Turkish-made Ukrainian drones clash with advanced Russian military – Reuters

A Bayraktar TB2 takes off. (Bayraktar)

WASHINGTON: As the unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to unfold, the Ukrainian military has piloted a Turkish-made drone that has drawn attention in recent years for its tank-destroying capabilities.

The Ukrainian Armed Forces Facebook page reported that its troops launched Turkish-made TB2 Bayraktars, a medium-sized tactical unmanned aerial vehicle capable of carrying anti-tank missiles, as the Russian military invaded in the early hours of Thursday morning. .

According to Baykar’s website, the TB2 drone can fly up to 138 miles per hour and can carry four smart rounds, or up to 330 pounds. It can also carry an ISR payload. The drone is approximately 39 feet long with a wingspan of 21 feet with an operational altitude of 18,000 feet. He also notably saw real-world action, giving an idea of ​​his abilities and downsides on the battlefield.

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The TB2 Bayraktar has been deployed in several conflicts in recent years. The Turkish government has used the system against Syrian and Kurdish forces in the Middle East. It was also used by the Azerbaijani military against Armenian forces in the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war, where the drone was known for its success in targeting Armenian air defense systems and tanks, equipment in large older part of Russian manufacture. But the result may be different against a more modern army.

“We learned from Nagorno-Karabakh that when countries have the capability to use armed drones on the battlefield and air defenses are less of a concern, drones can play an important role in anti-armour warfare,” said Michael Horowitz, professor. at the University of Pennsylvania.

But while the drone proved useful in the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and in Syria, it now faces a far more capable adversary.

Mark Cancian, senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, recently wrote in an op-ed for Breaking Defense that a conflict between Russia and Ukraine would provide insight into the usefulness of the modern tank on the battlefield, an aspect of land warfare that was questioned by some experts in the aftermath of the Nagorno-Karabakh war. Reuters, citing research from the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank, reported that Russia has 2,840 main battle tanks.

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“It’s different because you have two adversaries who have more sophisticated military than what you had in Nagorno-Karabakh,” Cancian said in an interview. “The Russians, of course, have an army that’s pretty much first-rate.”

Sam Bendett, a Russian military expert who works as an adviser to the CNA think tank, said that “the Russian military has asserted that Bayraktars would not necessarily be a big threat to a force like Russia, due to the radars of Russia’s advanced early warning, advanced electronic warfare capabilities and its layered air defense.

He noted that the successes of the TB2 drones in Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh have clashed with older Soviet-made air defense systems because they fly at low altitudes and are not designed for speed, which makes them more vulnerable to advanced air defense systems. The United States and its allies also provided Ukrainian forces with javelins to defend against Russian tanks.

“So that they could see Bayraktars from afar, they could identify him faster, and they could launch several types of countermeasures against him,” Bendett said.

Russian state media said on Thursday that its army shot down four TB2s, although claims of success in Ukraine on both sides of the conflict are difficult to prove at this stage.

Ukraine purchased six TB2 drones from Turkish drone maker Baykar for $69 million in 2019, according to Defense News, with the first drone delivered to the Ukrainian Navy in July last year. In October, the drone was used against Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region, the first time it has been used by the Ukrainian military in combat. The Ukrainian government has signaled that it wants to buy 24 more TB2 drones and has since agreed with Turkey to co-produce the drone at a facility in Ukraine, Defense News reported.

Over the past few years, according to a 2021 report on Russia’s military by the NAC, Moscow has studied the conflicts in Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh and learned about the challenges drones could pose on the battlefield. Since then, Bendett said, electronic warfare and counter-UAS training have been almost “synonymous.” According to a Washington Post report, the Russian Defense Ministry released photos of an anti-TB2 formation.

“They [the Russian military] are aware that Bayraktar is the most advanced tactical drone used by the Ukrainian military, and they have also learned and practiced how to deal with this threat,” Bendett said.

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