How Turkish Bayraktar UAVs can contribute to Ukraine's defence

by Anton Lavrov

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced that in the near future Kiev will receive Bayraktar TB2 reconnaissance and drone drones from Turkey. In the local media, this is presented as another “peremoga”, which should demonstrate to Russia the strengthening of Ukrainian military power. But in fact, this purchase is nothing but a logical consequence of the failure of attempts to create a national strike unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

A year ago, Antonov presented a prototype of its own Gorlitsa UAV, built using amateur-made model aircraft components. As a result, the project predictably remained in the demonstrator stage. The Ukrainian-Polish lightweight drone-kamikaze Sokol proved to be expensive and not powerful enough to interest the military. So, import became the only opportunity to acquire modern military technology.

Turkish Bayraktar does not have any outstanding characteristics, so its choice can be considered more political than practical. Yes, this is one of the newest drummers in the world. On the armament of Turkey itself, it was adopted only in 2015. True, for the class of medium-altitude barracking MALE-UAVs this is an entry-level device, one of the easiest and most low-power ones. The same Turkey has a much more advanced model - Anka-S, capable of raising by four times more combat load and using more solid ammunition. But it is clear that for Ukraine, even a light and relatively cheap Bayraktar will be a serious and expensive acquisition. According to Turkish media, the contract will cost Kiev $ 69 million.

With a maximum take-off weight of 650 kg a lot of combat load on the drone can not hang. In normal mode, this UAV can lift no more than 55 kg. Therefore, especially for these devices, the Turkish military-industrial complex has developed small lightweight ammunition. A typical load for Bayraktar TB2 has become a pair of laser-guided MAM-L adjustable bombs. The possibility of the suspension of a pair of UMTAS Turkish anti-tank guided missiles is also theoretically stated. But they are too heavy for a small drummer, and in real combat missions he is seen only with bombs so far.

The first serial Bayraktar TB2 went to the Turkish army in the spring of 2016. Already in August of the same year they were involved in the military operation “The Euphrates Shield” against ISIL (banned in the Russian Federation) and the Kurds. Due to technical problems with the engine, one Bayraktar crashed in Syria on the very first day of the operation. But this did not force the Turkish command to abandon their use, and since September 2016, these drones began to regularly strike with guided weapons against Kurds and terrorists.

For three months of the follow-up operation “Olive Branch” against Afrin Kurds, this type of UAV spent a decent 4 thousand hours in the air. But most of them were in reconnaissance, not in combat missions. In 2018, Turkish Bayraktar continued to be on duty in the air over Syria, tracking the ground situation, identifying the shelters of the Kurdish military equipment and their command centers. They could not oppose the drone, which conducted reconnaissance from the heights inaccessible to MANPADS.

Turkish industry managed to establish mass production of devices. The army, gendarmerie and police have already received at least 50 UAVs, half of which are armed. The device that passed the baptism of fire was able to be promoted for export. Already in 2017, a contract was signed with Qatar. The second customer was Ukraine, which bought six UAVs with three ground control stations. There is no doubt that Turkey is able to fulfill the contract in a timely manner.

How much will Bayraktar increase the opportunities of Ukraine? Less than you would expect. Of course, the long-term practice shows that the current-generation shock drones of the current generation are very useful for dealing with various irregular formations. But the military of the leading countries are convinced that such BAS are unsuitable in the conditions of a battle with an enemy close in strength with serious air defense weapons. To do this, you will need completely different - speed and subtle - percussionists, still under development.

President Poroshenko’s dreams of reversing the situation in the Donbas with Turkish help, establishing control over the Sea of ​​Azov or recaptating the Crimea are fruitless. Against Russian air defense new clothes completely useless. A large and slow UAV with a cruising speed of 150 km / h is an ideal target for all anti-aircraft missile systems. He can not escape not only from the fighter aircraft located on the peninsula, but also from combat helicopters.

Unrecognized Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics do not have such powerful air defense systems as Russia. But they have already repeatedly demonstrated their ability to shoot down not only Ukrainian UAVs, but also combat aircraft and helicopters.

With a maximum range of 8 km of weapons, the Turkish drone is able to act only against the leading positions. Any deepening of the front line will be fatal for him. Low and communication range with Bayraktar TB2. Unlike the heavier Turkish brother Anka-S, this one cannot be controlled via satellite and is limited by direct visibility. This limits it to a radius of 150 km from the ground station.

Together with UAVs and three control stations, Ukraine purchased two hundred light short-range light guided bombs. For this type, only Turkish-made ammunition has been adapted, which makes Kiev fully dependent on the benevolence of the Turkish side in terms of further supplies. Poroshenko’s announced plans to integrate Ukrainian anti-tank missiles onto them are for now just a declaration of intent. To do this will be much more difficult than to say.

The most useful for Ukraine would be to use Bayraktar as a scout. Until now, this country had nothing comparable in terms of capabilities for conducting unmanned tracking from the air. In addition to the possibility of long-term locking, the Turkish apparatus has very high-quality gyro-stabilized day and night optics. Being in the airspace of the country, he can look at a distance of 10-15 km from its borders. This is a useful opportunity, but not a serious breakthrough in the combat capabilities of the Ukrainian army.

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