Drones in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict

Propaganda videos about the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drones in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict are circulating on social media. But what role do these drones really play in the conflict?



Several videos have gone viral on Ukrainian and Turkish social media channels in recent days, highlighting the benefits of the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone. Videos with English and Turkish subtitles claim the Ukrainian military has used drones against the Russian military on multiple occasions, with images of alleged Russian vehicles and equipment emerging. explode or be destroyed.

But exactly how successful the Bayraktar drones, commonly known simply as TB2, in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict have yet to be independently verified.

Ukraine has owned TB2 drones since 2019 and has purchased about 50 over the past 3 years. On March 2, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine announced that the country had purchased more TB2 and they were ready to go to war. On March 4, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Turkish-made drones are very useful to Ukraine.

As usual when it comes to arms shipments, Turkey did not comment on the matter. The world usually only knows the existence of these drones from media reports, when they are used in combat or if the receiving country talks about it.

TB2 is developed and manufactured by Turkish company Baykar Technology, founded in 1986. Up to now, the company has grown into a giant Turkish arms manufacturing corporation. The son-in-law of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Selcuk Bayraktar, is the company’s Chief Technology Officer.

According to the company announcement, they have increased their exports sevenfold between 2006 and 2021. Media reports say TB2 has been exported to 16 countries, including Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Morocco, Tunisia, Qatar, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan. Poland was the first NATO member to buy 24 of these drones last year.

TB2 has appeared in many places such as Syria, Libya and Iraq. Many analysts consider this drone a decisive weapon in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 2020.

TB2 has also recently been used in Ethiopia. According to investigators, a drone strike killed at least 59 civilians in Tigray.

TB2 is 6.5 m long and has a wingspan of 12 m. It can fly continuously for 24 hours with a maximum speed of 220 km / h. In addition, TB2 is cheaper than other similar drones.

It is not clear how many drones Ukraine actually has and whether Turkey will deliver all of its latest orders. But if Ukraine had all the drones it asked for, could this change the outcome of its war with Russia?

Wolfgang Richter, a retired colonel in the German army and a military expert at the German Institute for International and Security (SWP), does not think so. He noted that drones can only strike one target at a time, if the Ukrainian military has all the drones it has ordered, it could cause losses to the Russian side, but with ground combat, the impact of the drones on the conflict is limited.

The expert pointed out that about 600 combat vehicles are approaching the Ukrainian capital Kiev, and Russia is attacking Ukraine from four different directions. In addition, no one knows if all of Ukraine’s combat drones are still operational or if some have been destroyed.

Turkish calculation

Turkish President Erdogan has maintained good relations with both Russia and Ukraine for many years. Turkey has supplied combat drones to Ukraine but has purchased surface-to-air missiles, the S-400 system, from Russia.

Daria Isachenko, a security and defense policy expert at the SWP Center for Turkish Studies, said it would be more difficult for Ankara to maintain that balance in the future. Turkey cannot afford to maintain relations with Russia or Ukraine, as this would have serious security and economic consequences.

According to Ms. Isachenko, Russia cannot replace what the Western alliance provides to Turkey, but the West cannot replace Russia in Turkey’s calculations.

Although Turkey has invoked the Montreux Convention and blocked Russian warships from passing through the naval areas it controls, Isachenko does not think that Turkey will join the Western sanctions regime against with Russia, as this will severely affect the Turkish economy, especially in areas such as tourism, construction and wheat imports. Turkey imports about 70% of its wheat from Russia.

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