Snake Island saw dramatic action last weekend, including a high-speed, low-level bombardment by Ukrainian aircraft and a series of Bayraktar TB2 drone strikes that sank two patrol boats and a landing craft carrying a missile system. of surface-to-air missiles. he later destroyed an Mi-8 helicopter while dropping troops onto the island. But for Russia, the biggest concern may have been a number on one of Bayraktar’s video screens: a record showing it was a brand-new drone fresh off the production line.
The Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 is the most famous drone of the time. While the New Yorker headline of The Turkish drone that changed the nature of war has established some rolling eyeballs, its previous success in Libya and Syria and more especially in Nagorno-Karabakh, where hundreds of armored vehicles supplied by Russia to Armenia are destroyed, suggested that the Bayraktar could be a key element of Ukraine’s defense. Many experts (myself included) doubted that the Bayraktar could prevail against Russian air superiority and integrated surface-to-air systems, but we were quickly proven wrong on February 28.the He was noticing how Russia’s inability to stop the Bayraktars meant major problems with their military machine.
Certainly, Russia seems to hate the drones and publications provided by Turkey. inflated claims of the number of Bayraktars shot down, even faking additional deaths by rearranging the wreckage for new footage.
But some Bayraktars are being shot down, and Ukraine’s original fleet of about 36 drones is steadily depleting with at least seven losses by Oryx’s final count. Turkey has remained avowedly neutral in this conflict, being highly dependent on Russian gas and wheat, and has positioned itself as a mediator, and the Turkish government, unlike many other NATO members, is not supplying Ukraine with weapons. Ankara has refused to comment on whether private arms sales were allowed, so it was assumed no more Bayraktars would be delivered. Hence the proposals for the US to supply Ukraine with MQ-9 Reapers or other drones to augment its fleet.
But an open source intelligence analyst with the Twitter handle @ameliaairheart pointed out an interesting feature of one of the Snake Island attacks: Bayraktar’s video feed, which is normally sanitized to cut out digital identifying information, was left intact. This shows that that attack was carried out from Ground Control Station 13, operating a Bayraktar with the registration T253.
The analyst then compared this record with open source flight data from Turkey, which showed that TB2 T253 made a test flight south of the Baykar flight test facility near Keşan in Turkey on March 21, just six weeks ago.
“This strongly suggests that Ukraine is rapidly moving TB2s off the production line.” they conclude.
another analyst, @Intelassess points out that a Bayraktar with license plate T261 has also been seen in Ukraine, and that T258-T262 went through the test together in Kesan. As the drones are normally supplied in batches of six, this suggests that Ukraine may have received at least two such batches since the beginning of the war. others have recent flight tracking apparently from the Baykar factory to Poland.
Of course, the data in the video may be false, or Ukraine may simply be tweaking the displayed registration numbers to confuse Russia about how many Bayraktars they have left.
Even before the war, this was a sensitive issue for Turkey. In October, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu called on Ukraine to stop mentioning Turkey in relation to drone imports: “If a country has bought a weapon from us or from another country, that weapon cannot be labeled like Turkish, Russian or Ukrainian”.
Since the war, the Turkish government has stressed that the pre-war sales to Ukraine were a private deal and had nothing to do with it.
“These are private companies and these drone purchases had also been made before the war,” a senior official quoted by Reuters said.
So far we have had no indication that Turkey continues to supply Bayraktars to Ukraine. But if the new analysis is correct, then Baykar is supplying Ukraine with new drones as fast as they can make them, presumably with the tacit approval of the government.
President Zelensky has pointed out that Bayraktars are not decisive by themselves and that missiles and artillery are also vital, but drones provide an important capability when Ukrainian air force planes can only carry out a handful of sorties each day. If Ukraine really has received twelve or more, it is possible that it now has more Bayraktars than when the conflict began. Now they are burning oil storage tanks across the border with Russia, making history by being the first armed drones to sink military ships, helping to sink Russia’s flagship in the Black Sea, and destroying air defense systems that they are supposed to shoot them down.
It seems that the problem of Bayraktar in Russia will only get worse.