International pressure appears to be mounting on Turkey’s Bayraktar TB2 attack drones.
It should be noted that this is often not political pressure, but a result from Armenian lobbying to business itself, since governments appear all the happier to receive funds for arms exports.
The indigenous Turkish drone is “homemade” as far as assembly goes, with most of its parts being imported from the UK, Canada, Germany and others.
The infographic below provides some insight into where each part originates from.
Project Ploughshare, a Canadian NGO which works to advance policies and actions to prevent war and armed violence and build peace, published a report into Wescam’s selling of sensors to Turkey.
The entire report can be found here [pdf].
Photos taken at arms fairs and in conflict zones commonly display Turkish UAVs fitted with WESCAM products, usually the MX-15D, the favourite of the Turkish Air Force (Türk Hava Kuvvetleri or THK).
This model is easily identifiable when mounted to an airframe. Baykar, the manufacturer of Turkey’s most popular UAV, the TB2, has publicly lauded WES-CAM systems and lists WESCAM as their sole EO/IR provider. WESCAM now has an authorized service centre at the Baykar site in Istanbul.
And this happened in recent years, in 2016 Canadian arms exports to Turkey stood at $4.2 million, in 2019 they reached $192 million.
In October 2019, Canada joined Germany, France, and the United Kingdom in an arms embargo against Turkey in response to Turkey’s unilateral invasion of Syria, which GAC deemed could risk “undermining the stability of an already fragile region, exacerbating the humanitarian situation and rolling back progress achieved by the Global Coalition Against Daesh.”
In April 2020, the Canadian arms embargo was indefinitely extended.
The principled and proactive freeze on Turkish-bound exports was seen as a positive example of Canada’s arms-control regime working as it should.
In response, Turkish officials frantically pressured Ottawa to allow an exemption, explicitly for WESCAM sensors, which have become essential to the operation of its UAVs.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan personally called Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to request that the export freeze be reversed, emphasizing the “utmost importance to the import of the optics and surveillance systems from the Canadian firm Wescam [sic] for its military drones,” which were being used in Syria and Libya.
And an exemption was granted, so Bayraktar keeps receiving the equipment, for the drones to keep shooting.
The Bayraktar TB2 has been used in all operations in Northern Iraq, Northeastern Syria, Syria’s Idlib, Libya, and now is actively being used in Nagorno-Karabakh against Armenia.
In Germany, protests led to the company Rotax to stop supplying aircraft engines to “countries with unclear use”.
Rotax is a subsidiary of Canadian Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP) says it has suspended the delivery of aircraft engines to “countries with unclear usage” in the wake of reports that some of those engines are being used on Turkish combat drones deployed by Azerbaijan in fighting against Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh.
The Quebec-based company — better known for its Ski-Doo and Lynx snowmobiles — said it became aware late last week that some of the recreational aircraft engines produced by its Austrian subsidiary, Rotax, are being used on Turkish Bayraktar TB2 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
“We have recently been made aware that some Rotax engines are currently used in military UAVs, and have started a thorough investigation immediately,” Martin Langelier, BPR’s senior vice president and the company’s spokesperson, told Radio Canada International in an email statement.
“In the meantime, we are suspending delivery of aircraft engines in countries with unclear usage.”
Armenian officials also have accused Azerbaijan of using the Turkish drones to not only target military forces but also to conduct strikes against civilian infrastructure across Nagorno-Karabakh and in Armenia proper.
Turkey and Azerbaijan have denied these reports. The Turkish embassy did not respond to a request for comment
Officials at Global Affairs Canada said they are investigating allegations regarding the possible use of Canadian technology in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and “will continue to assess the situation.”
Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne suspended the export permits for WESCAM optical sensors and target acquisition systems on October 6th.
However, senior Global Affairs officials speaking at a briefing for MPs on the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh could not explain why an exemption was made for these exports in the first place, given the embargo announced in 2019 and renewed in April of this year.
Essentially, Turkey is accused of using these drones to indiscriminately target military targets, as well as civilians in every battlefield they’re employed, and it is suspect to consider that there’s not a single grain of truth in these reports.
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- Armenians Claim They Shot Down Another Bayraktar TB2 Over Nagorno-Karabakh (Video, Photos)
- Turkish Drone Diplomacy