Turkey’s Bayraktar drones have played a “game-changing” role in modern warfare in the Middle East and North Africa, British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said on Wednesday.
During a virtual gathering of the Air and Space Power Conference, the top defence official highlighted the success of Bayraktar TB-2 UAVs in neighbouring Syria and Libya, two war-torn countries Turkey has a military presence in.
“Look how Turkey has been operating in Libya where it has used Bayraktar TB-2 UAVs since mid-2019,’’ Wallace said. “Those UAVs have conducted intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and targeting operations against frontlines, supply lines and logistics bases.’’
And in Syria, Turkey has used “lightly armed drones and smart ammunition to stop tanks, armoured cars and air defence systems in their tracks”, he said.
In December 2019, Turkey stepped up its military support for Libya’s internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), with its supply of armed Bayraktar drones, turning the tide in the GNA’s war against rival faction, the Libyan National Army.
In Syria, Turkey backs the Syrian National Army, which consists of several Syrian rebel militias and has taken part in Ankara’s major military offensives into Kurdish-majority parts of the country targeting Kurdish forces.
Syrian government forces have suffered losses including “3000 soldiers, 151 tanks, eight helicopters, three drones, three fighter jets vehicles and trucks, eight aerial defence systems and one headquarters among other military equipment and facilities”, Wallace said.
“Even if only half of these claims are true, the implications are game changing,’’ he added.
Selçuk Bayraktar, the son-in-law of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is the technical director of Baykar Makina, a family-run business that sells TB2 UAV drones to the Turkish military.
Production of the Bayraktar TB2, which can be armed with long-range anti-tank missile under its wings, began in December 2011 following a contract with the Turkish military.