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 Parliament's national security, intelligence and defense committee, Yuriy Mysyagin, has taken place on April 9.
The Bayraktar TB2 drones were ordered by Ukraine in January 2019, with the first batch delivered in June of the same year. After two years of training, Ukrainian operators are now operational, Aerotime reports.
With all its fighter jets dating back to the Soviet era, the Ukrainian Air Force is in dire need of modern equipment, the report reads, noting that while annexing Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, Russia grabbed 45 of its MiG-29s. Thus, in May 2020, the Air Force Vision 2035 action plan was announced in order to bring it up to Western standards.
Read alsoUkraine's brand new combat UAV debuts at IDEX 2021 (Photo)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 needs a ground-attack capability.
On October 5, 2020, Ukrspecexport state arms company CEO Vadym Nozdria 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 report reads.
The Bayraktar TB2 armed drone was recently a highlight of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh area. Employed by the Azerbaijani forces, the strike drone destroyed a number of Armenian positions, armored vehicles, and anti-aircraft systems.
Ukraine and Turkey have recently reinforced their relationship, including on defense issues. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul on April 10, 2021. Erdogan told Zelensky Turkey would support restoration of Ukraine's territorial integrity as well as help it join NATO. Reacting to the declaration, Russian top diplomat Sergey Lavrov warned Turkey against facilitating what he claimed were "militarist" tendencies of Ukraine.
Shortly following the Erdogan-Zelensky talks, Russia banned all tourist flights to Turkey, in an apparent blow to the country's recreation industry. The formal statement by Russian authorities claims the move is due to a worsening situation in Turkey with the COVID-19 spread.