Tue, 05 Dec 2023

Ukraine's prized drone fleet almost grounded media

29 May 2023, 22:14 GMT+10

Kiev has lost almost all of its Turkish Bayraktar TB2s, according to Business Insider

Turkish Bayraktar UAVs were touted as wonder weapons, with officials in Kiev saying they would give them an advantage against Russia. One year later, however, only a few remaining units are being used far from the battlefield, and for reconnaissance rather than attack missions, a Pentagon-linked think tank analyst told Business Insider.

Ukraine purchased dozens of Bayraktar TB2 drones and used them to strike Donbass in violation of a ceasefire agreement at least once, even before the conflict with Russia began last February. Kiev also claims to have received an unspecified number of additional drones during the past year, despite Türkiye's official neutrality.

In the first months of the conflict, Kiev routinely claimed to have conducted successful strikes using TB2s, but by July, the Bayraktars became "almost useless," and Kiev reserved them for "rare special operations," Ukrainian pilots told Foreign Policy at the time.

Russian forces destroyed "more than 100 Bayraktar drones" in Ukraine, the deputy commander-in-chief of the Air Force, Lieutenant-General Andrey Demin, claimed in April.

As of now, the Ukrainian fleet of "once-prized drones have almost entirely been shot down," Business Insider wrote on Sunday, citing an expert in unmanned and robotic military systems at the Center for Naval Analyses, Samuel Bendett.

"As a relatively slow and low-flying UAV, it can become a target for a range of air defense systems that are well organized," Bendett said, adding that "once the Russian military got its act together, it was able to down many TB2s."

The Bayraktar TB2 is a design of Turkish company Baykar Makina, which costs around $2 million per unit. Ankara has touted the drones since 2020, when they were said to have helped Azerbaijan prevail in the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Turkish troops have also deployed them in Syria and Libya.

Responding to a prank caller last year, the head of the Association of Defense Enterprises of Ukraine admitted there was "more PR and corruption in Bayraktar than combat use," and claimed "they were all shot down within a week."

Earlier this month, a Bayraktar TB2 was destroyed after it reportedly went rogue over the Ukrainian capital, with a video showing the drone being taken down by a shoulder-fired rocket.

While pro-Ukrainian 'open source intel' accounts initially claimed it was a Russian Corsair, the Ukrainian military later admitted that they had to destroy their own drone after the operators failed to regain control.


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