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Battle for Idlib: Turkey's drones and a new way of war

The_Showstopper

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Battle for Idlib: Turkey's drones and a new way of war
What gives drones an edge over manned aircraft in certain missions and why is Turkey suddenly excelling at them?

by Alex Gatopoulos
13 hours ago


A Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone is seen shortly after its landing at an airport in Gecitkala, Cyprus [File: AP]
MORE ON BATTLE FOR IDLIB
Recent Turkish air raids have destroyed dozens of Syrian government tanks, armoured personnel carriers, and air defence systems sharply halting Syria's advance towards Idlib.

Allegedly launched in retaliation for an attack that killed 34 Turkish soldiers, the Turkish air offensive over Syria did not use manned aircraft but fleets of unmanned aerial vehicles, more commonly known as UAVs or drones.

More:
Military drones have been used for decades as ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) and assassination tools, but this is the first major large-scale offensive by one military against another military in an operational-level conflict.

What is their origin? What gives drones the edge over manned aircraft in certain types of missions, and why is Turkey suddenly excelling at them?

Why are they useful?
UAV designs have rapidly multiplied and matured as developments in technology allow militaries and intelligence agencies around the world think up new ways to use them. However, the designs share some basic similarities.

They are essentially CCTV cameras in the sky, crammed with high-resolution optics, data links, radars and laser-guidance systems.

Slow flying, their lack of speed is an advantage as they are able to loiter, often at high altitude over a target, watching it ceaselessly for hours, if not days.

This is especially effective in remote areas where noisy jet aircraft or the sudden appearance of strangers would be quickly noticed.


Turkish-backed fighters fly a drone in the northern Afrin countryside in Syria [File: Khalil Ashawi/Reuters]
The remote operators, piloting the drones from a distance, can be swapped out when fatigued. Military and intelligence personnel, senior politicians, and legal advisors can gather in the same room as the pilot, debating and deciding whether to destroy the observed target.

This is a far different decision-making process from the snap judgement of a conventional pilot flying at several hundred kilometres an hour in hostile territory on a combat mission.

There is also a logical progression to arming drones. Often, targets would be spotted by surveillance UAVs but by the time the information was fed back, a decision made and another asset, say a jet or cruise missile launched, the opportunity was lost.

In 2000, the US military spotted Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan but was unable to kill him as the drone, an early version of the Predator, was unarmed. Very quickly, it was realised that an armed UAV could not only survey and help find a potential enemy - but also destroy them.

Turkey's case
Turkey's long-standing campaign against the Kurdish PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) has mainly operated in the sort of remote mountainous terrain that insurgents tend to favour, with middling results.

Having watched the US run its air campaign over Pakistan, effectively targeting fighters in just that kind of terrain with some degree of success, Turkey's military could easily see how this technology could be applied to their use.

The US, hesitant to share or sell cutting edge technology even to its allies, demurred, offering only basic unarmed drones and Turkey began to look elsewhere.

Israel, with its drone industry maturing rapidly, was an initial option and a small number of its Heron UAVs were bought but Turkey realised that if it wanted to maintain control both of technology and the intelligence it produced it was going to have to manufacture them.


Unmanned aerial vehicle stationed at Dalaman Naval Air Base Command is seen before take off to fly to Gecitkale Airport of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, on December 16, 2019, in Mugla, Turkey [File: Evren Atalay/Anadolu]
Enter Selcuk Bayraktar, considered by many in Turkey to be the grandfather of Turkish drone technology.

Already a successful postgraduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, in 2004 Barayktar co-wrote a paper on how to control and group multiple drones and how they would act operating together.

He abandoned his PhD thesis in the US, preferring to return to Turkey to set up his own company, Baykar Technologies, manufacturing drones for the Turkish military.

Although initially unsuccessful, several factors helped him.

Turkey was looking to develop its own UAV programme, the US was reticent about selling their own technology to Turkey and Turkey's campaign against the Kurds had reached an impasse.

This gave Bayraktar the opportunity to pitch for domestically made armed drones that could eventually be decisive in the conflict with Kurdish armed groups.

The Bayraktar TB2 UAV, armed with a range of some 150 kilometres, was ideally suited for the Turkish military and rapidly gained prominence in successful counterinsurgency operations against the PKK.

More importantly, the Turkish military was able to test combined, UAV/artillery tactics later in Syria against the Kurdish YPG, or People's Protection Units, in Afrin near the Turkish border. These tactics would later be used in the skies over Idlib.

Battle for Idlib
Responding sharply to an air raid on a Turkish mechanised unit near Idlib city that killed 34 Turkish soldiers, the Turkish military deployed dozens of drones in a coordinated series of attacks on Syrian vehicles and positions.

