Turkish drones have become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance

Bayraktar has become so popular that Ukrainians now name their pets after the Turkish-made drone. Last month, the mayor of Kyiv announced that a newborn lemur at the city zoo would be named Bayraktar, and the Foreign Ministry tweeted a photo of another Bayraktar, a puppy from the Kiev Police Canine Center.

The drone’s success “is not just about being able to target the Russian military,” said Samuel Bendett, senior fellow at the Russian Center for Naval Analysis (CNAS). “It’s also a public relations win.”

According to Bendett, the drone worked as expected, but it is not “invulnerable”. Open source data suggests that some of them may have been shot down by the Russians.

According to him, the drones “are part of a Ukrainian social media campaign that is very well run by the Ukrainian military and civilians.” A video of Bayraktar’s strikes went viral on social media and it “greatly boosted morale… [and] great tactical victory.

Bendett said the TB2 and other unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) being developed in Turkey have put the country on the drone map along with the US, China and Israel.

Turkey, which maintains close defense and economic ties with both Russia and Ukraine, is cautiously promoting what may have become one of its best-known exports. Drone sales have been a major irritant for Russia long before its invasion of Ukraine; Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned late last year that Turkish drones would have a “destabilizing” effect in the region.
A senior Turkish official told reporters on Friday that Russia had repeatedly complained to Ankara about selling drones to Ukraine. “They used to complain, now they complain, but we have already given an answer … [from] a private company, and this purchase was made before the war,” he said at a briefing for foreign media.

Ukraine became the first country to buy TB2 in 2019 and has ordered at least 36 drones so far. Last month, the Secretary of Defense announced the arrival of a new batch of drones.

Selcuk Bayraktar, CTO of Baykar Technologies, likes to talk about his drone technology more than politics. He is also the son-in-law of the Turkish president, who became a key mediator between Russia and Ukraine in the war.

Bayraktar has heard a song dedicated to his eponymous drone and knows what a social media phenomenon he has become in Ukraine, but he carefully weighs his words when talking about Ukraine.

“I think it’s one of the symbols of resistance, it gives them hope,” Bayraktar, an engineer and MIT graduate, said during a rare tour of a drone factory in Istanbul last week.

“People are resisting and defending their homeland from illegal occupation and… if you want independence, you have to be able to stand up and resist, and I think this is what the brave people of Ukraine and the leadership have done,” he said. “At the same time, you need technology, you need your own local defense capability, but when people’s lives are at stake… I don’t want to compare it to any technology.”

On display is the Kisilelma (Red Apple), Turkey’s first unmanned fighter aircraft, which has just hit the assembly line and is named after a Turkish mythological expression that symbolizes an ideal, a goal that a person wants to achieve. Bayraktar said he is expected to start flying next year.

Why Turkey is in a unique position to mediate

Industry experts say factors like cost make drones attractive.

“[The] Bayraktar TB2 offers an almost perfect balance of price and combat effectiveness [and] has an affordable unit cost,” said Dr. Can Kasapoglu, Director of Defense Studies at the Turkish Center for Economics and Foreign Policy (EDAM). “TB-2 competitors in the arms market are more expensive, have more bureaucratic and political purchases, or come with uncertain supply sustainability.”

The company does not disclose pricing information.

According to him, the drone also passed combat tests, which is an important criterion in arms deals.

“When the music stops, TB2s will most likely inflict more damage on the enemy than they take,” Casapoglu added. “This is crucial, especially for NATO’s eastern flank.”

Baykar Tech has signed contracts with at least 19 countries, most of which have been signed in the past 18 months. Among the buyers is Poland, the only EU and NATO member to order the UAV.

Turkey’s defense and aerospace exports totaled more than $3 billion last year, a record, according to the country’s state news agency.

“It is important to strengthen defense and aviation exports to countries with which Turkey has strategic relations,” Haluk Bayraktar, CEO of Baykar and Selçuk’s younger brother, told Anadolu news agency in January. “In addition to providing economic benefits, defense exports also provide a suitable basis for establishing strategic relationships with the countries you export to.”

For Selcuk Bayraktar, this is not only a family business and a lifelong passion for technology. He said that it was about ensuring the independence and technological self-sufficiency of his country.

“When I was 20… you could say we were going to be the best in football… [or] in baklava, in kebab, but no one could say that we were going to develop a niche technology that would become world famous.”

Celine Alhaldi and Eyad Kurdi contributed to this report

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Iranian lawmakers have demanded a series of conditions to revive the 2015 nuclear pact with world powers, including legal guarantees approved by the US Congress that Washington will not pull out of the deal, Iranian media reported Sunday. Separately, Tehran imposed sanctions on 24 Americans on Saturday.

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  • Why is it important: As negotiations stalled, increased sanctions from Iran and further demands could jeopardize the possibility of reaching a final agreement. Iran’s sanctions on 24 more Americans, including former Army Chief of Staff George Casey and former President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, could further limit negotiations in the negotiation room.

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The Expo 2020 Dubai site hopes to continue beyond the six-month event as it transforms into an ambitious new metropolitan area in Dubai.

On March 31, the first World Expo in the Middle East ended. Over the course of six months, Expo 2020 Dubai visited 192 countries and recorded over 24 million visits. Now attention is switched to what will happen next.

The 438-hectare site will reopen in October as District 2020, the name given to a new community focused on sustainability, smart technology and human-centered design, according to the District 2020 team. Over 80% of the buildings built for the show will remain part of District 2020, including crowd favorites such as Al Wasl Plaza, Terra, the Sustainability Pavilion, the Surreal Water Feature and the UAE Pavilion. It will accommodate up to 145,000 residents, a goal the UAE hopes to achieve within the next decade.

Businesses are also moving. District 2020 organizers hope to attract small and medium enterprises as well as 85 startups through its “Scale2DubaiMajor companies such as DP World, Siemens Energy and Terminus Technologies are also planning to open offices on site.

The 2020 area will still be connected to downtown Dubai via a newly built metro station and 3 major highways, but organizers say future residents will never have to leave the site. This is because city planners designed it as a “15-minute city”. This is the concept of urban planning, which means that every place that a person would ever need to visit – whether it be a school, an office, a hospital, a grocery store – is no more than a 15-minute walk or bike ride.

The organizers are confident that District 2020 will continue to attract visitors and tourists to the site. Al Wasl Dome plans to host regular concerts and shows, and the huge Dubai Exhibition Center will host major conferences throughout the year.

Bijan Hosseini

Photo of the day

Christians take part in the traditional Palm Sunday procession in the Iraqi city of Al-Kosh, 50 km north of the city of Mosul, on April 10.

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