Bayraktar TB2: Turkey’s ‘killer’ UAV

The term Bayraktar TB2 has recently appeared in a slew of military-oriented journals and magazines. So, what makes this Turkish-made drone so unique?

On March 1, a video of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) piloted by Ukrainian forces shooting down tanks, armoured vehicles, and land-based missile defence systems was extensively shared on social media.

The UAV was recognised as a Bayraktar TB2 produced in Turkey. Infrared photos of Russian combat vehicles being targeted and attacked are shown in videos shared on Twitter. Bayraktar uses laser rangefinders and laser targeting capabilities, while the sort of ammunition used is unknown.

State-of-the-art weapons

TB2 is manufactured by Baykar Technologies, a part of Baykar Makina Corporation and is one of two prominent armed military drones of Turkey. It is about seven times smaller and lighter than the US military’s Reaper drone.

Its 12 m wingspan allows TB2 to stay in the sky for up to 30 hours per flight. According to promotional materials from Baykar Technologies, each drone can carry four laser-guided missiles.

However, the appeal of the UAV lies in its low cost but surprisingly effective benefits on the battlefield. With an estimated price of about 1 million USD, these aircraft have a range of about 150 km, hovering at an altitude of 7,620 m, waiting for the right moment to attack.

Speaking to AFP news agency, a rival company in the West of Baykar said that “Turkey has reinvented the Kalashnikov of the 21st century”, which means that the TB2 is comparable to the AK-47 rifle. , the famous automatic gun of the Soviet Union and still in use today in many places.

Bayraktar TB2 (in Turkish for “Flag-bearer”) has made a breakthrough in the field of intelligence, targeting and target attack.TB2 was developed in 2007, based on the prototype of the aircraft. TB1, at the time was still in beta and launched in 2009.

Bayraktar TB2 has set a world record for a medium-range tactical drone with a flight time of 24 hours and 34 minutes (at an altitude of 8km). In August 2014, Baykar Technologies first tested TB2 for military use and soon received an order from the Turkish Air Force (TAF).

In 2016, Turkey first used this UAV in real combat in Syria and then in Libya in 2020. TB2 was not appreciated at first, but after the successes in the first combat missions. , the Western media had to take a different look and call this one of the most powerful UAVs in the world.

Bayraktar TB2 manufactured by Turkey is a means of combat that “storms” on the Nagorno – Karabakh battlefield, bringing outstanding advantages to the Azerbaijani army, changing the war situation.

The Bayraktar TB2 armed UAVs caused great damage to Armenia, destroying at least one Russian-made Panzer-C1 complex, worth nearly 15 million USD; dozens of air defense systems 9K33 Osa and 9K35 Strela-10. The total cost of military vehicles destroyed in Nagorno-Karabakh exceeded $1.9 billion.

But TB2 is not undefeated. Some experts say that the Turkish UAV is just as vulnerable as a World War II aircraft, which can be easy prey, especially against the A-10 or the “Super” aircraft. Tucano”. During the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, at least 20 Bayraktar TB2s were shot down at various locations and in various combat situations.

“Sold like hot bread”

Thanks to the success of this UAV, Baykar Technologies’ reputation continues to fly far. In addition to selling 86 TB2s to the Turkish army, the company has continuously obtained many export contracts to many other countries.

In May 2021, Poland became the first European Union (EU) member state to add TB2 to its arsenal, when it purchased four systems with a total of 24 drones. In July 2021, the French daily Le Monde commented that TB2 “selling like hot bread”.

Meanwhile, despite purchasing General Atomics’ SkyGuardian UAV for $20 million each, the British Ministry of Defense is also considering to buy TB2.

However, it was Ukraine that proved to be the first customer to realize the value of TB2 and quickly imported them in bulk. In 2019, Baykar announced it had won a contract worth $69 million to sell six Bayraktar TB2 attack drones to Ukraine. In December 2021, Bloomberg reported that Ukraine ordered an additional 20 TB2 units from Turkey.

Ukrainian forces have used this UAV to attack separatist fighters in the East (also known as the Donbass region). Moreover, TB2 is proving to be superior in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

On this battlefield, the Ukrainian military uses TB2 for a number of missions, including reconnaissance and surveillance, suppression of enemy air defense systems (SEAD), destruction of enemy air defenses (DEAD). and infantry support.

According to Popular Mechanics, Bayraktar TB2 officially entered service in 2014, completing a total of about 430,000 flight hours, destroying at least 796 targets on five different battlefields, especially during the conflict in the Nagorno region- Karabakh 2020.

Pride of Turkey

For Turkey, a NATO member, the sale of drones to Ukraine is in line with its military interests, which is to maintain the balance of power in the Black Sea region.

According to Galip Dalay, a specialist in Turkish and Middle Eastern politics at the Chatham House Institute of International Affairs in London (UK), drones give Turkey a geopolitical advantage.

“Participating in conventional skirmishes in places like Libya or Syria is one thing, but using drones is another. Drones make Turkey’s work easier,” he affirmed

Although manufactured by a private company, the drone is also seen as an arm of Turkish foreign policy. Baykar Technologies chief technology officer, Selçuk Bayraktar, is the son-in-law of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Haluk Bayraktar, CEO of Baykar, said that countries such as the US, China and Israel have refused to sell armed drones to Ukraine. Meanwhile, Turkey is the only country that accepts to sell Ukraine this technology.

Currently, Baykar is working on a next-generation TB3 drone that can take off and land on aircraft carriers as well as land on smaller helicopter carriers.

The company is planning to launch its first TB3 this year, before the TCG Anadolu, Turkey’s first LHD-class amphibious assault ship, enters service later this year.

Ismail Demir, head of the Turkish Defense Industry Department, told local media that the TCG Anadolu will be designed to accommodate 50-110 drones, depending on configuration.

Not stopping there, Baykar is also considering expanding into the Asian market. Haluk Bayraktar once said: “China is not willing to sell drones to many countries in Asia, and we will give those countries a better choice.”

He also said that TB3 will be very suitable for Japan’s Izumo-class ships. These class ships have the shape of an aircraft carrier, but the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) classifies them as helicopter destroyers.

Baykar is not the only Turkish drone manufacturer. In November 2021, Turkey Aerospace Industries (TAI), another major defense company, reached a basic agreement with Kazakhstan for its ANKA (phoenix) drone.

Realizing growth opportunities in Southeast Asia, TAI opened an office in Selangor, a suburb of Kuala Lumpur in November 2021. Last month, the company also opened a large booth at the Singapore Airshow, showcasing drone technology and other key products.

Ozgur Guleryuz, CEO of STM, another Turkish defense contractor, said that his company will also attend the defense exhibition in Malaysia with a wide range of products, including a quad-rotor UAV. mobile suicide, with integrated artificial intelligence (AI) named Kargu.

Although reliable and accurate military drones were once the exclusive product of the US military, it can be seen that Turkey is also gradually becoming an important “player” in the market.

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