New arms deal: Ukraine wants armed drone fleet from Turkey

Turkey is one of the few countries that manufactures, exports, deploys armed drones abroad and even at home. The unmanned offensive weapons could soon be manufactured in Ukraine. A jointly produced drone-bomber is also expected to go into series production soon.

The government of Ukraine plans to purchase up to 48 Turkish combat drones and with control stations for the military. Because the order is for a considerable quantity, the governments in Kiev and Ankara might conclude an agreement to produce the aircraft in Ukraine.

The information comes from an interview with Vadim Nozdrya, head of the state organisation Ukroboronprom, published by the Ukrainian web portal „LB“ on Monday. Ukroboronprom is the umbrella organisation of defence companies in Ukraine.

Türkish Operations in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Azerbaijan

The order is for the „Bayraktar TB2“, of which the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence under former President Petro Poroshenko has already bought twelve copies for 62 million euros. It can transport a payload of around 50 kilograms and remain in the air for up to 24 hours. The drone is manufactured by the Baykar company of Selçuk Bayraktar, who married into the family of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan four years ago. He is considered the founding father of the Turkish drone industry.

Half of the Ukrainian order has now been delivered. According to the government in Kiev, they were successfully test-flown for the first time in March. In July, the „Bayraktar TB2“ near the Polish border is said to have been tested with missiles for the first time. However, the Ukrainian drone fleet will only be fully operational once sufficient members of the Ukrainian Air Force have been trained in Turkey.

According to the state-affiliated newspaper „Daily Sabah“, the Turkish military alone has 107 „Bayraktar TB2“ in its inventory, where they have been used in several undeclared wars since 2016. The drone regularly flies attacks in the Turkish part of Kurdistan and in Northern Syria, operations were carried out on a large scale on behalf of the Tripoli government in Libya and meanwhile also for the military of Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh. In August, Turkey killed two commanders in Iraq with the drone for the first time. For deterrence, the Turkish Air Force has also stationed a „Bayraktar TB2“ in North Cyprus.

Joint production of new giant drone

In the event of an intergovernmental agreement to produce the combat drone in Ukraine, procurement costs could be reduced by up to 35%. Initially, however, the Ukrainian military wants to test the unmanned aircraft under domestic weather conditions.

A future contract would also regulate possible exports. For example, Ukraine should not sell to countries to which Turkey already covers. Baykar supplies the drone to Qatar, among other countries, and the government in Serbia is also said to be interested in purchasing. In the interview with „LB“, the director of Ukroboronprom also excludes exports to Azerbaijan.

Erdoğans son-in-law Baykar plans further drone deals with Ukraine. His company is about to start series production of „Akıncı“, a long-range drone that can be equipped with optical sensors, radar systems or technology for electronic warfare. Its engines are supplied by the Ukrainian company Ivchenko-Progress. In the armed version, the „Akıncı“ is designed to carry up to 900 kilograms of armament. Initially, the armies of Turkey and Ukraine are to be equipped with the heavy-weight, unmanned attack weapon.

Image: Ukrainian „Bayraktar TB2“ (Baykar on Twitter).

Autor: Matthias Monroy

Knowledge worker, activist, editor of the German civil rights journal Bürgerrechte & Polizei/CILIP.