Not only the Barayktar TB-2s were used but also the newer UCAV (or unmanned combat aerial vehicle). The heavier, armed, satellite-linked ANKA-S saw its operational debut in the battle over Idlib. Both drones were used in several ways:

  • As spotters for long-range rapid-firing artillery, identifying Syrian government armoured columns and relaying their position Turkis self-propelled guns and multiple rocket launchers, which destroy them before they could seek shelter.

  • The drones themselves targeted enemy positions and vehicles with a variety of munitions, all locally made and therefore easier to integrate with the drones.

  • They were able to engage enemy aircraft when equipped with the right armament and for the first time over a conventional battlefield, they flew in squadrons, able to "swarm" or overwhelm Syrian air defence systems, quickly knocking them out.
These tactics devastated Syrian government forces as they tried in vain to concentrate their firepower and advance, giving the relatively lightly armed Turkish-backed rebels on the ground a significant advantage.

Drone war in Libya
While these weapons have been used in innovative ways over Idlib, they're not invulnerable. They are relatively slow moving and can be shot down by a well-armed opponent as they have been in Syria, when three ANKA-S drones were downed by Syrian air defence and shoulder-launched weapons.

Turkey is also not the only country fielding armed drones. China has been producing its relatively cheap (one million dollars) armed UCAV, the Wing Loong 2, which has seen service in Libya, operated by allies of the Libyan National Army, commanded by renegade general Khalifa Haftar.



WATCH
25:55


What role will Turkey play in Libya?
So far, the Chinese drone has outperformed its Turkish rival the TB-2, the latter being destroyed on the ground as Chinese drones, operated by the UAE and Saudi Arabia, attack airfields controlled by the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).

Despite some inevitable reverses, Turkey's drone industry is rapidly expanding with new orders of the ANKA-S being readied as the Turkish Air force seeks to replace its losses.

Success in war is usually good for business and proven systems are always popular. Twelve TB-2s have been sold to Ukraine and a further six were purchased by Qatar.

Both the Baraytar and ANKA-S have proven themselves in combat, ranging from counterinsurgency to industrial warfare on the conventional battlefield, with other models ranging from supersonic UCAVs to smaller "kamikaze" drones being developed.

What has enhanced these cheap, efficient UCAVs are the innovative tactics being used and perfected by the Turkish armed forces - in the age-old race to use new weapons in new ways - maximising their potential to apply decisive force on the modern battlefield.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS


https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/03/battle-idlib-turkey-drones-war-200303170724302.html
 

Mr.NiceGuy

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This is the beginning of a new era/century. Turkey has closed an era and started a new one.
We might call it the era/century of robot warriors.
 
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xenon54 out

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The future lies within unmanned vehicles, good that Turkey invested early enough in this technology, it has the potential to be a leading force in autonomous aviation in the future.

 

Dark1

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Very interesting that countries other than usa are using drones so effectively , against a experienced opponent. Since drones are operated remotely, its surprising that russia who had jammed GPS sometime back , is not jamming the drones over Syria. Either unable to or does not want to reveal its cards.
 

cabatli_53

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The new high payload drones that will enter into inventory in this year will drop heavier and more capable bombs/missiles from higher altitudes than the one operated currently. When they entered into inventory, TAF won't need a manned figter to perform powerful aerial strike missions.

TAI Anka-Aksungur
  • 750kg payload
  • 40h flight duration
  • 40000ft altitude

Armed Aksungur

Signal Intelligence Aksungur

Maritime Patrol Aksungur



Bayraktar Akinci
  • 1350kg payload
  • 24h flight time
  • 40000ft altitude
  • AESA nose radar
  • Air to Air and SOM cruise missile launch capability




Bayraktar MIUS Jet Fighter Drone
  • 5,5-6t MTOW
  • 40000ft altitude
  • 900km/h max speed
  • 5+h flight time


TAI Göksungur supersonic drone
  • Not revealed any design image or features.

Thanks to new generation, swarm attack (Kuzgun) long range missiles, The new drones will be able to create more headache to SAM batteries from longer ranges. Kuzgun swarm attack munitions, Small diameter bombs, HGK, KGK, LGK and Teber family guided bombs and SOM cruise missiles on Turkish drones will be able to provide impressive capabilities to destroy larger convoys, buildings, bases and military campes with endless fire power.
 

xenon54 out

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Very interesting that countries other than usa are using drones so effectively , against a experienced opponent. Since drones are operated remotely, its surprising that russia who had jammed GPS sometime back , is not jamming the drones over Syria. Either unable to or does not want to reveal its cards.
Ok, when do you reveal your cards if not in a real time battle?
 

masterchief_mirza

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These drones seem pretty awesome. We could automate warfare even further and build a computer to control them all. We could call it something catchy, like...I dunno..."SkyNet"?
 

