Massive military drones: 10 disruptive technologies in 2023

For decades, high-end, precision-guided American aircraft such as the Predator and Reaper have dominated drone warfare. However, the war in Ukraine was defined by low-budget models made in China, Iran or Turkey. Their widespread use has changed how drone combat is fought and who can fight it.

Some of these new drones are off-the-shelf quadcopters, such as those from DJI, that are used for both reconnaissance and close range attacks. Others, such as the $30,000 exploding Iranian-made Shahed drones that Russia used to attack civilians in Kyiv, are capable of longer range missions. But most notable is the $5 million Bayraktar TB2, manufactured by Turkey’s Baykar Corporation.

TB2 is a set of fairly good parts assembled in a slow-flying body. It travels at speeds up to 138 miles per hour and has a range of about 186 miles. Baikar says he can stay in the air for 27 hours. But when combined with cameras that can share video with ground stations, the TB2 becomes a powerful tool both for targeting the laser-guided bombs mounted on its wings and for assisting in direct artillery fire from the ground.

The most important thing is simply its availability. US-made drones like the Reaper are more efficient but more expensive and subject to tight export controls. TB2 is available to any country that wants it.

Turkish military used drones against Kurds in 2016. Since then, they have been used in Libya, Syria and Ethiopia, as well as in Azerbaijan. during the war with Armenia. Ukraine bought six in 2019 for hostilities in the Donbass, but drones attracted the attention of the whole world in early 2022, when they helped thwart the Russian occupiers.

The tactical advantages are obvious. Unfortunately, it is also clear that these weapons will inflict ever more terrible losses on civilians throughout the world.

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