Since the war shifted to the Donbas region in Ukraine, the massive success of the Bayraktar TB2 drone may have slowly faded away. Only recently did the Russian military consolidate its air defence systems in the region and learned some details about the Turkish drone, TB2. The unmanned aircraft repeatedly blew up Russia’s military hardware behind enemy lines and dominated the battlefield. After some intense research, Russia may have found the answers to mitigate the threat and a recipe to clip the TB2’s wings.
Russia focuses on the destruction of the TB2
Most of Russia’s S-300 and S-400 surface-to-air missile systems are concentrated in Luhansk and Donetsk. A Ukrainian fighter pilot expressed his concern by stating that with the air defenders, the TB2 has met its match. TB2s were very useful and vital in the very first days, stopping those columns, but now that they’ve built up good air defences, they’re almost useless,” the pilot said. He also mentioned that the Ukrainian troops have limited the utilization of Bayraktars to ‘rare special operations and attack missions.’
Destroying enemies is a piece of cake for the TB2
According to Oryx, an intelligence site that keeps track of the war, the TB2 asserted its dominance through the destruction of Russia’s tanks, helicopters, multiple-launch rocket systems, command posts, infantry fighting vehicles, towed artillery, anti-aircraft systems, supply trucks, as well as a few naval vessels.
The history of the deadly Turkish drone
In 2017, the TB2 was unveiled. It was delivered to the Turkish military in 2014. The Turks used it in Syria and northern Iraq to hobble the insurgent Kurdish fighters. In the 2020 conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the TB2 made the headlines. Though it flies at a slow pace, it has adequate loitering time and range to fix, find, and destroy targets with its 620-pound payload. It also has the ability to collect targeting data and intelligence to help its allies destroy targets with cruise missiles or fighters. It may have been the Bayraktar that provided the critical target coordinates for guiding the Harpoon anti-ship missiles that led to the destruction of a Russian rescue tug on June 17th.
It is more dangerous to fly the TB2
The Ukrainians began the battle using 30 TB2s and lost 8 of them in combat. However, the Russian air defence systems are bunched in the Donbas region at present by creating a missile umbrella to threaten the TB2’s unfettered access to striking Russian assets. Rather than patrolling unchallenged over Russian supply lines, the TB2 will now be forced to fly in contested air space.
Russia is learning to counter drone warfare
Forbes’ Vikram Mittal recounts the things Russia has done to circumvent the TB2. “The Russians first shot down a TB2 drone in mid-March; they have had ample time to study the drone and find vulnerabilities. By identifying the transmission frequencies and other electromagnetic signatures, the Russian military can more effectively detect and target the drones. Furthermore, the Russians could potentially jam the control signals to the drone as well,” claimed Mittal.
TB2 made a bold statement
Has Russia made the score even against the TB2? Not really. Drones can be replaced. Also, they can be donated to the Ukrainians by other countries. Surface-to-air missiles on unmanned systems will have to be employed by Russia, to reduce the number of interceptors that can be used against Ukrainian fighter planes that engage in close air support. TB2s also have the potential to be used in other areas of operations, like Snake Island in the Black Sea.
Ukraine may limit its flights over Donbas, but its earlier success has been extraordinary and hence should not count out the TB2s yet. The drone tactics may also be changed by the defenders by flying lower-risk recon missions that send location coordinates to special operations forces and field artillery units instead of carrying out their own attacks. The TB2 is here to stay, and it seems like Putin’s forces are intimidated by it. The next step for Ukrainian President Zelenskyy is to order more of them.