Threats and challenges with UAVs from Erdogan – Athens’ countermeasures

With the ever-increasing use of UAVsa relatively new weapon produced by the Turkish defense industry, the Anchor intensifies the questioning of Greek sovereignty, while now also using them to launch threats. It is indicative that yesterday the president of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan he implicated UAVs in his more general aggressive rhetoric, saying his country is present “with our armed unmanned” aircraft “and with them we are the trouble of our enemies”. Regarding the scope of their use, it should be noted that by 2022 almost half of the violations of the national airspace were by UAVs. THE Hellas proceeds with various countermeasures, with the most important being the utilization of Israeli technology systems.

New tool for disputes in the Aegean

By our correspondent in Constantinople, Manoli Kostidis

In recent months, Turkish unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have become the spearhead of Turkish challenges in the Aegean.

Their ever-increasing use for violation of national airspace but also the flights over Greek islandshas moved the UAVs of the Turkish industry into the center of attention, not only of of the Greek Armed Forces, but also of foreign policy. And this is because they are an exportable item “made in Turkey”, which is used to ease differences and create channels, not only in Africa and Asia, but even with EU member states.

The President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself, in a speech at the National Defense University, underlined that “we now exist with our drones, our armed drones and our “Akinci”, while after referring to Turkish frigates and helicopters, he added that “now, with these weapons, we are the trouble of our enemies in the world”. Athens, with his actions Ministry of National Defense attempts to shield the Aegean from the trickery of UAVs, with countermeasures which to a significant extent have been deployed on the islands.

According to Turkey’s Industry Minister Mustafa Varank, the neighboring country’s armed forces have at least 200 UAVs. Just the day before yesterday, the director of the Baykar company, Selcuk Bayraktar, who is also the son-in-law of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, presented the prototype of the unmanned fighter being prepared by Turkey, which is called “Kizil Elma” (“red apple”) and is expected on its first flight to take place in March 2023.

“Now we exist with our armed drones and now, with these weapons, we are the trouble of our enemies in the world,” Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday.

The most important unmanned fighter – and perhaps the most successful – is considered the “Vayraktar TB2”. At least 300 such aircraft have been produced and the Turkish security forces have about 180. It is used for targeted strikes against tanks and armored vehicles. The export success of this drone is significant, as they have been sold or leased to Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Qatar, Libya, Turkmenistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, and there are also reports of leases to Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kyrgyzstan. Poland has ordered 24 “Bayraktar TB2”.

These drones have proven their capabilities in the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh and have given Azerbaijan the upper hand, as well as with Ukrainian strikes on Russian forces.

“Bayraktar Akinci” is the second unmanned aircraft of the company of the same name, which is capable of carrying weapon systems and surface-to-air missiles as well as air-to-air, i.e. launching missiles against fighters and helicopters. The specific aircraft, in addition to the Turkish armed forces, has been preferred by the respective forces of Pakistan and Azerbaijan. “Akinci” has been used in Turkey’s missions against the PKK. Its purchase cost is estimated at 10 million euros.Threats and challenges with UAVs from Erdogan - Athens' countermeasures-1

The Turkish Aerospace Industry (TUSAS) also participates in the production of unmanned aircraft. The “Anka” is the main aircraft produced and to date it is estimated that about 40 have been delivered. It is planned to deliver 8 “Anka” to Tunisia and another 3 to Kazakhstan.

The Aksungur unmanned bomber is also manufactured by TUSAS. It has the ability to fly for 60 continuous hours and carry several bombs and guided missiles weighing 1,500 kg, reaches a height of 12,000 meters, while there are no reports of how many have been delivered to the armed forces, but it is estimated at least 10.

The most violations are with UAVs

By Vassilis Nedos

The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) by the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) to challenge Greek sovereignty (flyovers of islands and islets), but also the assistance in the daily violations of the national airspace is not a new practice.

However, in recent months the use of UAVs has increased, with the result that since the beginning of the year until yesterday, a total of 257 unmanned aircraft exits have been recorded, which carried out during the year more than half of the approximately 4,800 violations that took place in of 2022. The main reasons for the increase in the use of UAVs for violations by Turkey are as follows:

• Firstly, a UAV can carry out routine operations (such as violations of the national airspace of Greece) for a much longer period of time and at a much lower cost, as they can fly for 24 hours, with limited fuel consumption and without human presence ( i.e. without a pilot).

