Saudi Arabia Liked What It Saw With the Bayraktar TB2 Drones – The war in Ukraine hasn’t been going well for Russia, and in addition to failing to meet its key objectives, Moscow’s poor showing could impact its ability to sell its tanks and combat aircraft. Who really would be interested in a Russian-made T-90 tank these days?
Instead, the war has become a proving ground for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), including the American Switchblade, but also the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2. The success the UAV has seen on the battlefields against Russian tanks has garnered interest from the Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI), which is looking to become the latest customer for the unmanned aerial system.
The TB2 drones can loiter over tanks and artillery, and then launch missile strikes with deadly accuracy. Each can reach altitudes of 25,000 feet and fly for 27 continuous hours. Operated remotely from up to 300 km away, the Bayraktar drone is also capable of bearing four laser-guided bombs or rockets, for a total payload of some 150 kilograms.
Turkey – A Drone Powerhouse
Turkey has become a major producer and user of unmanned aerial systems, while it has also become a major seller in the process. Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) began developing drones in 2013 after relations between Washington and Ankara to purchase American UAVs soured.
In 2019, Turkey began selling the Bayraktar TB2 to Ukraine, which planned to equip them with the MAM-L micro-guided munitions – believed to be the round employed in recent strikes against Russian tanks. After two years of training, the UAVs became operational last year and were used in a reconnaissance mission over the Donbas region in late December.
The weapons have a proven combat history. The Turkish drones first earned worldwide fame amid the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War that broke out on Sept. 27, 2020, between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
CrowdSource Campaign Underway
In addition to the interest from Saudi Arabia, Ukraine could likely receive additional Bayraktar TB2 drones – by way of Lithuania. It was reported this week that Lithuanian journalist and social media personality Andrius Tapinas has launched a crowdfunding campaign to buy a Bayraktar TB2 military drone for Ukraine.
“The defence ministries of Lithuania and Turkey gave the green light, the manufacturer said yes. And now one word is sounding in my head, Bayraktar,” Tapinas said in a Facebook post on Wednesday, inviting his followers to donate.
“The Ukrainian dagger in the night. The assassin of the Russian army. An unmanned tactical combat aircraft that carries laser-guided high-precision bombs and long-range air-to-ground anti-tank missiles. In Ukraine’s war, Bayraktars have already destroyed Russian command posts, tanks, and missile launchers,” Tapinas’ post added.
The journalist had also announced that his own media company, Laisvės TV, would contribute 62,000 euros left from earlier Ukraine support campaigns.
Now a Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes.