The United Arab Emirates is in negotiations to make a major purchase of armed drones from Turkish producer Baykar, two people familiar with the negotiations told Middle East Eye.
The talks between Baykar and state companies within the Emirati arms procurement agency Tawazun to supply the firm’s famed Bayraktar TB2 drones have continued since March, according to the sources.
Bayraktar TB2 drones have a proven track record against adversaries in conflicts in Libya, Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh. But they had not been used against an army with sophisticated electronic warfare capabilities and state-of-the-art air defence systems until the Russian invasion of Ukraine, where they have been deployed by Ukrainian forces.
So far they have proved extremely effective in combating Russian troops deployed deep inside Ukrainian territory, as well as within Russia’s borders.
One of the sources said the negotiations were focusing on the supply of 120 TB2 Bayraktars. “They will come with a package of ammunition, command and control centres, and training. Together it could be a deal of up to $2bn,” the source said.
The source added that some of the components of the TB2 might be produced in a Baykar plant in the UAE, if the deal goes forward.
One industry insider told MEE that each Bayraktar TB2 goes for $5m and each aircraft requires 100 MAM-L smart micro munitions, which together are worth $15m. There is also an additional cost for training as well as the command-and-control centres, which varies on the number of drones since each centre can control up to six.
MEE has asked the UAE authorities for comment.
Baykar has ties to the family of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. One of its top engineers, Selcuk Bayraktar, is married to Erdogan’s daughter, Sumeyye.
Baykar CEO Haluk Bayraktar said last month that his company has a three-year-long backlog of orders and that his company can produce about 20 Bayraktar TB2s in a month.
Turkey and the UAE began to restore relations over the past year, after 10 years of political and proxy conflicts in places such as Libya, Egypt and the Horn of Africa. Ties were soured further by accusations that the Emiratis were plotting to take down the Turkish government and involved in the 2016 coup attempt, a claim the UAE denies.
During the 2019-2020 Libya war, the UAE and Turkey supported opposite sides of the conflict, with Abu Dhabi supplying the forces of Khalifa Haftar with Chinese-made Wing Loon II drones and Ankara giving authorities in Tripoli Bayraktar TB2s.
The new ties are quickly proving lucrative. There are Emirati plans to invest billions of dollars into Turkish health care, financial technology and startups. Abu Dhabi also signed a $5bn currency swap deal with Turkey earlier this year. The two countries have also started negotiations on a free trade deal.
Sources tell MEE that an order of 120 TB2s is being discussed in the latest example of growing ties between the regional competitors
IMO, the speculated contract amount is quite high. UAE will probably be one of the countries where Baykar will open production facilities abroad in relation to its policy of increasing its production capacity.
Or a sizable ammunition supply, electronic system, and ground services are being negotiated as part of the contract.
If this deal is achieved, the UAE military will become the largest TB-2 operator in the world. Currently, 24 countries are TB2 users or have completed the agreement and their training continues. As the order book is full until 2025, Baykar continues its huge investments in increasing its production capacity. In this context, a production line will also be opened in Ukraine.