Turkish drones game-changer for Russia in Syria: Report
ANKARA – Anadolu Agency
Turkish military's "devastating display of power" with its effective domestic drone program against the Syrian regime in Idlib has changed the military equation against Russia, NATO officials said, according to a report.
American news site, Insider, said Tuesday that security officials stressed Turkey has "a new ace up its sleeve" with new weapons that forced Russia to think twice about escalating against the Turkish government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The report called Turkey's 100 domestically produced drones, which was used in offensives, "cheap guided munitions with deadly efficiency."
"The Turks have been developing their own drone program for almost a decade now and Idlib highlights how successful they have been," a NATO military official, who has been regularly based in the region in the past 10 years, told Insider anonymously.
"By domestically producing them with commercially available technology, they managed to build a very large and effective fleet far more cheaply than purchasing them from the U.S. or other allies.
"And because of their conflict with the PKK [terror group], they've had years to practice and hone their capability without concerns about human rights conditions," the official said.
The source said the U.S. restriction on arms sales helped Turkey's development with drone technology.
"By 2007 the Turkish military had tired of limitations on what it could buy from the Americans. Disappointed by the poor performance of Israeli drones on the market, it then began to develop their own program," the official said.
"Flying dozens of these drones over Idlib and dropping these bomblets on Syrian regime tanks all night got [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's attention," the NATO official added.
Turkey realized its program for developing and producing drones over a short span of 10 years. With these products, the Turkish armed forces have gained serious experience through operations in Syria and Iraq.
Ankara has the most extensive operational capabilities and experience in the use of drones among European countries.
Erdoğan and, Putin agreed on a new cease-fire in Idlib starting after March 5.
Under the deal, all military activities are to end in Idlib with the establishment of a security corridor 6 kilometers to the north and south of the key M4 highway.
Joint Turkish-Russian patrols will also begin March 15 along the highway from the settlement of Trumba – 2 kilometers to the west of Saraqib – to the settlement of Ain al-Havr, under the deal.
Turkey launched "Operation Spring Shield" on Feb. 27 after at least 34 Turkish soldiers were killed in an Assad regime airstrike in Idlib province, and after repeated violations of previous cease-fires.
Under a 2018 deal with Russia, Turkish troops were in Idlib to protect civilians from attacks by the regime and terrorist groups.
Idlib is currently home to 4 million civilians, including hundreds of thousands displaced in recent years by regime forces throughout the war-torn country.
In recent months, upwards of 1 million Syrians have moved near the Turkish border due to intense attacks by the Assad regime and its allies.