Turkish drones have become a symbol of the Ukrainian resistance

“Bayraktar” has become so popular that Ukrainians are now naming their pets after the Turkish-made drone. Last month, the mayor of Kiev announced that a newborn lemur in the city’s zoo would be named Bayraktar, and the Foreign Ministry tweeted a picture of another Bayraktar, a puppy at the Kyiv police dog training center.

The drone’s success “is not just the ability to target the Russian military,” said Samuel Bendett, adjunct senior fellow at the Center for Naval Analyzes Russia Studies (CNAS). “It’s a PR win, too.”

According to Bendett, the drone worked as expected, but it is not “invulnerable”. Open source evidence suggests that some may have been shot down by the Russians.

The drones “are part of the Ukrainian social media campaign being carried out very well by the Ukrainian military and civilians,” he said. Videos of Bayraktar attacks went viral on social media and it’s “a big moral booster … [and] a great tactical victory. ”

TB2 and other unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) being developed in Turkey have put the country on the drone map along with the United States, China and Israel, Bendett said.

Turkey, which maintains close defense and economic ties with both Russia and Ukraine, has been wary of proclaiming what has undoubtedly become one of the country’s most famous exports. The drone sale had been a major annoyance to Russia long before the country’s invasion of Ukraine; Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned last year that Turkish drones would have a “destabilizing” impact on the region.
A high-level Turkish bureaucrat said Friday that Russia has repeatedly complained to Ankara about drone sales to Ukraine. “They used to complain before, they’re complaining right now, but we’re already given the answer … these are [from] a private company, and this purchase had been made before the war, “he told a foreign media briefing.
Drones, telephones and satellite technology reveal the truth about Russia's war in Ukraine in near real time

Ukraine was the first country to buy the TB2s in 2019 and has so far ordered at least 36 drones. Last month, its defense minister announced the arrival of a new shipment of drones.

Selcuk Bayraktar, Chief Technology Officer for Baykar Technologies, is more keen on talking about his drone technology than politics. He also happens to be the son-in-law of the Turkish president, who has emerged as a key mediator between Russia and Ukraine in the war.

Bayraktar has heard the song dedicated to his namesake drone and knows the social media phenomenon it has created in Ukraine, but he measures his words carefully when discussing Ukraine.

“I think it’s one of the symbols of resistance, it gives them hope,” Bayraktar, an engineer and graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told CNN during a rare tour of the drone production facility in Istanbul last week.

“People are resisting and defending their homeland from an illegal occupation and … if you want independence, you have to be able to stand up and resist, and I think that’s what Ukraine’s brave people and leadership has done, “he said. “At the same time, you need technology, you need your own native defense capabilities, but when people’s lives are at stake … I do not want to compare it to any kind of technology.”

Exhibited is “Kizilelma” (Red Apple), Turkey’s first unmanned fighter jet, which has just hit the production line and is named after the Turkish mythological expression that symbolizes the ideal – the goal one wants to achieve. Bayraktar said it is expected to start flying next year.

Why Turkey is in a unique position to mediate

Industry experts say factors such as cost are what make drones appealing.

“[The] Bayraktar TB2 offers an almost perfect balance between price and combat efficiency [and] has an affordable unit price, “said Dr. Can Kasapoglu, director of defense research at the Turkish Center for Economic and Foreign Policy (EDAM).” TB-2’s competitors in the arms market are more expensive, come with more bureaucratic and political barriers to procurement, or come with insecure supply sustainability. ”

The company did not release price information.

The drone is also combat-tested, which is a crucial criterion in arms transactions, he said.

“When the music stops, TB2s are likely to inflict more damage on the opponent than they take,” Kasapoglu added. “This is crucial, especially for NATO’s eastern flank.”

Baykar Tech has signed contracts with at least 19 countries, most of which were signed within the last 18 months. Among the buyers is Poland, the only EU and NATO member to have ordered the UAVs.

Turkey’s defense and aerospace industry recorded more than $ 3 billion in exports last year, a record according to the country’s state-run news agency.

“It is important to strengthen defense and aviation exports to countries with which Turkey has strategic relations,” Haluk Bayraktar, Baykar’s CEO and younger brother to Selcuk, told Anadolu news agency in January. “In addition to providing an economic gain, defense exports also provide an appropriate basis for establishing strategic relationships with the countries to which you export.”

