Turkish combat drone maker Baykar hopes "soon" to be able to counter "kamikaze" drones in Ukraine, such as the Russian-operated Iranian drones recently threatening critical infrastructure, the company's CEO told Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa).
"Soon our Bayraktar TB2 and Akıncıs will have air-to-air missiles; not only to engage drones but other enemy aircraft... we are conducting our tests," Haluk Bayraktar said during a defense fair in Istanbul.
During the fair, SAHA Expo, a contract was signed between Turkish rocket and missile-making giant Roketsan and Baykar for the integration of the Sungur air defense missile to combat drones.
Sungur is “a proven ammunition, especially against moving targets such as helicopters and drones. Using it from our unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as an air-to-air missile will be a game changer,” Murat Ikinci, Roketsan general manager said at the fair.
Integration of such missiles to Akıncı and Bayraktar TB2 combat drones can lead to the creation of a low-cost air patrol concept in eliminating threats such as attack helicopters and enemy drones, including kamikaze drones, instead of using high-cost air-to-air missiles.
Ukraine currently tries to intercept kamikaze UAVs used by Russia with fighter jets in its inventory but the use of UAVs will be a cost-effective solution for them.
The Ukrainian army have largely been successfully using Baykar's TB2 unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV) against the Russian invasion since February.
Meanwhile, the recent introduction of Iranian "Shahed-136" drones by Moscow has complicated the situation for Kyiv.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned against a "large-scale disaster" should the wave of kamikaze attacks on energy facilities continue through winter.
"In any case, you need to be ready with your countermeasures... We fully support Ukraine to defend their sovereignty," Bayraktar said.
The kamikazes are slow, noisy and deployed at low altitudes, making them "easy targets," Bayraktar said.
Bayraktar, who holds a Ukrainian state medal, said his company looks to cement cooperation with Kyiv, including launching a production facility in Ukraine within a year.
The plant will also manufacture Baykar's soon-to-be-launched jet-powered drone "Kızılelma" ("Red Apple"), Bayraktar told dpa.
Russian criticism against Baykar had spiked in particular after reports of Bayraktar TB2’s alleged role in helping Ukraine sink the flagship missile cruiser Moskva in April.
Bayraktar himself was reportedly targeted by Russian intelligence, using deepfake technology.
"Unfortunately such things happen... but we are a huge team, we focus on our targets, not other noises," Bayraktar said.
"We hear such reports of TB2's role," Bayraktar said of the Moskva incident.
He acknowledged that Ukraine recently became the world's first country to engage the TB2 in a naval mission, but did not elaborate.
The Bayraktar TB2 has gained global fame and become an export hit for Baykar since 2018, following successful operations in northern Syria, Libya, Karabakh, and lately, Ukraine.
The drone reportedly initially used components made in the United States, Canada and Europe, including Germany, pushing some lawmakers in NATO allies Germany and the U.S. to call for restricting technology transfer to Baykar. Those calls had no effect on the production of the famed drones, on the contrary, the company immediately replaced the imported parts with those produced domestically within the country.
Today, 93% of Bayraktar TB2's parts are locally made, the firm said, adding that the combat drone is exported to 24 countries from Africa to Central Asia and Europe, bringing in a $1 billion surplus. Bayraktar said he disagrees with criticism that "dronified warfare" lowers the threshold for war.
He argued that drone technology rather helps “eliminate collateral damage” thanks to advanced precision and surveillance.
Strong trade partners like Türkiye and Germany should therefore dispel such concerns and focus on defense cooperation instead, Bayraktar said.
Germany has “limited” defense capabilities but it would benefit Berlin if they coordinated better with Turkish counterparts, he added, Daily Sabah reports