Russian victory in Ukraine would hamper Turkey’s drone programs – analysts

Turkish drone development and other aerospace programs could be severely affected if Russia successfully topples Ukraine’s government, analyst Paul Iddon wrote in an article for Forbes on Saturday.

Ukraine has purchased at least 20 Bayraktar TB2 drones from Turkey in recent years, and has been using the armed UAVs effectively against Russian forces in the inavasion that started on Feb. 24.

Ankara and Kyiv signed an agreement last year for the manufacturing of drones in Ukraine, increasing their military cooperation. A Ukrainian company has been providing the engines to various projects, especially after Canada’s embargo on Turkey over Ankara’s military actions in northern Syria.

The military cooperation between the two countries was established by the government of Volodymyr Zelensky, and would likely have to end in case of a Russia-backed regime taking over, according to Deputy Director of Human Security Unit at Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy Nicholas Heras.

Sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States and European Union would “make it difficult” for Turkey to do business with Ukraine if Russia succeeds in the regime change, Heras told Iddon.

“The pro-Russian leadership is not going to be as cordial to Ankara - a NATO member - and that there will be less enthusiasm to sell equipment to Turkey,” Iddon cited Foreign Policy Research Institute Director of Research Aaron Stein as saying.

“Turkey is going to have to find alternative suppliers,” Stein said.

Stein also mentioned reports on Turkey possibly seeking to use Ukrainian engines for its stealth fighter project, under development at the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), and another project for Baykar Defence, the manufacturer of Bayraktar TB2 drones.

“My baseline assumption is that these two nascent efforts will also go up in smoke,” Stein added. According to Stein, Turkey could look at U.S. companies for alternatives, “but that is a choice folks in Ankara have to make”.

A Russian victory would cause slow-downs in drone production and development projects, War Studies professor James Rogers of Denmark’s SDU said. “This will likely degrade Turkey's planned drone exports and slow the bolstering of its own arsenal.”

Even without replacing Zelensky’s government, Russia could try and prohibit Ukraine’s acquisition of long-range combat drones “as a price for peace”, Center for Naval Analyses research analyst Samuel Bendett said, “similar to the possible restriction on the development and use of long-range missiles”.

The Turkish drones have been important in Ukraine’s defence against Russia, but they will not play as decisive a role in the conflict as they did in Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020, according to the analysts.

For one, Russia has “far more experience” in air defence against drones due to the Syrian conflict than Armenian forces did against Azerbaijan in the disputed territories, Rogers said.

However, the drones not proving as effective against Russia would “likely not affect Turkey’s ability to market and export them”, Bendett added. “The TB2 is seen by many countries as a good bargain, and until a good competitor enters the market, it may enjoy strong sales.”

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