Turkey's newly developed drones are becoming a new sensation in defense industries, an online webinar heard Friday.
The online webinar -- titeled Turkey's Drones: Assessing capability, goals and implications -- was organized by Circle Foundation and Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) as it brought together experts on defense industries as well as the CEO of Baykar, creator of Turkey's Bayraktar TB2 drones, Haluk Bayraktar.
Turkey's successful drone story, Bayraktar said, started almost 40 years ago after Turkey's Cyprus peace operation.
"But, after the year of 2000, there is a huge mobilization and there is a shift in the strategy of Turkey. So rather than directly procuring systems from Western sources or different sources, [Turkey] focused on design and development of its own," said Bayraktar.
Bayraktar said the success behind the TB2 drone lies in its adaptability, adding, "It's been heavily used, and it's being updated daily, almost. So, the field and the environment that is being used is a very active environment. The dynamics are changing daily, so you really need to keep the system up to date and be responsive.
Akinci project, Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV), also built on the experiences of his firm, said Bayraktar.
- 'Turkey's successful anti-terror operations enabled by drones'
Speaking at the webinar, Can Kasapoglu, Director of the Security and Defense Research Program (EDAM), said that the success behind Turkey's anti-terror operations was enabled by the use of drones.
Kasapoglu said Turkey has become the first NATO country to provide drone capabilities to Ukraine and Poland, which will have further economic benefits to Turkey in the future.
"Every single nation that procured Bayraktar TB2 is a natural candidate for Akinci. And every single nation that's going to procure Akinci in the foreseeable future will be a natural candidate for Turkey's next up, co-developed with the Ukrainian technology turbo-jet unmanned aerial system," said Kasapoglu.
"This defense economics and defense economics as a foreign policy tool to enter foreign weapons market with strategic systems is really important," he added.
- 'Embarrassing to the Europeans'
Ulrike Franke, a senior fellow at European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), said "Turkey has become an important player in the global drone market" which was dominated by the US and Israel for over a decade and it has imported drones to Qatar, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and recently NATO and EU member Poland.
"Looking at this with the European mindset, this is, to some extent, slightly embarrassing to the other Europeans. Because the Europeans really have been trying or wanting to develop armed drones and this development has fought for a number of reasons. It's not so much that they really want to and cannot, but they haven't managed to and Turkey has definitely shown that the mid-size power if it puts its mind and its money to it can develop very sophisticated armed drones," she said.
Ash Rossiter, an associate fellow at RUSI, also said for his part that drone technologies provided a global prestige to Turkey.
"The status and prestige that Turkey has derived from that are, instead of sort of soft power tools like Turkish soap operas, is a very much a hard power, status element Turkey has derived from demonstrating capable, indigenous systems that are both proven on the battlefield. Clearly, other states want to want to purchase and buy these systems," said Rossiter.
Bayraktar TB2 entered the inventory of the Turkish army in 2014 and is currently used by several other countries, including Ukraine, Qatar, and Azerbaijan.
Turkey has used its cutting-edge drones effectively over the years in cross-border, anti-terror military operations, such as Euphrates Shield, Olive Branch, and Spring Shield, to liberate its Syrian border from terrorist entities.
Last August, the second prototype of the Akinci, Turkey's first indigenous drone, passed the 20,000-feet (6,096-meters) altitude test.
The drone can fly for 24 hours, has a 40,000-feet (12,192 meters) service ceiling, 20-meter (65-feet) wingspan and 1,350-kilogram (2,976 pounds) carrying capacity.