The “Bayraktar” has become so popular that Ukrainians now name their pets in honor of the Turkish-made drone. Last month, the mayor of Kiev announced that a newborn lemur at the city zoo would be named Bayraktar, and the foreign ministry tweeted a photo of another Bayraktar, a puppy at the Kiev police dog training center.
The drone’s success “is not just the ability to target the Russian military,” said Samuel Bendett, an assistant researcher at the Center of Naval Analyzes Russia Studies (CNAS). “It’s also a victory for public relations.”
According to Bendett, the drone performed as expected but 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 which is done very well by the Ukrainian army and civilians,” he said. The videos of the Bayraktar strikes have gone viral on social media and this is “a great boost to morale … [and] a great tactical victory “.
The TB2 and other unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) being developed in Turkey have put the country on the drone map, along with the US, China and Israel, Bendett said.
Ukraine was the first country to purchase TB2s in 2019 and has ordered at least 36 drones so far. Last month, his defense minister announced the arrival of a new drone shipment.
Selcuk Bayraktar, Baykar Technologies chief technology officer, is more interested in talking about its drone technology than politics. He is also 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 is familiar with the social media phenomenon he has become in Ukraine, but carefully measure his words when talking about 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 manufacturing facility in Istanbul last week.
“People are resisting and defending their homeland from illegal occupation and … if you want independence you have to be able to stand up and resist and I think that’s what the brave Ukrainian people and leadership have done” , he said. “At the same time, you need the technology, you need your indigenous defense capability, but when people’s lives are at stake … I don’t want to compare it to any kind of technology.”
On display is the “Kizielma” (Red Apple), Turkey’s first unmanned fighter jet, which has just entered the production line and is named after the Turkish mythological expression that symbolizes the ideal: the goal that you want to achieve. Bayraktar said it should start flying next year.
Industry experts say factors such as cost are what make drones attractive.
“[The] Bayraktar TB2 offers a near-perfect price and a balance of combat efficiency [and] has an affordable unit cost, “said Dr Can Kasapoglu, director of defense research at the Turkish Center for Economic Affairs and Foreign Policy (EDAM).” TB-2’s competitors in the arms market are more expensive, present greater bureaucratic and political obstacles to procurement, or present uncertain supply sustainability “.
The company has not released any pricing information.
The drone is also combat tested, which is a crucial criterion in weapons transactions, he said.
“When the music stops, TB2s are likely to inflict more damage on the opponent than they take,” added Kasapoglu. “This is of fundamental importance, especially for the eastern flank of NATO.”
Baykar Tech has signed contracts with at least 19 countries, most of which have been signed in the past 18 months. Among the buyers is Poland, the only member of the EU and NATO 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 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 Selcuk’s younger brother, told Anadolu news agency in January. “In addition to providing economic gain, defense exports also provide an adequate basis for establishing strategic relations with the countries to which it is exported.”
For Selcuk Bayraktar, this is not just a family business and a lifelong passion for engineering. He said it was a question of guaranteeing the independence and technological self-sufficiency of his own nation.
“When I was 20 … you could say that we will be the best in football … [or] in baklava, in kebabs, but no one can say that we will develop a niche technology that will become famous all over the world “.
Celine Alkhaldi and Eyad Kourdi contributed to this report
Other important news about the Middle East
Iranian parliamentarians have set the conditions for relaunching the nuclear deal while the authorities sanction another 24 Americans
Iranian lawmakers have called for a number of conditions to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, including US Congressional-approved legal guarantees 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 deal have been stalled as both Iran and the United States blame each other for not resolving outstanding issues. Iran has also called for its elite Corps of Islamic Revolutionary Guards to be removed from the US list of foreign terrorists.
- Because matter: With talks stalled, Iran’s increased sanctions and further demands could jeopardize the possibility of reaching a final agreement. The Iranian sanction of 24 other Americans, including former Army Chief of Staff George Casey and former President Donald Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani, could further limit talks in the negotiating room.
Saudi Arabia will allow up to 1 million Hajj pilgrims as Covid-19 rules loosen
Saudi Arabia will allow up to 1 million Hajj pilgrims this year, expanding the sacred event to visitors from outside the kingdom after two years of stringent Covid-19 restrictions, state media said Saturday.
- Background: Visitors this year must be under 65 and fully vaccinated. Visitors from overseas must submit a recent negative PCR test. Last year, the number of pilgrims was limited to 60,000 domestic participants.
- Because matter: One of the five main pillars of Islam, the Hajj in Saudi Arabia before the pandemic saw up to 2.5 million visitors and previously earned the Kingdom around $ 12 billion a year.
Two Palestinian women killed in separate incidents as tensions remain high
- Background: A 47-year-old widow and mother of six was killed on Sunday “as she was passing through an Israeli military checkpoint near the village of Husan” in the West Bank, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. The IDF said the woman “approached the IDF soldiers” and she did not stop when she was told to do so, and as a result she was shot and killed. Later on Sunday, another Palestinian woman who stabbed a border police officer at the patriarchs’ tomb in Hebron was shot and killed, according to an Israeli border police spokesperson.
- Because matters: Tension has remained high as Israeli soldiers continue operations in the West Bank linked to the recent attacks in Israel that killed 14 people in less than a month.
Around the region
The first Middle East World Fair ended on March 31st. Over the course of six months, the Dubai Expo 2020 hosted 192 countries and recorded over 24 million visits. Now the focus is shifting to what comes next.
In October, the 438-hectare site will reopen as District 2020, the name given to a new community focused on sustainability, smart technology and human-centered design, according to the District 2020 team. Over 80% of the structures built for the Expo they will remain as part of District 2020, including crowd favorites such as Al Wasl Plaza, Terra, the Sustainability Pavilion, the Surreal Fountain and the UAE Pavilion. It will have the capacity to house up to 145,000 residents, a goal the UAE hopes to achieve within the next decade.
District 2020 will remain connected to central Dubai via the newly built metro stop and 3 major highways, but organizers say future residents will never have to leave the site. This is because the planners designed it as a “15-minute city”. It is a concept in urban planning which means that every place an individual should ever go to – be it a school, an office, a hospital, a grocery store – is no more than 15 minutes on foot or by bike.
Organizers are confident that District 2020 will continue to attract visitors and tourists to the site. Al Wasl Dome plans to hold concerts and shows on a regular basis, and the impressive Dubai Exhibition Center will host major conferences throughout the year.
By Bijan Hosseini