A new military force is emerging in the Black Sea. 2020 was a very successful year for Turkey from a geopolitical point of view. This article will delve into what happened last year, how a drone can change the conflict in the Donbas and what we can expect in the new era of war. The article is written by a hobby enthusiast and should be treated as such.
February 2020. The Covid virus is starting to gain the attention it requires globally, but the headlines are in Ankara. The Turkish president has just ordered an attack on Syria or, more specifically, Operation Spring Shield. *
A few days ago, several Turkish soldiers, from 36 to 100 depending on the source, lost their lives when the Syrian Air Force and the Russian Air Force allegedly launched airstrikes on Turkish army positions. The next operation may have changed the war forever.
Five days later, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Erdogan met in Moscow, where the ceasefire was signed, but what happened in those five days?
The answer was a massacre. Turkey used its arsenal of drones for the first time, which freely took Russian and Syrian countermeasures. Video footage showed that they were destroying one Syrian armored vehicle after another, including more than 100 tanks, armored personnel carriers and air defense systems. It was reported that dozens of Turkish ANKA-S and Bayraktar-TB2 UAVs attacked government targets and destroyed several Russian-made air defense systems. Hundreds of Syrian government soldiers were killed, and Turkey penetrated deep into the Syrian front in just six days. Drones were seen as an obvious alternative to manned aerial fighters for the first time.
The Assad regime suffered heavy losses as a result of the drone campaign: several hundred soldiers, 151 tanks, eight helicopters, three drones, three fighter jets (including two Russian-made Su-24s), about 100 military vehicles and armored trucks, eight defense systems. Air force, 86 guns and howitzers, trucks of ammunition and remnants, one headquarters, among other military equipment and facilities. -1
Also, according to unofficial sources, the Russian Pantsir air defense system was taken out. This was the factor that could change the course of the war. 2
The events in Syria are not the first time that drones have been used, but they were a breakthrough. The United States previously used drones, but their range, limitations, technology, and inaccuracy were costing more than they deserved. The infamous blow of the Afghan wedding in 2008 killed 37 civilians and much of the United States’ goodwill in the region.
The scenario was different now. The drones performed their mission optimally and hit targets with precision. It may also be the deciding factor in the Azerbaijani offensive later that year. The main point, however, was not its overall effectiveness, but rather of the countermeasures that Russia could provide.
One of the main problems facing Ukraine in modernizing its armed forces is the lack of funds and personnel to maintain a modern air force. The Ukrainian Air Force has not acquired a new manned warplane since 1991, ** it will cost much more than the current budget to replace or upgrade it.
The second problem is that there are very few, if any, places where Russian surface-to-air missiles cannot target Ukrainian aircraft as they take off. Even the southern regions of the country could not be safe for potential SAM missiles in the Transanitra region of Moldova. Therefore, while Ukraine logically purchased and modernized its transport aircraft and helicopters, it took a different direction with regard to the air attack arsenal, perceptibly south over the Black Sea.
Since last year, Ukraine has received 9 Bayraktar-TB2 drones and commenced operation of frontline reconnaissance work. From 27 July 2020 until 7 November 2020, only three Ukrainian soldiers were killed on the front lines in the Donbas. Perhaps the reason is the shift in focus to the ongoing war in Karabakh and the revision of the peace talks. However, the fact that the drones provided a better overview and intelligence to the separatist movements in the past months continues and, without a doubt, saved the lives of Ukrainian soldiers.
Although I would be careful to say that the Turkish drone acquisition is the cause of escalation in the region, it would be reasonable to think that the terminology and the front line of modern Russian anti-aircraft movement are related. Political players will take the drone war component into account.
Turkish-Ukrainian cooperation causes a headache for Moscow
Francis Fukuyama stated that the world may have witnessed the last massive tank battle during the Iraq War in 2003. **** The success of the drone war did much to further Turkey’s rise as a regional power in 2020, and the success of the domestic arms industry is now seen as a success story Country.
