Friday, 5 November 2021

Morocco’s Bayraktar TB2 UCAVs Break Cover

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
Less than two months after the first Bayraktar TB2 unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) arrived to Morroco, one example has already been sighted in the skies over the Kingdom. Morocco is notoriously secretive when it comes to the types of drones it operates and where they're being deployed, and some of its UAV types have managed to evade public attention for years while others have yet to been sighted in Moroccan service. [1] Nonetheless, with thirteen TB2s reported to have been acquired the chance of spotting one increases considerably.

Morocco placed an order for thirteen TB2s, four ground control stations, a simulator as well as network-based data tracing and archiving software in 2020. [2] The Kingdom had previously received three or four Chinese-made Wing Loong Is (presumably as a gift from the UAE) in the same year, and it was expected that the acquisition of Wing Loongs would lead Morocco to acquire additional drones from China. But rather than settling on additional Chinese-made systems, the country instead purchased 13 Bayraktar TB2s from Turkey for an estimated 70 million USD. [3]
The first sighting of the TB2 comes amidst heightened tensions between Morocco and Algeria after the latter accused Morocco of carrying out a drone strike on two trucks in Western Sahara that killed three Algerian truck drivers. [4] There is currently no evidence to suggest that a Bayraktar TB2 was responsible for the attack, and if the strike was indeed carried out by a drone then a Chinese-made Wing Loong I is a more likely culprit. Several Wing Loong Is are currently deployed to Laayoune in Western Sahara, with forward deployments to Dakhla being a realistic possibility.

A Moroccan Bayraktar TB2 over Laayoune, Western Sahara.

[1] Operating From The Shadows: Morocco’s UAV Fleet