Not the mighty Su-27 or the versatile MiG-29. The aircraft that has been touted as Ukraine’s deadliest air weapon in its arduous task of stemming Russia’s military invasion is a drone that weighs less than a small car.
The Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone is causing heavy casualties to the Russian military force that invaded Ukraine a week ago.
Weighing just 700 kg, the small UAV can fly for up to 27 hours within a range of 300 km. The TB2 is equipped with an AESA radar and four laser-guided weapons with the potential to destroy large targets on the ground.
An example of its power appeared in a video shared by the Ukrainian government that shows a massive explosion in a Russian convoy. Days later, the country’s military once again credited the Turkish drone for destroying tanks and surface-to-air missile systems.
The vital role of unmanned aircraft in modern battles is already well known. The United States has long used this resource in its war on terror. But now that privilege is within reach of many nations due to the low cost of drones.
The TB2 in particular is quite affordable, with a unit price of no more than $2 million, about a tenth of what the UK paid for its Protectors, made by General Atomics, in the US.
Already famous drone
Bayraktar’s fame is not recent. The Turkish aircraft had already been decisive in war zones in 2020. Turkey itself used the TB2 in attacks on Syria, just as the aircraft was decisive in the Libyan civil war and the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Ukraine, meanwhile, received the first batch of TB2 in 2021, of about 20 aircraft. This week, top government executives revealed that a new order for Bayraktar was being delivered, but without obviously detailing how Baykar, the maker of the drone, managed to do so amid Russian attacks.
Certainly the Turkish drone will not be enough to stop the advance of the immense military force backed by Vladimir Putin, but it is already managing to make the criticized invasion more and more complicated.