Monday, 21 November 2022

The Stalwart Ally: Türkiye’s Arms Deliveries To Ukraine


By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
As the Russo-Ukrainian War inches forward towards the one-year mark, Türkiye has used its unique position – as a NATO member and as the only remaining connection of Russia to the West – to both arm Ukraine as well as host several rounds of peace talks and negotiating the Black Sea grain deal. Though Türkiye has remained the friendliest of all the NATO countries towards Moscow, it is also the only NATO country that has supplied armament to Ukraine without the explicit condition not to use these against targets located inside Russia. Ukraine has gladly made use of that operational flexibility, using its Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 UCAVs to strike targets in Russia's Kursk and Belgorod Oblasts on numerous occasions. [1] [2] Its strategic leniency is not the only thing that distinguishes it amongst Ukraine's allies however, with its military support ranking as one of the most expansive of all NATO members.
 
The intensity of Türkiye's support to Ukraine should hardly come as a surprise to anyone who has followed the country's foreign policy decisions over the past years. In 2019 Türkiye was the only NATO member to intervene on the side of the internationally-recognised government of Libya against the Russian-backed Libyan National Army of Khalifa Haftar, ultimately pushing back the LNA and Wagner PMC and saving the internationally-recognised government from certain defeat. [3] [4] Though never actually having been credited for it, Türkiye's intervention was the only thing that prevented Russia from gaining a definite military foothold on NATO's Southern border.
 
That is not to say that Turkish foreign policy decisions that go directly against Russia's interests come without great risks, as the country is faced with both external and internal threats from actors that are already receiving Russian support and/or could see an escalation of support as an act of revenge. For its part, Israel has used such threats as a reason not to supply Ukraine with lethal aid (while also vetoing European countries from supplying Ukraine with Israeli-made armament). [5] Specifically, Israel is worried that the killing of Russian soldiers by Israeli-made weapons could lead to Russia harming Israeli security interests in Syria. [6] In stark contrast, Türkiye showed little hesitation in bombing positions and soldiers of Russia's Wagner PMC (which has acted as the unofficial arm of the Russian military) in Libya. While Türkiye appears intent on maintaining good foreign relationships, it is seemingly also one of the first to spring into action if it feels that its own interests or those of its strategic partners are threatened. 
 
For Ukraine specifically, this has not only included extensive efforts to mediate between Ukraine and Russia since March 2022, but also the delivery of some 35 Bayraktar TB2 UCAVs, 24 Mini-Bayraktar reconnaisance UAVs, TRLG-230 guided multiple rocket launchers (MRLs), electronic warfare equipment, 200 BMC Kirpi MRAPs, mortars and ammunition among a number of other items. Rather than publically touting the extent of its support, Türkiye has opted to keep publications about these deliveries to a minimum, with most deliveries only becoming known once they're spotted in Ukraine or reported by Ukrainian sources to us (as is the case with many of the weapons types reported in this article). A large portion of the armament has been donated, with the rest sold at steep discounts.
 

A row of Ukrainian BMC Kirpi MRAPs. Up to 200 are scheduled for delivery by Türkiye.

Türkiye's aid to Ukraine's plight has not entirely been a government affair. Baykar Tech, which gained international prominence through its decision to donate five Bayraktar TB2 UCAVs to Ukraine after crowdfunders from Lithuania, Ukraine and Poland succeeded in their fundraising goals, with the $32 million collected to be used for humanitarian, defensive and rebuilding projects in Ukraine instead. [7] [8] [9] Interestingly, that appears to be just half of the story, with Ukrainian government sources reporting to us that Ukraine received some fifteen more Bayraktar TB2s from Baykar free of charge, with another fifteen sold at a price covering only Baykar's manufacturing costs. Baykar has also donated 24 Mini-Bayraktar reconnaissance UAVs, which unlike most other (small) reconnaissance UAVs delivered to Ukraine are jamming-resistant, a highly welcome feature in the jamming-rich battlefield environment of Ukraine.

Baykar Tech CEO Haluk Bayraktar poses with the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine General Valerii Zaluzhnyi.

A hitherto unreported Turkish arms delivery to Ukraine consists of an unspecified number of 230mm TRGL-230 guided MRLs, which by virtue of their precision-guided munitions are especially lethal. In combined operations with the TB2, which can strike up to four targets but due to its 24+-hour endurance and the long range of its EO/IR sensor (the latter believed to be over 75km against targets such as vehicles) identify many more, the 230mm TRLG-230 can accurately destroy armament designated by Bayraktar TB2s UCAVs in quick succession out to a range of 70 kilometres. Though some have attempted to explain the lack of footage showing Bayraktar TB2s striking Russian targets by the fact that all TB2s have been shot down (or even more bizarrely, that all footage was recorded in the first days and then slowly leaked), as the threats on the battlefield have evolved Ukraine's TB2s have transited to a number of new roles including long-range reconnaissance, electronic warfare and deploying stand-off weapons, although details on the latter are still lacking.
 

The 230mm TRLG-230 guided MRL which can hit targets designated by Bayraktar TB2s. Türkiye has provided Ukraine with an unspecified number of these MRLs.

