The Limits of Turkish Armed Drones: Allies are Irreplaceable

May 31, 2024
by Haşim Tekineş, published on 31 May 2024
The Limits of Turkish Armed Drones: Allies are Irreplaceable

Turkey has made remarkable strides in defense technology, particularly with its drone program. The Bayraktar TB2 and other unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have proven their effectiveness in various conflict zones, from Libya to Nagorno-Karabakh to Ukraine. These drones have given Turkey a significant tactical advantage, but the recent spate of attacks on Turkish drones highlights the evolving nature of drone warfare and the importance of allies for technology transfer as well as adaptation.

In a comprehensive study by the Institute, Enes Esen, Engin Büker, and Yüksel Akkale examined the rise of Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drones, highlighting their battlefield successes and the significant export demand due to their cost-effectiveness and advanced capabilities. They also warned about the vulnerabilities of these drones, including susceptibility to electronic warfare, GPS spoofing, and physical attacks. Recent alleged success of the PKK against Turkish drones proves their point.

While Turkey’s advancements in drone technology are commendable, it is crucial to recognize that drones are not a panacea for all military challenges. The reliance on drones, even those enhanced with cutting-edge technology, cannot replace the broader capabilities and strategic benefits provided by NATO allies. The dynamic nature of drone technology, which is constantly changing, transforming, and adapting, means that its real-life implications, especially on the battlefield, are still not fully understood.

Drone Warfare's Changing Landscape

Recent reports indicate that Kurdish PKK forces may have successfully downed several Turkish drones. The PKK claims to have acquired a defense system capable of countering Turkish UAVs, and while the details remain murky, there is a possibility that these systems were supplied by external actors. A pro-government media outlet underscores that the PKK acquired these anti-drone capabilities through Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in Iraq, which in turn received them from Iran—a claim that cannot be easily discounted. Another website considered close to Turkish authorities indicates that the PKK has acquired Iranian-made Meraj anti-drone kamikaze systems. Or it can be Russia which developed advanced jamming technology against U.S. precision-guided missiles in Ukraine. Russia can provide similar capabilities to groups opposing Turkey.

Turkey’s geopolitical situation adds another layer of complexity. By arming Ukraine with drones, Turkey has inevitably positioned itself against Russian interests in the region. This move could prompt Russia to retaliate indirectly by supplying advanced counter-drone technologies to Turkey’s adversaries, such as the PKK. The tit-for-tat nature of international arms transfers highlights the risks associated with relying too heavily on any single type of military technology.

The possibility of Iran providing kamikaze drones to the PKK further illustrates the multifaceted challenges Turkey faces. These drones, designed to crash into targets and cause destruction, represent a new threat that Turkish drones must counter. The ongoing advancements in drone technology mean that Turkey’s adversaries will continually seek new methods to disrupt its military operations.

The Key to Maintaining Technological Superiority

This potential arms exchange underscores a critical point: drone technology is not static. It is subject to rapid development and countermeasures. Just as Turkey has developed sophisticated drones, its adversaries are also investing in technologies to neutralize these assets. This arms race in drone warfare means that Turkey cannot merely rest on its own industry and capabilities as its adversaries share technology between each other against their common enemies.

The technology developed by NATO allies plays a crucial role in maintaining technological superiority. For instance, the sophisticated electronic warfare systems, advanced radar technologies, and integrated defense platforms developed by NATO countries are vital components that complement Turkey’s drone capabilities.

The collaboration within NATO provides Turkey access to cutting-edge research and development that would be challenging to achieve independently. This collaborative approach ensures that Turkey can leverage the best available technology to counter threats effectively. Moreover, the interoperability fostered within NATO allows Turkish forces to integrate seamlessly with allied forces, enhancing collective defense capabilities.

As a matter of fact, the war in Ukraine is also an important case study to see the importance of allies. The nature of war constantly evolves. To maintain their military edge, both sides have to constantly adapt to new challenges and conditions. For this adaptation, both sides need their allies. As Ukraine needs the support of the United States and other Western countries, Russia needs China, Iran, and North Korea. Thus, modern warfare highlights the importance of allies.

The Indispensable Role of NATO Allies in Turkey's Defense Strategy

Turkey cannot afford to isolate itself technologically. The continuous innovation and technological superiority provided by NATO allies are indispensable. By combining its national defense advancements with the cutting-edge technologies of its allies, Turkey can ensure a more resilient and adaptable defense strategy.

Turkey’s drone technology has undoubtedly transformed its military capabilities, offering significant tactical advantages in various conflict zones. However, the recent attacks on Turkish drones by the PKK and the potential involvement of external actors like Iran and Russia underscore the limitations and evolving nature of drone warfare.

In the rapidly changing landscape of drone warfare, maintaining technological superiority requires a collaborative approach that leverages the strengths of both national and allied capabilities. Turkey’s success on the battlefield will depend not only on its drones but also on its ability to integrate and utilize the best available technology from its NATO partners.

You may also like

Fransa'da Sol ve Merkez İttifakı Aşırı Sağı Durdurdu

July 8, 2024
by Ali Dinçer and Haşim Tekineş, published on 8 July 2024
Yeni yayınımızda eski diplomat ve Dış Politika Uzmanı Ali Dinçer ve instituDE Dış Politika Analisti Haşim Tekineş #Fransa Parlamento seçimlerinin ikinci tur sonuçlarını değerlendirdiler.

BOP: Nedir Bu Büyük Orta Doğu Projesi

June 26, 2024
by Haşim Tekineş, published on 26 June 2024
instituDE Dış Politika Analisti Haşim Tekineş Büyük Orta Doğu Projesi'nin ne olup ne olmadığını ele aldı.

Hakan Fidan'dan Çin'in Uygur Politikasına Destek

June 18, 2024
by Haşim Tekineş, published on 17 June 2024
#DışGündem'de instituDE Dış Politika Analisti Haşim Tekineş, #HakanFidan'ın 3-5 Haziran tarihlerinde #Çin ve #Uygur bölgesine yaptığı ziyareti çeşitli boyutlarıyle ele aldı.