Turkish-made drones played a prominent role in Ukraine’s resistance to Russia’s invasion, which hit important Russian targets in the first few weeks of the war. But the conflict, and any possibility of a Russian victory, have cast a shadow over the future of Turkey’s fast-growing drone industry, which relies on Ukrainian engines.
In one of many videos released by the Ukrainian army, a Turkish-made Bayraktar drone destroys a Russian tank to the cheers of the drone operators. But with the Bayraktar drone powered by Ukrainian engines, Samuel Bennet of the US-based Center for Naval Analysis warns any Russian victory in Ukraine could deter Turkey’s fast-growing drone industry.
“Russia in particular sees Bayraktar’s TV2s as a highly competitive weapon and technology not only in the former Soviet space but in the global aircraft market. Russians are nervous that Bayraktar will occupy the former Soviet space, the Caucasus and Central Asia and now Ukraine is invading. “Bennet said.” And so, if Russians were to exercise full force of their powers in the outcome of the negotiations, they would probably try to restrict Ukrainian military cooperation with Turkey so as not to gain Turkish growing advantage in to promote certain technologies such as UAVs. ”
Ukraine provides the latest engine knowledge and places no restrictions on Turkish companies selling to third parties. Turkish drone use in conflicts such as the Ethiopian civil war has provoked international criticism from rights groups.
James Rogers, assistant professor of war studies at the University of Southern Denmark, says the Turkish drone industry will not have the same freedom of use if it turns to its Western allies for engines.
“There are more restrictions when dealing with UK, European or US suppliers, and this is something that Turkey will definitely keep in mind,” he said. “We know that the United States is very picky about to whom it sells drones and drones around the world. That was one of the reasons why Turkey started its entire indigenous drone program because Congress would not approve the sale of Reaper-Predator. medium-height long-range drones to Turkey. ”
Earlier this year, a prominent Turkish military helicopter deal with Pakistan collapsed over Washington’s restrictions on the use of American engines. In addition, Congress has imposed increased controls on the supply of military components to Turkey over Ankara’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile defense system.
While Ankara has received praise from Washington for its support for Ukraine, Aaron Stein, director of research at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, expects little change in Washington’s attitude toward Turkey.
“One side is that Turkey is hostile to the United States. It is no longer an ally, it is (an) opponent. So, we have to treat it as such. And the other side is that we misunderstand Turkey. “and it needs a big hug because it’s so important. And the government is somewhere in the middle, and usually current events strengthen positions on both sides,” Stein said.
Given the challenges of finding an alternative to Ukrainian engines, Turkey’s drone industry is likely to seek drones to thwart Moscow’s ambitions and secure both Kiev and its future.