The most important point, especially from the Ukrainian prisoner of war, is that the world has not yet caught up with effective countermeasures against the new generation of drones. While Russia has unique and modern anti-aircraft systems, they are still designed for combat aircraft and aircraft, not unmanned aircraft with a wingspan of 12 meters or less. It can be said that the Russian arms industry has on hand to modernize the official aspects of the army, tanks, aircraft, etc., forgot about the new technology of drones and lasers.
The most serious concern for the attacking force would be if Ukraine began arming its drone program. In cooperation with the Turkish and Qatari arms industries, the Ukrainians began a program to introduce a small, lightweight, rambling weapon system called a catapult dubbed RAM. ~ While a Bayraktar drone might be difficult to hit, a swarm of RAM drones can be next to impossible. In theory, Ukrainian forces could deploy plenty of drones and loitering munitions – and add unarmed robots to the mix as well – so that there would be more targets than Russian missiles. Then potential targets are identified only by the range of nearby enemy materials.
Missile costs may be higher than RAM drones, too. The second countermeasure that Russia has taken is drone jamming. There is clear evidence that they are already doing; Just two days ago, something happened that led to the jamming of an OSCE drone surveillance aircraft. However, unlike the unprotected OSCE UAVs, Ukrainian UAVs most likely use Turkish / NATO countermeasures that are, by all indications, more advanced.
Moscow may need new and better air defenses and jamming devices. If Ukraine does everything with drones, Russia may have to put a lot of effort into defenses against Drones, and that takes time, money, and technology that won’t be ready for battle in a month or so.
It does not change the rules of the game in the short term
This article bases its arguments on sources and hypotheticals based on available information. Aspects of how prepared Ukraine is and what countermeasures Russia has are completely unreliable.
However, Turkey has decided and greatly influenced three regional conflicts based on the UAV weapons platform and it can be said that it has ascended to become a regional power to challenge Saudi Arabia and Iran. Another fact that must be taken into account is that the three losing factions (the Syrian government, Armenia, and the Libyan House of Representatives) were all supported and supplied by the Russian arms industry.
Armenians have also deployed foreign drones: the Russian Orlan-10 UAV. However, the Orlan-10 was unable to defeat the Bayraktar TB2 UAV. Turkey effectively ended one of the “frozen conflicts” in the former Soviet Union through the simple export of a fleet of drones and removed a strong playing card from Russia in the region.
It would be wise for Russia not to underestimate Turkey’s threat because it is losing ground on two fronts that are important to Ankara’s national interests. Turkey is in a prime position to capitalize on its defense ties with Ukraine against Russia, which it has already started.
In November, Ukraine and Turkey announced that they would form a joint venture company to produce Ukrainian armed versions of the Bayraktar TB2 drones.
The Donbas War also benefits Turkey as an excellent place to test weapons in a direct conflict.
To wrap up the Turkish side, the country appears to be emerging as a global competitor to the Russian military industry as a 100% self-sufficient country in terms of military production. He cast a thoughtful suspicion of Russian hardware to many potential buyers. The Pantsir missile system has been particularly brought under suspicion as videos on Twitter showed it reduced to rubble from drone strikes. The Pantsir system may be in use in the separatist Donbas region.
On the one hand, Ukraine may finally have a card in the game to move away from the Minsk Agreement which is seen as too skewed toward Russia from the Kiev perspective. The perceived new hand may also be part of a renewed political push from Zelensky to remove pro-Russian influence from the country.
This situation could become a danger to Ukraine. Like Saakashvili in Georgia 2008, Ukraine can think it has more energy than reality show. The ultimate machine for the Russian military requires more than just drones, and history has shown that Russia will act if it dares to do so. Fighting against Russia-backed enemies is a different story than fighting Russia itself. Like all of Russia’s neighbors, the goal is always to make the nation bleed enough for most Russians to say it’s not worth it.
If Ukraine’s drone program is as good as recent confidence from Kiev has shown, it could be a bloody struggle. Russia’s air superiority will not be guaranteed, but there should be no belief that it alone will stop the Kremlin’s pure determination.