Poland becomes first NATO country to buy Turkish drones
The deal will be a boost for the Turkish defense sector, which Erdoğan has said should meet the country's own military hardware requirements and export to allies abroad.
The sale was announced during a state visit to Ankara by Poland's President Andrzej Duda, who will visit Istanbul on May 25.
"With the steps we've taken in the last 19 years [in the defense industry], we've not only negated years of negligence but also carried our country to the league of giants in this field," Erdoğan said in a joint press conference with Duda, who was on an official visit to the Turkish capital Ankara.
Erdoğan underlined that Turkey and Poland were "walking firmly" towards achieving their $10 billion target in bilateral trade volume.
"Turkey, as part of NATO's Baltic Air-policing mission, will soon deploy its F-16 jets in Poland," he added, hailing the dispatch of Polish maritime patrol aircraft and military missions to the Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey under NATO's assurance measures adapted to Ankara.
For his part, Duda said Turkey was the "strongest ally" of Poland in "this part of the world" and thanked Erdoğan for the Turkish pilots "protecting the skies."
"I believe that as part of the NATO framework, we can prevent threats to the two countries from inside and outside the country," he added.
Duda also echoed his Turkish counterpart's sentiments on their countries' commercial cooperation, which he said would bring them to their $10 billion trade target.
"Turkey will for the first time in its history export drones to a NATO and EU member," Erdoğan told reporters after holding talks with Duda.
Erdoğan hailed the drones, saying "we are one of the best three, four countries in the world" for the hardware.
The two leaders also signed deals for the tourism, agriculture, and sports sectors.
Erdoğan also said Turkish F-16 jets would "soon" be sent to Poland to assist NATO's Baltic Air Policing operation.
On the weekend, Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak announced the country will purchase 24 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Turkey.
The Bayraktar TB2 drones, the first of which are due to be delivered next year, will be armed with anti-tank projectiles. Poland will also buy a logistics and training package, said Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak.
Blaszczak told state radio the Bayraktar TB2 drones “have proven themselves in wars” and added that the UAVs would be serviced by a military company.
Bayraktar TB2 entered the inventory of the Turkish army in 2014 and is currently used by several other countries, including Ukraine, Qatar, and Azerbaijan. Erdoğan said in March that Saudi Arabia was also interested in buying Turkish drones.
Turkey has effectively used its cutting-edge drones over the years in cross-border, anti-terror military operations, such as Euphrates Shield, Olive Branch, and Spring Shield, to liberate its Syrian border from terrorist entities.
Export licenses were suspended in 2019 during Turkish military activities in Syria. Restrictions were then eased but re-imposed during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Following Canada’s suspension decision last year, Turkish defense giant Aselsan developed and produced Common Aperture Targeting System cameras.
Turkish officials say the country has become the world’s fourth-largest drone producer since Erdoğan encouraged domestic production to reduce reliance on Western arms.
The TB2 armed UAV was developed for tactical reconnaissance and surveillance missions and can also carry ammo and conduct assaults and has laser target acquisition.