With the “TB2”, Turkey is becoming a worldwide drone power, now Ukraine is supposed to help in doubling the production.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selenskyj awarded the CEO of the Turkish defence company Baykar Makina the “Order of Merit First Class” on Friday. The award went to Haluk Bayraktar, the brother of Turkish businessman Selçuk Bayraktar.
The company of the two has been producing the eponymous combat drone “TB2” since 2014, which is being ordered by more and more states worldwide. Ukraine also received its first delivery last year, and the systems were subsequently used against the Russian invasion. There, they ensured successes at the beginning of the war, including, for example, the recapture of the Russian-occupied Snake Island.
In Ukraine, the “Bayraktar TB2” has cult status; nationalists even dedicated a song to the drone. In it, the Russian attackers are referred to as “orcs” and Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin as a “fiend”. In Lithuania, Norway, Poland and Canada, as well as in Ukraine itself, supporters eventually launched fundraising campaigns to finance more “TB2s”. Baykar Makina then decided to supply an additional combat drone for free.
At the award ceremony, Selenskyj and Bayraktar discussed further cooperation. Baykar wants to open a factory in Ukraine to assemble the “TB2” there. According to its own information, the defence company has now signed contracts for the delivery of the combat drone with 24 countries, including Qatar, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Morocco and most recently Serbia. Poland was the first NATO country to order the drone, while in Romania the planned procurement still has to be approved by parliament.
Only a few countries have already received the drones, because Baykar’s production capacity is limited to 20 units per month. In view of the high demand, Baykar wants to double production in the coming year. However, some governments are already using them, as documented not only by Ukraine but also by Azerbaijan and most recently Ethiopia, where the “TB2” flies in domestic attacks against Tigray rebels.
With the “TB2”, Turkey has also established itself as an armament and military power in the field of unmanned systems. Baykar wants to go even higher and has developed a long-range drone under the name “Akıncı” (“Robber”) with two powerful engines that can transport almost a tonne of ammunition. A year ago, the first specimens were handed over to the Turkish Air Force and Army in the presence of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan; by now, the military is said to have about 20 specimens. Originally, the engines for the “Akıncı” were to be manufactured in Ukraine, but the war has thwarted these plans.
As the “Kızılelma” (“Red Apple”), Baykar is also working with state support on an unmanned combat aircraft that is to make its maiden flight in 2023. It is stealth-capable and should be able to carry out a variety of military actions. According to current plans, the “Kızılelma” will be stationed on the aircraft carrier “TCG Anadolu”. The drone aircraft would thus replace the US fighter aircraft “F35”, which was actually to be procured for the air force. However, Turkey was excluded from the programme three years ago by the government in Washington after President Erdoğan announced the purchase of anti-aircraft missiles from Russia.
In addition to several “Kızılelma”, the navy also wants to station up to 50 drones on the aircraft carrier. For this purpose, Baykar Makina is developing the “TB3” version with foldable wings so that it can be parked on the “Anadolu” to save space. This would make Turkey the fourth maritime power in the Mediterranean and the first country in the world with an aircraft carrier with combat drones.
Image: Awarding the medal to Bayraktar (Press office of Ukraine’s president).