The Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan has finally managed to gain the upper hand over Tajikistan in an ongoing border dispute. At the end of 2021, he obtained three highly coveted Turkish Bayraktar TB2 unmanned aerial combat drones, armed with precision missiles that could eliminate any encroaching armor. This, officials assured the public, would help repel any incursion by its neighbour.

But not so fast.

A few months later, Turkey agreed to sell the same drones to Tajikistan, offering Dushanbe potential parity in any new military encounters. Outraged officials in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, telephoned Ankara.

“They said it was just business,” Kyrgyz Deputy Foreign Minister Jeenbek Kulubayev told lawmakers in April.

Turkey has eclipsed China as the world’s largest exporter of armed drones, advanced weapons that have tipped the balance of power in several wars, including the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The Bayraktar TB2, manufactured by Istanbul-based Baykar Aviation, has become so famous in Ukraine that it very well could have become the world’s first and only weapon of war with a catchy music video dedicated to it.

“Their arguments are all kinds of weapons – mighty rockets, iron machines,” the lyrics say. “We have an answer to all arguments: Bayraktar.”

On Thursday, the Lithuanian Defense Minister announcement a TV channel campaign to crowdfund a TB2 for Ukrainians.

“I don’t remember such fanfare around specific weapons,” said Joe Dyke of Airwars, an organization dedicated to tracking civilian casualties in armed conflict. “Nobody sang songs about Predator or Reaper drones. This is a moment when everyone talks about Bayraktar.

Selcuk Bayraktar, chief technology officer of Turkish aerospace company Baykar Defense, seated in an Azerbaijani Air Force Mikoyan MiG-29, in Baku


But the notoriety of the weapons has also raised proliferation concerns among a range of critics, including military experts and human rights advocates. Drone envy becomes the new “missile envy”, the term coined by Australian feminist Helen Caldicott to describe the Cold War arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union.

“India, Thailand, Taiwan are all trying to develop this capability and some are looking to Turkey,” said Chris Cole, founder of Drone UK. “If your enemy has them, you must have them too, especially since Turkey seems ready to sell to anyone.”

Baykar Technologies, the private defense contractor that invented the Bayraktar TB2 in 2014 and has produced and distributed at least 300 of them, did not respond to interview requests.

The company, founded by the late Ozdemir Bayraktar, is a strong player in Turkey. Its CEO, Haluk Bayraktar, chairs the board of Turkey’s main defense lobby while his brother and the company’s technical director, Selcuk, who was featured in a glowing New Yorker article, is married to a daughter of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

By law, Turkey imposes export controls on the $6 million Bayraktar TB2 and sales must be approved by the Defense Ministry and Erdogan’s office. But the exact rules and criteria for which countries can buy are not public. As an official from the Ministry of Commerce put it The Independent“We don’t talk about it.”

The Bayraktar was used to devastating effect against Russian armor to halt the advance of President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, earning Turkey the friendship of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the grunts occasional talks from Moscow and rare praise from Western partners at a time when relations between Ankara and its NATO allies are under strain.

According to videos promoted by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, the TB2 destroyed dozens of Russian armor and artillery pieces, as well as several ships in the Black Sea. He apparently played a role in distracting the Russian flagship Moscowbefore being sunk by Neptune missiles in April.

Western officials say any alarm over the spread of weapons has been tempered by glee over the humiliating black eye they delivered to Russia.

“If that pisses Russia off, so be it,” said a senior Western official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “The Russians still deny that they are responsible for weapons that end up in the hands of other forces. Turkey is turning the tide on the Russians and making a similar argument. “Yes, we sold it. But if you have a problem, you should talk to them.

Arms control experts have also suggested that Ukraine’s effective use of drones against pro-Russian forces in the Donbass region begins October 2021 may have prompted, influenced or precipitated Mr. Putin’s decision to launch an all-out invasion in February.

The Moskva of the Russian Navy


Besides the democratically elected government in Ukraine, Bayraktar drones have also been used by the authoritarian Ethiopian government to…

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This notice was published: 2022-05-27 15:15:58


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