We have fully updated our list of countries operating medium altitude, long endurance (MALE) armed drones as typified by the MQ-9 Reaper and Bayraktar TB2. Just to emphasis, our list does not include states possessing loitering munitions (sometimes dubbed ‘suicide’ or kamikaze’ drones by the media) or other, one-off use smaller systems.
According to our data, thirty-four countries currently possess armed MALE drones although some of these countries may not be currently using them operationally. Out of the 34 states known to possess armed drones 12 have used them in cross border strikes and 11 have used them for strikes within their own borders.
Since our last update in May 2022, seven new countries have acquired armed drones: Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Mali, Niger, Poland, Somalia, Togo and Tunisia. All have acquired them from Turkey. While Bayraktar TB2 armed drones are being used in Somalia it is not clear if they are being used by Turkish or Somali forces.
In addition to these 34 countries, we have identified another 14 countries that are likely to acquire armed drones in the near future although this is almost certainly a significant underestimate as proliferation of these systems, particularly from Turkey, is rapidly increasing.
The full list of countries that possess armed drones, the type of armed drones they operate, which countries are likely to become operators in the near future, and a short narrative report on each country is available on our page: ‘Who Has Armed Drones?’
Turkey’s armed drone exports
Over the past five years (2018 – 2022) Turkey has become the predominant exporter of armed drones. Out of the 20 countries that first gained armed drone capability in that period, four received drones from China, France armed its US drones and Russia began using its indigenously developed ‘Orion’ (Inokhodets) armed drone. The other 14 all received armed drones from Turkey.
To further emphasis Turkey’s dominance in the armed drone market, out of the 13 countries that are known to have first gained armed capability from China, ten have either gone on to order armed drones from Turkey or are in discussions about doing so.
This means that some countries are now operating armed drones from different suppliers: Ethiopia is operating armed drones sourced from China, Turkey and Iran, while Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Pakistan and UAE are operating Chinese and Turkish armed drones.
Turkey’s drone exports (March 2023)
US and Israel supplied drones
The United States has supplied armed drones to the UK and France and has signed a contract to supply Taiwan. Italy and Netherlands are discussing whether to arm their US drones, while Germany is in the process of arming its Israeli Heron drones.