WASHINGTON — Russia does not dominate the unmanned aerial war in Ukraine, but the Ukrainian Bayraktar TB2 cannot provide close air support as they are highly vulnerable to Russia’s air defenses, Kirsten Fontenrose and Andy Dreby said in their analysis. According to journalists, Turkish drones will not give Ukraine the necessary advantage. There are several reasons.
- Ukrainian Bayraktar TB2s hit Russian EW and Buk-M2 Telar SAM systems
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Time is a key factor. In Turkey, the production cycle of Bayraktar TB2 is slow, which means that Ankara cannot provide the required amount to Ukraine on time. Also, even if the Ukrainians operate well with Turkish drones, it will still take time to be “involved in the events on the ground.”
With the onset of spring, the Ukrainian mud gradually disappears and the ground becomes hard. This will allow the Russians to move faster. Bayraktar TB2 has been used successfully in Libya to deliver precision strikes, but we must not forget one indisputable fact – they have failed in providing close air support for ground traffic, as the system is still vulnerable to air defense.
Yes, in Syria and Libya, Turkish drones have severely damaged the Pantsir-S1 mobile air defense system, but Russia is not using that system in Ukraine. The inability of Bayraktar TB2 to provide the necessary air support is evident in the following fact: 39 downed and lost Bayraktar TB2 drones were reported in Libya, eight in Syria, and three in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and those shot down by Russians in Ukraine are still being counted.
Another problem of Bayraktar TB2 is the management. The operational range of these drones is limited. Unlike American drones, Turkish drones are controlled by a ground station instead of satellite communications, as in the case of the Americans. What does this mean? The limited range of Turkish drones makes them an easy target for Russian cruise missiles.
Fontenrose and Dreby say Bayraktar TB2 will be effective in defending the front line, but ineffective over this territory that Russia is looting. Analyzes show that if at some point Ukraine is put in a position to retake the territory seized by the Russians, Bayraktar TB2 will be useless due to its operational scope. “Ukraine will need drones with a longer range of attack with satellite communications,” say Fontenrose and Dreby.
Last but not least, Russia is not yet actively using its drones. Putin is currently trying to consolidate his profits in eastern Ukraine. It will also take time, but it will work in Russia’s favor, as it will be enough to assess its positions, deploy additional drones and introduce air defense systems against the Ukrainian Bayraktars, “as we have seen, it has managed to oppose Bayraktar In Libya,” the authors said.
“It’s likely the effectiveness of Bayraktar drones will decrease if Russian troops push further forward in Ukraine and take more ground, making the UAVs similarly susceptible to Russian air defenses, such as the Pantsir,” says the analysis.
Many experts say it is possible to see new models of drones on both sides in this war. Passive in this regard remains Israel, the world’s second-largest drone maker and perhaps one step ahead of its US counterparts in terms of precision and efficiency. But Israel is not taking part in this war. And it seems that it is yet to continue and then, along with the new UAV models that will appear, the key factor will be the only one – Ukraine or Russia will have time to put them into combat operation faster?
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