Aside from the Javelins and the NLAWs, there’s another not-so-secret weapon wreaking havoc on the invading Russian forces in Ukraine, and that is the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 armed drone. It has had a successful campaign thus far, destroying Russian convoys comprised of armored vehicles, towered artillery, and of course, Russian troops.

It seems that these drones have exposed a large gap in Russian air defenses in Ukraine, leaving their ground troops and convoys vulnerable to airstrikes by the Ukrainian Air Force and the Bayraktar. The Bayraktar has had a notable following as several videos of it absolutely obliterating Russian vehicles have popped up.

So far, Ukraine has found an answer to almost everything Russia throws at it. Russian tanks and their makeshift anti-missile cages were not a match for Ukraine’s St. Javelin (and NLAWs) and soon Panzerfaust IIIs from Germany. Now, these Turkish armed drones are proving highly effective against Russian armored vehicles, making it a superb morale-booster for Ukrainian forces with its tactical success.

According to Oryx and its head Stijn Mitzer who specializes in tracking destroyed weapons in the Russo-Ukrainian war, the Bayraktar TB2 has destroyed the following vehicles and systems:

  • 1 unknown Armored Fighting Vehicle
  • 1 unknown communication station
  • 5 152mm 2A65 Msta-B howitzers, with one damaged then subsequently captured by Ukrainian forces.
  • 1 9A310M1 TELAR for Buk-M1-2 Surface-To-Air Missile System, two more damaged
  • 1 9A39M1 TEL for Buk-M1-2 Surface-To-Air Missile System
  • 2 9A310M2 TELAR for Buk-M2 Surface-To-Air Missile Systems
  • 1 9A39M2 TEL for Buk-M2 Surface-To-Air Missile System
  • 1 9A331M TLAR for 9K332 Tor-M2 Surface-To-Air Missile System
  • 2 fuel logistic trains
  • 2 Unknown trucks
  • 2 Ural-4320 trucks
  • 5 KamAZ 6×6
  • 4 KamAZ-6350 8×8 artillery tractor
  • 8 Unknown supply trucks

These drones are changing the way modern conflicts are being fought, with some capability to evade or avoid detection by modern surface-to-air missiles (SAM) and destroy them without retaliation. Take, for example, the Russian Buk-M1-2 Air Defense Missile System, a fairly effective and reliable mobile, radar-guided SAM system that has been deployed to Ukraine and has a reported cost of $120 million per battalion. Now, compare that with the Turkish Bayraktar TB2, which has a unit cost between $1 million to $2 million. We’d say that’s a fairly cost-effective way of eliminating your enemies without endangering your own soldiers. Talk about a cheap counter to one of Russia’s best SAM systems!

Although these drones have been highly effective, they are also highly vulnerable to more advanced SAMs, fighter jets, and helicopters. However, Russia’s failure to secure the Ukrainian air space has severely hampered their hunt for the drones, which has done considerable damage to its ground forces. Military observers and veterans alike would know that an invasion would typically involve paralyzing the opposing country’s air and missile defenses so that its air forces can come in and dominate the skies, providing ground troops with close air support to operate safely and limit casualties. Russia has indeed weakened Ukraine’s air defense systems to some extent, but this has been offset by the Russians dropping unguided bombs at low altitudes which has lost them aircraft to Stinger missiles, AAA guns and other air defense systems. Ukraine is claiming that it has downed some 49 Russian aircraft, 81 helicopters, and 7 UAVs.

However, this isn’t the first time that the drone has shined through times of war. It’s seen action in Turkey, Libya, and Syria, most notably for the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which helped lift Azerbaijan to victory where the Bayraktar showed its versatility. It was able to fight off and destroy old and obsolete Soviet air defense systems such as the 2K11 Krug, 9K33 Osa, 2K12 Kub, and 9K35 Strela-10 — all of which could not destroy the drone as the TB2 flew too high. According to Oryx, the Azerbaijani Bayraktar TB2 UCAVs destroyed over 90 T-72 tanks, 22 surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems,  60 multiple rocket launchers, and 186 vehicles. No doubt that the TB2 heavily played a vital role in the Azerbaijani win. Perhaps more impressive, the drone did not have to cross into Nagorno-Karabakh air space to successfully eliminate targets and was reportedly in friendly territory when it was in service.

Currently, Ukraine has reportedly received a new shipment of these Bayraktar TB2 armed drones, as revealed by Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov last week. Before the invasion, Ukraine reportedly received 6 TB2s from Turkey, with the total number of units amounting to some 20 drones.

“The amount of aid we receive is increasing. The number of countries providing this aid is increasing,” he reported. “New Bayraktars have already arrived in Ukraine and are on combat duty. There will be more Stingers and Javelins. Europe is becoming our rear and supplying everything we need for defense. We are on the front line of the free world,” he stated.
Defense intelligence firm Janes recently found that Turkey had delivered additional Baykar Bayraktar TB2 to Ukraine after rumors of a Turkish Air Force Airbus A400M transport aircraft was tracked, seemingly flying from Ankara to Poland last March 1.

It seems like the cost-effective, and formidable Turkish drone is here to stay, with Baykar’s executive Haluk Bayraktar publicly voicing his support for Ukraine through a tweet, where he included a photo of him and current President Volodymyr Zelensky.
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