How Turkey Became A Drone Superpower – OpEd


Turkey’s advancements in defense technology, particularly the Bayraktar TB-2 drone, have played a pivotal role in conflicts such as the war between Russia and Ukraine. Turkey has also emerged as the largest exporter of drones since 2018, highlighting the importance of drone technology for its defense and projection on the international stage. The development of its own drone technology by Turkish Aerospace Industries and Baykar has allowed Turkey to overcome challenges in acquiring drones from other countries and has positioned Turkey as a key player in global politics. Furthermore, the success of Turkish drones in conflicts like Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh has outperformed drones from the US, Israel, and China, reshaping global geopolitics.

Turkey’s emergence as a strong drone superpower can be attributed to its advancements in defense technology. The Bayraktar TB-2 drone played a crucial role in the war between Russia and Ukraine, where it targeted Russian tanks with precision. Turkey has also become the largest exporter of drones in the world since 2018. Drones are important for Turkey’s defense and projection at the international level. Turkey’s use of drones in its conflict with the Kurdish militant separatist movement, PKK, highlights the significance of drone technology for Turkey’s national security. Overall, Turkey’s advancements in drone technology have positioned it as a key player in global politics and geopolitics.

Turkey’s development of its own drone technology after facing challenges with acquiring drones from other countries. The Turkish government turned to drones to track rebels in difficult-to-reach areas but faced issues with delays in delivery and concerns about foreign control. As a result, Turkish Aerospace Industries and Baykar played a crucial role in manufacturing armed drones for the Turkish military. These drones, such as the Bayraktar TB2, proved to be highly effective in intelligence gathering, surveillance, and targeted strikes against various insurgent groups within and outside of Turkey. The success of Turkish drones in warfare was evident during clashes with the Syrian army in Idlib province, where the drones inflicted heavy losses on Syrian forces.

Turkish drones have emerged as a formidable force in conflicts such as Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh, outperforming drones from the US, Israel, and China. While the US and Israel have restrictions on exporting their drones, Turkey has been able to capitalize on the global demand due to its affordable and technologically advanced drones. Turkey’s strategic location and membership in NATO have also helped in forging defense agreements with other countries. The success of Turkish drones in real-world battles has further enhanced their reputation. Additionally, Turkey’s self-sufficiency in drone production, with most parts being locally manufactured, reduces dependence on foreign suppliers. Overall, Turkey’s drone industry has become a source of national pride and has reshaped global geopolitics.

it is worth highlighting that Pakistan has made progress in the local production of drones, specifically the ‘Baraq’ and ‘Shahpar’ models, which are capable of surveillance and precision strikes at high altitudes. The advancement of drone technology is crucial for a country’s defense capabilities and its influence in global politics. It allows nations to assert their power, protect their borders, and potentially shape the dynamics of international relations.

Initially, Turkey relied on purchasing drones from Israel, but after being barred from purchasing American Reaper drones, they were forced to start producing their own. This led to the development of the TB2 UAV, which became their most recognizable and famous drone. The tb2 proved to be a cheap but effective option, and it saw extensive use in anti-insurgency and anti-terrorist operations within Turkey. It also had its first foreign deployment in Libya, where it collided with Russian interests, exposing some of its limitations. However, modifications were made to extend its range, allowing it to continue proving itself as a viable weapon.

The various engagements in which Turkey’s drones, particularly the TB2, played a significant role. It highlights TB2’s involvement in the conflict in Western Libya, Northern Syria, and Nagorno-Karabakh, where it proved to be devastating for the opposing forces. The TB2’s success in these conflicts gained its fame and recognition, often being compared to renowned drones like the American Reaper and the Chinese Longhorn 2. Furthermore, TB2’s crucial role in Azerbaijan’s victory in the conflict against Armenia, where it helped overrun Armenian defenses and reclaim lost territory. Moreover, TB2 is involved in the Russian invasion of Ukraine and emphasizes how drones played a significant role in the early stages of the war.

The TB2 drone during the Battle of Kyiv. As Russia attempted to penetrate the defenses around Kyiv, they faced a desperate need for supplies. Due to their reliance on railways for transport and the lack of major railways in the region, Russia had to use convoys on the roads to supply their units in Ukraine. However, the TB2 proved its viability by continuously hitting and destroying Russian SAM systems, artillery pieces, tanks, and other equipment. The TB2 also aided in attacks on Russian convoys in other regions, further solidifying Turkey’s reputation as a drone power. The success of the TB2 has led to its adoption by several other countries, cementing Turkey’s position in global affairs as a major drone manufacturer.

Muhammad Shahzad Akram

Muhammad Shahzad Akram is a researcher at CISS-AJK. He holds an MPhil degree in International Relations from Quaid I Azam University, Islamabad.

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