[Take special note of Canada's ban on drone optics. But take special note too of how these drones are battlefield game changers and how building all these weapons has makde Turkey independent. This is a rerun of Germany, Rhodesia, South Africa – where, when you can build your own stuff … you are independent. Jan]
A new factor has appeared in the long-standing conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh – Turkish drones, which are effectively used by the Azerbaijani armed forces.
Turkey has launched a successful combat drone program that has proven its edge in several conflicts and is becoming one of the world’s leading arms exporters.
The Azerbaijani military has published numerous videos and photographs showing that they are using Turkish-made drones to attack Armenian air defense systems, tanks and artillery positions.
Nagorno-Karabakh is the fifth conflict zone where Turkish weapons are being used. Before that, they were noted in Libya, Syria, northern Iraq and the Eastern Mediterranean, where Turkey is opposing Greece in a dispute over oil and gas deposits, a Financial Times article notes.
The most notable event is the triumph of drones, the development program for which began in Turkey 20 years ago. The goal was to reduce dependence on Western countries. Experts say Turkey will likely be unable to produce jets on its own, but the drones have proven their effectiveness.
Video of the Azerbaijani drone on the channel of the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan:
Another expert, Rob Lee from King’s College London, believes that the active development of the military drone program fully meets the objectives of the aggressive foreign policy pursued by Turkish President Recep Erdogan.
It remains unclear who controls the drones on the battlefield – the Azerbaijani military or the Turkish.
But according to Carey Cavanaugh, the US representative for the resolution of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, the use of these weapons has dramatically expanded the war zone and increased the number of casualties.
Turkey expects that the successful use of its drones will increase their export to other countries. So far, Turkey lags behind the United States, which sold $56 billion in arms last year, and Russia ($13.6 billion). But the dynamics are impressive: 248 million in 2002 and 3 billion in 2019.
So far, Turkey mainly exports tanks, armored personnel carriers, small arms and aircraft parts.
But the program for the development of unmanned aircraft is considered a priority in the country.
Turkey’s leading UAV manufacturer is a company owned by Selcuk Bayraktar. In 2016, he married the daughter of President Erdogan, Sümeyye.
The drones, which are produced by the company of Erdogan’s son-in-law, were first used against the formations of the Kurdish Workers’ Party, then in Syria and Libya, now in Nagorno-Karabakh.
This poses problems for the Turkish UAV manufacturer, which imports about 7 percent of the components for its products from abroad.
For example, this week, the Canadian government imposed a ban on the supply of drone optics to Turkey.