TechTurkish drone's shifting role: From frontline hero to spy in the sky

Turkish drone's shifting role: From frontline hero to spy in the sky

Bayraktar TB2
Bayraktar TB2
Images source: © East News | BIROL BEBEK
Paweł Maziarz

1 July 2024 13:17, updated: 1 July 2024 13:30

The Turkish drone Bayraktar TB2 has lost its effectiveness as an assault drone on the front in Ukraine due to the opponent's advanced defence systems. However, experts suggest the machine may be more useful for reconnaissance tasks and intelligence gathering.

The Turkish drone was a sensation in the first weeks of the war in Ukraine. The internet was full of recordings showing how Bayraktar TB2 drones effectively attacked Russian forces, destroying various enemy equipment. The media portrayed the Turkish drone as Ukraine's saviour, and a song about it quickly became an international hit.

The videos showing the Bayraktars' successes quickly ended due to the significant losses of the Turkish drones. Why did this happen?

The end of Bayraktars in Ukraine

Military commentators Oleksandr Kovalenko and Oleksiy Hetman explained the phenomenon on the pages of the New Voice service. According to Kovalenko, the decline in the effectiveness of using Turkish drones is related to developing the Russian Federation forces' air defence system.

Ukrainian soldiers received reconnaissance-strike unmanned aerial vehicles Bayraktar TB2 in March 2020 in Starokonstantynowie.
Ukrainian soldiers received reconnaissance-strike unmanned aerial vehicles Bayraktar TB2 in March 2020 in Starokonstantynowie.© Press materials | Ukroboronprom

He stated that Russian air defence systems are ubiquitous in the combat zone in Ukraine. Therefore, the risk for Bayraktar is enormous. This unmanned aerial vehicle cannot operate in an area with an integrated air defence system.

The expert noted that this drone was intended for use in developing countries or where the opponent does not have an integrated air defence system.

Military observer Oleksiy Hetman agrees with this conclusion, adding that the Bayraktar TB2 has become an easy target for Russian tactical air defence equipment. The expert explained that the drone is vulnerable due to its large size and limited speed.

This is not the end for Bayraktar TB2 drones

Does this mean that Turkish drones will no longer be used in the war in Ukraine? Experts say it is too early to rule out the Bayraktar TB2 completely.

Bayraktar TB2 drone in Ukrainian colours
Bayraktar TB2 drone in Ukrainian colours©

Kovalenko shared his opinion that by treating it as an unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, the Bayraktar will retain its significance.

The Turkish drone is equipped with a high-quality electro-optical station, allowing surveillance, fire adjustment, monitoring enemy movements, and patrolling border areas from a safe distance.

Meanwhile, Hetman believes that using the drone as a communication system or signal amplifier is possible, ensuring communication with other aircraft, especially FPV drones.

Capabilities of the Bayraktar TB2 drone

Bayraktar TB2 is a MALE-class drone capable of flying at medium altitudes and staying airborne for a long time. Its length is 6.4 metres, and its wingspan is approximately 12 metres, allowing it to fly at altitudes up to 7,600 metres for up to 27 hours. We are, therefore, talking about one of the most advanced drones on the market.

Bayraktar TB2
Bayraktar TB2© ukroboronprom

The drone's take-off weight is 700 kilograms. This includes a 150-kilogram payload comprising an observation head equipped with a thermal imaging camera or an AESA radar. Additionally, the drone is armed, with weapons mounted on four pylons. All of this makes the Bayraktar TB2 an extremely advanced and versatile drone.

Depending on the control station model used, the drone's range from the control station can be between 150 and 300 kilometres. This means it can operate over a territory as large as Russia. Moreover, the drone can return to its take-off location and automatically land in the event of signal loss. This is an essential feature that ensures the safety and reliability of operations.

The drone uses a set of navigation systems that are resistant to interference. This set includes less accurate but interference-resistant inertial navigation and classic GPS navigation. This allows the drone to move precisely in various conditions and carry out its tasks with the highest precision.

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