For Selcuk Bayraktar, this is not just a family business and a lifelong passion for technology. He said this is about securing his nation’s independence and technological self-sufficiency.

“When I was in my 20s … you could say we become the best in football … [or] in baklava, in kebab, but no one could say we need to develop a niche technology that will become world famous. ”

Celine Alkhaldi and Eyad Kourdi contributed to this report

Other top news from the Middle East

Iranian MPs set conditions for reviving nuclear deal as authorities sanction 24 more Americans

Iranian lawmakers demanded a series of conditions to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, including legal guarantees approved by the U.S. Congress that Washington would not withdraw from the deal, Iranian media reported Sunday. Separately, Tehran on Saturday imposed sanctions on 24 Americans.

  • Background: Negotiations to revive a 2015 nuclear pact have stalled as both Iran and the US blame each other for not resolving outstanding issues. Iran has also demanded that its elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards be removed from the US list of foreign terrorists.
  • Why it matters: As negotiations stall, increased sanctions from Iran and further demands could jeopardize the chances of reaching a final agreement. Iran’s sanctions on a further 24 Americans, including former Army Chief of Staff George Casey and former President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, could further restrict negotiations in the negotiating room.

Saudi Arabia allows up to 1 million Hajj pilgrims as Covid-19 rules ease

Saudi Arabia will allow up to 1 million Hajj pilgrims this year, extending the sacred event to visitors outside the kingdom after two years of strict Covid-19 restrictions, state media said Saturday.

  • Background: Visitors this year must be under 65 years of age and fully vaccinated. Visitors from abroad must present a recent negative PCR test. Last year, the number of pilgrims was limited to 60,000 domestic participants.
  • Why it matters: One of Islam’s five main pillars, Hajj in Saudi Arabia before the pandemic saw up to 2.5 million visitors and earned the former Kingdom about $ 12 billion a year.

Two Palestinian women were killed in separate incidents as tensions remain high

Two Palestinian women were killed by Israeli forces in separate incidents Sunday as tensions and violence between Israelis and Palestinians continue after weeks of attacks.
  • Background: A 47-year-old widow and mother of six was shot dead on Sunday, “while crossing an Israeli military checkpoint near the village of Husan” in the West Bank, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. The Israeli defense forces said the woman “approached IDF soldiers” and did not stop when she was notified, and was therefore shot. Later Sunday, another Palestinian woman who stabbed a border police officer at the tomb of the patriarchs in Hebron was shot and killed, according to a spokesman for the Israeli border police.
  • Why it matterst: Tensions remain high as Israeli soldiers continue their operations in the West Bank in connection with recent attacks in Israel that killed 14 people in less than a month.

Around the region

Dubai's Expo 2020 venue hopes to be able to live on after the end of the six-month-long event as it moves into an ambitious new urban district for Dubai.

The Middle East’s first world exhibition ended on March 31. Over the course of six months, Dubai’s Expo 2020 hosted 192 countries and recorded more than 24 million visits. Now the focus is on the next.

In October, the 438-hectare area will reopen as District 2020 – the name given to a new community with a focus on sustainability, smart technology and people-centered design, according to the District 2020 team. More than 80% of the structures built for the exhibition will remain as part of District 2020 – including audience favorites such as Al Wasl Plaza, Terra, the Sustainability Pavilion, the Surrealist Water Element and the UAE Pavilion. It will have the capacity to house up to 145,000 inhabitants – a goal that the UAE hopes to hit within the next decade.

Companies are also moving in. The organizers of District 2020 hope to attract small and medium-sized businesses as well as 85 start-ups through their “Scale2Dubai” program. Large companies such as DP World, Siemens Energy and Terminus Technologies also plan to open offices on site.

District 2020 will remain connected to Dubai city center through the newly built metro stop and 3 major motorways, but organizers say future residents will never have to leave the site. That’s because city planners have designed it as a “15-minute city.” It’s a concept in urban planning, which means that every place a person ever needs to visit – be it a school, office, hospital, grocery store – is no more than a 15 minute walk or bike ride away.

The organizers are convinced that District 2020 will continue to attract visitors and tourists to the place. The Al Wasl Dome plans to hold concerts and shows regularly, and the massive Dubai Exhibition Center will host major conferences throughout the year.

By Bijan Hosseini

Picture of the day

Christian worshipers participate in a traditional Palm Sunday procession in the Iraqi city of Al-Qosh, 50 kilometers north of Mosul city, on April 10.

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