For the first time, the Ukrainian military used a Turkish drone Bayraktar TB2 for a reconnaissance mission over the Donbas region, as reported by local media. The flight, reported by the vice-chairman of the Ukrainian national security, intelligence and defense committee Yuriy Mysyagin, has taken place on April 9, 2021.
The Bayraktar TB2 drones were ordered by Ukraine in January 2019, with the first delivery taking place in June of the same year. After two years of training, Ukrainian operators are now operational.
With all its fighter jets dating from the Soviet era, the Ukrainian Air Force is in dire need of modern equipment. During the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014, it even lost 45 of its MiG-29s. Thus, in May 2020, the “Air Force Vision 2035” plan was announced in order to bring it up to Western standards.
While it should procure new fighter jets to replace the fighter fleet currently in service, composed of MiG-29 and Su-27 fighter jets, the Ukrainian Air Force also needed a ground-attack capability.
On October 5, 2020, the director of the Ukrspecexport state arms company Vadim Nozdrya said that a new batch of TB2 drones would be ordered to be produced locally under license. The country aspires to eventually operate a fleet of 48 drones.
The Bayraktar TB2 armed drone recently illustrated itself in the conflict that opposed Armenia and Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh. Used by the Azerbaijani forces, the drone destroyed a number of Armenian positions, especially armored vehicles and anti-aircraft systems.
Ukraine and Turkey have recently reinforced their relationship, especially around defense questions. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul on April 10, 2021. During the meeting, Erdogan said Turkey would support the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity as well as help its entry into NATO. Reacting to the declaration, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov warned Turkey against facilitating the “militarist’’ tendencies of Ukraine.