A number of Turkish Bayraktar TB-2 drones were delivered to Ukraine on Tuesday, according to Ukraine’s Defense Ministry.
“The new Bayraktar TB2s have already arrived in Ukraine and have moved into combat positions,” the statement read. It also noted that additional Javelin anti-tank and Stinger anti-air missiles had been deployed to the front line as the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine enters its ninth day. The additional Bayraktar drones will complement the twelve that Ukraine already possesses. In total, Kyiv ordered forty-eight drones from Turkey; it is unclear how many were delivered in the most recent batch.
The Bayraktar is a lightweight unmanned aerial vehicle equipped with air-to-ground anti-armor missiles. The drone has previously seen service in the Middle East and in Nagorno-Karabakh, the contested region between Armenia and Azerbaijan over which the two nations fought a brief war in late 2020. Azerbaijan used the drones to great effect against the Armenian military, leading many to believe that the drones played a major role in Baku’s victory in the conflict.
Ukraine’s deployment of the Bayraktars against Russia is seen as the first time the drones have been put to use against a major military power. By most accounts, they have performed exceptionally well during the Russo-Ukrainian conflict. Although Russian air forces singled out the drones for destruction almost immediately, Moscow’s failure to secure air superiority over Ukraine and its disorganized air defenses have given the Bayraktars room to operate. As a result, Ukraine has carried out dozens of successful missions against Russian troops and equipment. On February 28, a Bayraktar drone destroyed a fuel train inside Russia carrying gasoline to stalled armor columns in Ukraine, a strike regarded as a major blow to Russia’s air defense credibility.
The drone’s battlefield success has also led Ukrainian musicians to record a popular song praising its effectiveness.
In addition to its military capabilities, one of the drone’s primary selling points is its high cost-effectiveness. Each drone is estimated to cost less than $10 million—far cheaper than a traditional manned aerial system—and is thought to have very low maintenance costs. In operation, they can carry out repeated strikes against far more expensive land targets with minimal risk to Ukrainian soldiers. The Bayraktars are expected to be a crucial factor in Kyiv’s war of attrition against its much larger neighbor.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.