian influence. But the Wall Street Journal said there was growing Western concern over the implications of Turkey’s success.     

“The U.S., like a lot of European partners, is leery of Turkey’s drone exports and the aggressive way Turkey has been using drones in these conflicts,” Dan Gettinger, a researcher at the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, told the newspaper.

The Wall Street Journal wrote: 

 

Turkey’s drone sales have riled Moscow. Citing rising Turkish Covid-19 cases, Russia in April suspended most air travel between the two countries through June 1, starving Turkey of Russian tourists who visit during May holidays. Russia this week extended the suspension three weeks.

Mr. Erdogan told Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky during an April meeting in Turkey that Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to extend the flight ban unless Turkey pulls back from its drone sales and support to Ukraine, according to a person briefed on the conversation.