Dark1

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Ok, when do you reveal your cards if not in a real time battle?
Problem is that if you doubt or actually have limited capabilities, it's best to maintain the mystery. If Russia gets into a shooting war with usa backed Turkey and gets whipped, its global reputation will be in tatters. Why risk that for a minor conflict ?
But totally keeping quite while your ally is getting smashed also sends a very bad signal. Russia is in a tough place. But they are amongst the most intelligent people on the planet, I see them learning very fast from this conflict. Russia is one of only a handful of countries that can make fighter jet engines, china with all its copying and borrowing is still unable to match them .
 

Hakikat ve Hikmet

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These drones seem pretty awesome. We could automate warfare even further and build a computer to control them all. We could call it something catchy, like...I dunno..."SkyNet"?
And, that's the plan!!! They'll be made so "intelligent" and "loyal" you just show them the "target", and they'll figure out how to do it....
 

WarDaddy97

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Problem is that if you doubt or actually have limited capabilities, it's best to maintain the mystery. If Russia gets into a shooting war with usa backed Turkey and gets whipped, its global reputation will be in tatters. Why risk that for a minor conflict ?
But totally keeping quite while your ally is getting smashed also sends a very bad signal. Russia is in a tough place. But they are amongst the most intelligent people on the planet, I see them learning very fast from this conflict. Russia is one of only a handful of countries that can make fighter jet engines, china with all its copying and borrowing is still unable to match them .
Russia is a joke of country. I lived there 10 years, the entire country is nothing but smoke and mirrors.
Indeed they have smart people who, when opportunity presents, immigrate to Western countries. If you’re creative and a smart person russia is not a place for you.
Sure they produce jet engines-comes from Soviet school of engineering- but they are awfully behind drone technology. Behind China that reverse engineers everything. when Russia will finally put Okhotnik (Hunter) class UAV on conveyer belt it will be on limited scope just like T14 Armata tank and SU57

This is the beginning of a new era/century. Turkey has closed an era and started a new one.
We might call it the era/century of robot warriors.
It sure is for Turkey but not for USA and few other NATO members. The only difference is you guys are decimating regimes armored columns who are dumb enough to move in tight formation

Very interesting that countries other than usa are using drones so effectively , against a experienced opponent. Since drones are operated remotely, its surprising that russia who had jammed GPS sometime back , is not jamming the drones over Syria. Either unable to or does not want to reveal its cards.
Are you sure about that or not following events on the ground.
Last night Turks lost another Bayraktar. Do you see any burn marks or totally destroyed fuselage scattered around? No. what do you think brought it down?
Russian EW

 

xbat

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Very interesting read on Turkeys drones and their origin.
Seems a branch of a American company, based in uk was the supplier of key technology to Turkey. The Turks perfected drone use against the kurds last year.
from your link

"But while the armed Bayraktar TB2 drones are manufactured by a Turkish company, they could not have been developed without the Hornet missile rack, which was devised and supplied by EDO MBM Technology, located on the outskirts of Brighton, somewhere around 2015."

it is claimed an only missile rack! for bayraktar (we have ANKA too), when a missile rack become crucial thing? OK what about response from company owner(Bayraktar Manager). He says they dont buy anything from UK, it is a lie.
 

Dark1

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Russia is a joke of country. I lived there 10 years, the entire country is nothing but smoke and mirrors.
Indeed they have smart people who, when opportunity presents, immigrate to Western countries. If you’re creative and a smart person russia is not a place for you.
Sure they produce jet engines-comes from Soviet school of engineering- but they are awfully behind drone technology. Behind China that reverse engineers everything. when Russia will finally put Okhotnik (Hunter) class UAV on conveyer belt it will be on limited scope just like T14 Armata tank and SU57


It sure is for Turkey but not for USA and few other NATO members. The only difference is you guys are decimating regimes armored columns who are dumb enough to move in tight formation


Are you sure about that or not following events on the ground.
Last night Turks lost another Bayraktar. Do you see any burn marks or totally destroyed fuselage scattered around? No. what do you think brought it down?
Russian EW

I didn't know this.
So either Russia is bringing them down or they are crashing due to fuel/internal issues.
Either way it's the first large scale use of drones in a war like situation. Previously they were used by primarily usa for punitive strikes in Afghanistan Pakistan and other African countries.
 

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