Turkey vying to become killer drone power – The Intercept

Turkey, in addition being ranked alongside the United States and the U.K. as the world’s most prolific user of killer drones, stands out as the most advanced new developer of drones, regularly using them on its own soil, against its own citizens, journalsist Umar Farooq wrote for investigative news site The Intercept.

Turkey has used the technology against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria and in areas the war against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has taken it, such as Iraq and Iran, the article said.

While the U.S. led the way in armed, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the world for more than a decade, launching  its first drone attack in 2001, today more than a dozen countries are on board with this technology.

The U.K Israel, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Nigeria, and Turkey have followed the trailblazer United States, to used armed Eaves to kill targets since 2015, it said, highlighting that Washington’s efforts to control proliferation through restrictions on drone exports have failed to  dissuade the global race to acquire the technology.

Turkey stands out as not only the most advanced new developer of drones but also as the only country to regularly use them on its own soil, against its own citizens.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's son-in-law, Selçuk Bayraktar, is leading Turkey into its drone saga with his Baykar Makina Company, Farooq wrote, noting that his company began to focus on unmanned aerial vehicles in the early 2000s.

Over the next 10 years, companies such as the country’s defence manufacturing powerhouse Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) began focusing on basics like ammunition and small arms, in addition to guided missiles and aircraft, it said.

The Bayraktars, after years of trying,  in 2015 conducted a remarkable demonstration of their most advanced TB2 drone, which finally managed to catch the attention of Turkey’s military.

The company won a contract to sell a batch of 12 of its Bayraktar TB2 UAVs to Ukraine and in 2017 and sold a batch of six TB2s to Qatar.

And then Selçuk Bayraktar married Erdoğan’s youngest daughter, which led to him becoming the preferred drone manufacturer for Turkey, it underlined.

With a flying altitude of 24,000 feet for up and a range of up to 150 kilometers, the TB2 now forms the backbone of Ankara’s aerial operations. ‘’More than 75 TB2s used by Turkish forces today fly a total of about 6,000 hours a month and have become a game changer for Turkey’s counter-PKK campaign in the southeast. PKK members are no longer able to move in large groups as they did in 2011,’’ the article said.

The PKK is an armed group that has been in war for Turkey for over 30 years, which has claimed the lives of more than 40,000 people.

Highlighting that Turkey’s drones are almost constantly present in the skies in the country’s Kurdish majority southeast, Farooq noted  a Turkish drone, usually a TB2, either fires on a target or provides the location of a target that is subsequently bombed by an F-16 or attack helicopter on a daily basis.

The attacks allow for Ankara to eliminate members of the outlawed group while adding momentum the wave of patriotism in Turkey.

Turkish TB2s carrying Turkish-made guided bombs killed 449 people in northwestern Syria between January and April 2018, the article said, citing Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency. 

The number of people killed inside Turkey in air strikes involving drone, in the Kurdish-majority southeast, is at least 400 people, it added.

The Turkish government proudly advertises drone killings it is proud of, the article said, giving the example of an attack on August 15, 2018. 

A drone killed Ismail Özden, a Turkish national known as a high-ranking PKK official in Sinjar, northern Iraq, and 10 others as they left a memorial ceremony near the village of Kocho.