Türkiye has plenty of other assets that would be highly suitable to the Ukrainian Armed Forces. In addition to UCAVs and guided MRLs, it exports virtually every weapons system imaginable. This includes the 122mm T-122 and 300mm TRG-300 MRLs, but also air defence systems like the 15km-ranged HISAR-A+, the 25km-ranged HISAR-O and the 35mm Korkut, a self-propelled anti-aircraft gun (SPAAG), both of which are ideally suited to counter the threat posed by loitering munitions. Though NATO continues to scour its member states to procure Soviet-era armament, the gradual drying up of these sources could one day lead to a shift to the acquisition of more advanced armament on behalf of Ukraine from Türkiye, which has proven to have little issues with supplying Ukraine with advanced armament, even if it can be used to attack targets inside Russia.
 
Meanwhile, Ukraine is also scheduled to receive the first of the two Ada-class corvettes it ordered from Türkiye in December 2020. The F211 Hetman Ivan Mazepa was officially launched on the 2nd of October 2022, and will continue to prepared for service in Türkiye until it can be handed over to the Ukrainian Navy. [10] Though Russian naval presence in the Black Sea might preclude the use of these vessels for the foreseeable future, Turkish efforts to address Ukraine's more pressing problems have been ongoing. Recent reports that Baykar Tech has also sought to aid Ukraine in combating the threat posed by Iranian-made loitering munitions by integrating Sungur IIR-guided MANPADS to the Bayraktar TB2 serve to highlight its status as a staunch ally that favours the defence of Ukraine even if it means harming its ties with Russia. [11]
 

The Ukrainian Ada-class corvette F211 Hetman Ivan Mazepa that was launched in Türkiye in October 2022.

The following list attempts to keep track of military equipment delivered to Ukraine by Türkiye during the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. The entries below are sorted by armament category, and due to the confidential nature of some arms deliveries they can serve only as a lower bound to the total volume of weaponry delivered. This list will be updated as further military support is declared or uncovered.
 
(Click on the equipment to get a picture of them in Ukraine when available)
 

Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs)

  • 30+ Bayraktar TB2s [Delivered from March 2022 onwards] (Half donated by Baykar Tech, the other half sold at half the price)
  • 5 Bayraktar TB2s [Delivered from July 2022 onwards] (Crowdfunded by Lithuanian, Ukrainian and Polish citizens. Subsequently given to Ukraine by Baykar Tech free of charge with the $32 million collected used for aid)

Reconnaissance UAVs

 

(Guided) Multiple Rocket Launchers


Air-To-Air Missiles

  • Sungur IIR-guided MANPADS (For Bayraktar TB2) [To be delivered] 


Electronic Warfare (EW) Equipment

  • Ground-Based Electronic Warfare Equipment [Summer 2022]
  • Airborne Electronic Warfare Equipment (For Bayraktar TB2) [Summer 2022]


Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicles

  • 200 BMC Kirpis [Delivered from August 2022 onwards]
 

Mortars

  • Unknown Mortars [Delivered before October 2022] 

 

Small Arms

  • Heavy Machine Guns For Use Against Loitering Munitions [To be delivered] 
 

Munitions

  • 100.000 155mm Artillery Rounds [To be delivered] 
  • MAM-L Guided Bombs (For Bayraktar TB2) [Delivered from March 2022 onwards] 
  • MAM-C Guided Bombs (For Bayraktar TB2) [Delivered from March 2022 onwards]
  • Sungur IIR-guided MANPADS (For Bayraktar TB2) [To be delivered]
 

Military Gear

 

Miscellaneous Equipment

 
[3] Al-Watiya - From A Libyan Super Base To Turkish Air Base https://www.oryxspioenkop.com/2020/09/al-watiya-airbase-capture.html
[4] Tracking Arms Transfers By The UAE, Russia, Jordan And Egypt To The Libyan National Army Since 2014 https://www.oryxspioenkop.com/2020/06/types-of-arms-and-equipment-supplied-to.html
[5] Vetoing Victory - Israel Is Blocking (Military) Aid To Ukraine https://www.oryxspioenkop.com/2022/06/vetoing-victory-israel-is-blocking.html
[6] Israel refused US request to transfer anti-tank missiles to Ukraine — report https://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-refused-us-request-to-transfer-anti-tank-missiles-to-ukraine-report/
[7] Go-Fund Ukraine: Baykar Tech Donates TB2 For Ukraine After Lithuanian Crowdfunder https://www.oryxspioenkop.com/2022/06/go-fund-ukraine-lithuania-raises-funds.html
[8] A Ukrainian TV host crowdfunded $20 million to buy Bayraktar drones. The company making them refused the money and said it'd donate the aircraft instead https://www.businessinsider.com/bayraktar-firm-refuses-20m-says-will-donate-drones-to-ukraine-2022-6?international
[9] Baykar to donate another drone to Ukraine after Polish crowdfunding campaign https://www.aerotime.aero/articles/31748-baykar-to-donate-drone-to-ukraine-after-polish-fundraiser
[10] Turkish shipyard launches Ukraine’s 1st MILGEM corvette https://www.navalnews.com/naval-news/2022/10/turkish-shipyard-launches-hetman-ivan-mazepa/
[11] Turkish drone maker Baykar ‘to counter kamikaze threat in Ukraine’ https://www.dailysabah.com/business/defense/turkish-drone-maker-baykar-to-counter-kamikaze-threat-in-ukraine

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