Ukrainian forces earlier in May used Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drones to destroy three Russian ships near Snake Island. Troops destroyed one Serna-class Russian landing craft and two Raptor-class patrol boats, according to a statement from the Ukrainian Operational Southern Command.
The embarrassing losses hit Russia just days before the May 9 Victory Day parade. Ukraine estimates the attack caused 46 casualties and destroyed two Tor surface-to-air missile systems.
Helping the Drones Strike
The United States is set to help Ukraine continue to carry out successful strikes like this. In a recent $300 million military aid package to Ukraine, the U.S. pledged more guided-rocket systems that can be paired with Ukraine’s fleet of TB2 drones and used in attacks against Russian ships, vehicles, and military infrastructure.
Precisely how many TB2s Ukraine has left is unknown. Russia has released several figures in recent weeks claiming to have destroyed as many as 37 drones, out of a fleet of 35 at the time. This would give Russian forces a kill rate of over 100%.
What is the Bayraktar TB2?
The Bayraktar TB2 is a Turkish-made, medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle. It can be controlled remotely and used both for surveillance and for missile strikes. In service since 2014, the drone is used mostly by the Turkish military, although it saw action in the Nagorno-Karabakh war between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 2020. Its use in Ukraine, however, has given the drone a much higher profile.
Flat, gray, and powered by a rear-mounted propeller, these drones use laser-guided missiles that are substantially less expensive than equivalents manufactured in the United States.
The drone has repeatedly defied expectations in Ukraine, as well as in conflicts in the Caucasus and Africa. Despite being slow and flying at relatively low altitudes, the drone’s ability to carry guided missiles has made it easy for Ukrainian fighters to strike Russian military targets with great precision.
Speaking to the New Yorker, former State Department official Rich Outzen said the drone “enabled a fairly significant operational revolution in how wars are being fought.”
“This probably happens only once every thirty or forty years,” Outzen said.
Russian fighters have been largely unable to jam or shoot down the aerial vehicles so far, giving Ukraine a big advantage as Russian troops try to take full control of the Donbas region.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.