Last week Turkey used its own Anka unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for the first time in combat, using the drone to reportedly attack and kill members of the terrorist organization known as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The drone used Roketsan MAM-L laser-guided mini ammunition, a Turkish weapon system, to kill five PKK fighters in the eastern Anatolia region of the country. The Turkish defense ministry announced the operation via their official Twitter account.

Turkey joined the steadily growing list of countries which have employed the use of weaponized drones to kill within the last few years. Jack Murphy reported on one such strike in November 2015 in Kurdistan, where locals said that Turkish drones could often be heard lingering overhead to spot and destroy PKK targets. The Turkish government only officially acknowledged the use of a weaponized drone in September 2016, also in a strike reportedly against the PKK.

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Dozens of countries around the world have already implemented drone technology to supplement their intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. There is a booming international market for the technology, and as the cost of acquiring and maintaining the systems drops, drones are finding their way into the hands of militaries that cannot come close to achieving technological parity with the United States. Nigeria has used drones to bomb Boko Haram targets inside their country, along with Pakistan, Iran, and Azerbaijan in various conflicts both internally and abroad. The number of countries that possess the technology without using it combat more than doubles, to include China, India, Ukraine, and South Africa.

Non-state actors like the Islamic State, the Donetsk People’s Republic in Ukraine, and a slew of Syrian rebel organizations have technically used drone technology in combat as well, albeit primarily in a surveillance capacity. ISIS reportedly used small commercial drones in the Battle of Mosul to drop hand grenades and other explosives on Iraqi forces fighting in the city.

Unfortunately, with the world’s longest running and most robust lethal drone program, the United States ceded all moral authority on the subject of drone strikes well before other nations had the opportunity to acquire the technology. The days of speculating on the use of drones by regimes of questionable moral integrity are gone. Now, all we can do is formulate counter-UAV tactics and technology, as the drone becomes a permanent fixture both on and off the battlefield.

Featured image courtesy of N13s013 via Wikipedia