While Russian President Vladimir Putin has condemned the ongoing flow of U.S. military assistance to Ukraine as the Eastern European nation faces off with pro-Moscow separatists, a fleet of deadly drones acquired from another NATO member threatens to turn the tide of the war in Kyiv's favor.
Neither Turkey nor Ukraine has disclosed the exact number of Turkish Bayraktar TB2 unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, sold to the latter, but reports suggest that the figure is larger than previously thought.
That has drawn the ire of Moscow. Putin has specifically warned his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan of the drone's presence in the conflict.
"Turkish drones have proven themselves effective, particularly cost-effective, compared to the use of manned aviation in these conflicts," Michael Kofman, who serves as Research Program Director at the CNA think tank's Russia Studies Program and a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center's Kennan Institute, told Newsweek.
Rita Konaev, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security think tank's Technology and National Security Program and a research fellow at Georgetown University's Center for Security and Emerging Technology, cited the conflicts in Libya, Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh as examples of how "Turkish combat UAVs/drones have both showcased innovation and had a real impact on modern battlefields."
"In Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh, they were used effectively for intelligence collection, persistent surveillance and reconnaissance, eventually helping the forces on the ground gain an advantage against the adversary," Konaev told Newsweek. "In one major counterattack in Syria, the Turkish forces destroyed Syrian regime tanks, armored personnel carriers and other equipment in a sophisticated high-tempo attack that coordinated drone strikes with rocket and artillery fire."
But she noted that, given the importance of the Bayraktar to Turkey's broader strategic goals, "what we're also seeing is a media-savvy marketing propaganda campaign by the Turkish government and affiliated media where high-quality footage captured by the drone's camera as it hits air defense systems and combat vehicles on the ground is being shared widely across social media."
"This is an intentional strategy to shore up interests in Turkey's arms sales, portray it as a major regional power, and strengthen Erdogan's position at home," she added.
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