Despite three weeks of bombardment from Russia, Ukrainian forces have defended the country’s cities using cheap drones with lethal effectiveness, surprising Western military experts.
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The Turkish-made TB2 drones carry lightweight, laser-guided bombs and have helped Ukraine carry out unexpectedly successful attacks, Western military experts have said.
The drones, which are estimated to cost under $2m (£1.5m) each, are flown at a low level, allowing Ukrainian forces to strike Russian targets.
Jack Watling of the London-based Royal United Services Institute said the drones carried out successful attacks in the early stages of the invasion, before Russia was able to set up its air defences.
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Mr Watling said that the TB2s should be being shot down as the Russian’s have “very capable air defence systems”.
He added that now Russian forces are more organised, the freedom for Ukrainian forces to employ those drones is “diminishing”.
“So what we are now seeing is that the Ukrainians are having to be careful as to when they commit them,” he said.
The drones have also been praised by the UK’s defence secretary, Ben Wallace, who told Parliament that the TB2s have proven “incredibly important in order to slow down or block the Russian advance”.
Success on social media
Aerial footage of the destruction of Russian armoured vehicles from the drones has also become a key tool for Ukraine’s information war.
“The videos have enraptured people because you can see an airstrike in high definition”, Aaron Stein, director of research at the US-based Foreign Policy Research Institute, said.
He added that as long as the drones continue to fly and are armed, they will be useful.
Ukraine’s ambassador to Turkey, Vasyl Bodnar, also shared videos of drone attacks on Twitter, including one that appeared to show a convoy of destroyed Russian military vehicles.
A video using a song with the same name as the drone, ‘Bayraktar’, with sounds of explosions timed with the beats, has been played on Ukrainian radio.
Turkey began selling the TB2 drones to Ukraine in 2019, and Kyiv used them to fight Russian-backed separatists in the eastern Donbas region.
Although Turkish officials refuse to disclose details of the drone sales to Ukraine, independent estimates suggest the number of TB2s in Ukraine is between 20 and 50.
The drones are produced by the Baykar defence company, belonging to the family of the son-in-law of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Photo Credit: Getty