Ukraine received a fresh shipment of Turkish-made Bakar Bayraktar TB2 armed drones earlier this week, according to a Facebook post from Ukraine’s defense minister.
“New [drones] have already arrived in Ukraine and are on combat duty,” said Oleksiy Reznikov on Wednesday.
Janes, a defense intelligence and analysis firm, reported that rumors of the delivery had previously circulated after Turkish Air Force transports were spotted flying from Ankara to an airport in southeast Poland near the Ukraine border.
The drones have been a significant morale-booster for Ukraine throughout the early days of the Russian invasion in addition to their limited tactical successes, explained drone warfare expert Samuel Bendett in a Tuesday interview with Military Times.
Before the invasion, Ukraine officials said they had approximately 20 Bayraktar TB2s. The country also had entered deals with Turkey to purchase more and ultimately produce key components for a new, larger Bayraktar drone on Ukrainian soil.
According to Stijn Mitzer, an open-source intelligence analyst tracking equipment destruction in the war, the TB2s have accounted for 33 Russian vehicle losses, including two logistics trains. That’s less than 10% of Russia’s total estimated vehicle losses to date, though, per Mitzer.
It’s impossible to independently verify the extent of losses, and officials from each side have wildly varying statistics, but Mitzer documents a unique photo for each vehicle loss, meaning that his totals are likely an undercount.
Yet what Bendett calls the “mythology of the Bayraktar” has persisted because Russia has thus far failed to properly use its air defense systems as designed in their force structure, in addition to the Russian air force’s apparent failure to neutralize Ukraine’s own air force and air defense.
“[In Ukraine], Russia doesn’t seem to display the very tactics, techniques and procedures that it’s practiced for years and sought to perfect in Syria...[to provide] adequate cover to its ground forces,” Bendett said.
“The fact that there may be surviving [Bayraktars] somewhere is an embarrassment [to Russia],” the CNA think tank analyst added. “Clearly.”
The delivery is also a potential signifier of a shift in support from Turkey to Ukraine, despite President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s silence on the invasion. Turkey has also blocked Russian warships from entering the Black Sea to join the fight, in line with an international treaty allowing Turkey to do so during times of war.
Erdogan’s son-in-law and one of Baykar’s top executives, Selçuk Bayraktar, denounced Russia’s “unlawful invasion” in a Feb. 25 tweet.
And Selçuk’s brother Haluk Bayraktar, the company’s CEO, posted an old photo of him with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday. He expressed his support for the defenders, saying, “May the victory go to the brave people who passionately defend their homeland from invaders.”
It’s not clear, though, how many drones came in the new delivery, nor is it clear whether such deliveries will continue as the war drags on.
Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army, specializing in accountability reporting, personnel issues and military justice. He joined Military Times in 2020. Davis studied history at Vanderbilt University and UNC-Chapel Hill, writing a master's thesis about how the Cold War-era Defense Department influenced Hollywood's WWII movies.