• Second, because the UAVs have the ability to monitor and transmit images to their control stations in the interior of Turkey with reliability.

• Third, the UAVs fill a task, which the Turkish Air Force (TuAF) cannot handle at the moment not only because of the persecution suffered by its officials, but also because the sanctions against Turkey for the acquisition of the S-400 have made the necessary spare parts to keep Turkish fighters in airworthy condition hard to find. In short, the replacement of the flying task of fighters, flying radars and other manned planes by the UAVs of the domestic industry is an indirect but not a clear indication of the weakness of the Turkish air force.

In the vast majority, the two types of UAVs used by TEDs for violations are primarily the “Bayraktar” TB-2 and ANKA-S. The ranks of TEDs also include “Akinci” and – to a much lesser extent – ​​“Aksungur”, which are mostly used in operations against the Kurds in Southeast Turkey, Syria and Northern Iraq. Users of the TB-2 and ANKA-S unmanned aerial vehicles are all three branches of the TED (Air Force, Navy, Army), but also the internal security forces, such as the special police forces and the military gendarmerie. In fact, the TB-2 of the special police forces often patrol the Evros and the Northeast Aegean.

In 2020, year of the two crises, of February in Hebrew and of the August – November period in Eastern Mediterranean and to Aegeanthe staffs of GEETHA, GES, GEN and GEA were able to analyze data from the mode of action and tactics developed by the Turks in order to exploit the advantages that may be given at the operational level by platforms such as TB-2 and ANKA-S.

Threats and challenges with UAVs from Erdogan - Athens' countermeasures-2
Tayyip Erdogan made new aggressive statements against Greece during a ceremony at the National Defense University (file photo). Photo NO.

The Greek “countermeasures”

The activity of the Turkish UAVs in the Aegean inevitably led to the discussion about taking measures to deal with them, but also to the decision-making about the acquisition of such capabilities by Greece as well. In the second part, the decision to lease and then purchase Israeli Heron UAVsfor the provision of American MQ-9s, but also to investigate the development of domestic drones, several steps have been taken. As for dealing with UAVs, during the summer the placement of Israeli technology systems, adapted to the geomorphological conditions, progressed (and is still ongoing) in various parts of the Eastern Aegean islands. The specific program proceeds in conditions of absolute secrecy and its main feature is the creation of interference in the flight of UAVs. It is absolutely clear that from the Greek side the specific system is not going to be used simply and only to intercept any UAV that commits violations.

THE “K” has been highlighted repeatedly the question of the threat posed to the Greek defense arrangement by Turkish UAVs. The most appropriate way to deal with UAVs is to use electronic warfare (EW) techniques. More developed countries have means that interfere with the UAV’s positioning system, effectively disorienting it. Since UAVs are controlled from a remote ground station, the most effective way to interfere is to stop sending telemetry data so that the UAV loses its orientation or crashes. It is worth noting that at the moment the Armed Forces do not have capable electronic warfare (EW) capabilities, a fact that causes concern, not only at a tactical level, but in a broader strategic context of a possible armed Greek-Turkish confrontation in the Aegean.

At the moment and given the above conditions, the Turkish UAVs are either intercepted by Air Force fighters that are in the air for the specific mission at that moment or are monitored by all the air defense means available to the Armed Forces.

Turkish UAVs most of the time operating in the Aegean do not carry weapons. However, as can be seen from the accompanying graph, they may carry out offensive operations using weapon systems. They have the ability to attack targets on the ground and at sea, which makes them a threat to the Navy’s surface units as well. According to the specifications given by the Turkish industry, some of the UAVs are capable of firing air-to-air missiles. However, the long-term operational problem of the Armed Forces in a potential war scenario in the Aegean, is the possibility of saturation attacks by UAVs, but much more so by smaller drones which will essentially be able to exceed the capabilities of an effective response from the Greek air defense.

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Tags: Threats challenges UAVs Erdogan Athens countermeasures

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