Turkey’s unprecedented ascent to drone superpower status

  • In this special Long Read, guest writer Samuel Brownsword lays out the rise of Turkey as a drone superpower, as well as its increasing use of armed drones, both within and without its borders.
President Erdogan poses with Bayraktar drone

In late February 2020, at least 33 Turkish soldiers were killed in an airstrike in Syria’s Idlib province which Ankara blamed on the government of President Bashar al-Assad, although many suspected that it was in fact carried out by Russian forces.  At the time, those monitoring events in Syria feared that the attack could trigger a direct confrontation between Turkey and Russia, a supporter of Assad. Events leading up to this incident had already strained relations between the two countries and threatened to rupture defence, energy, and trade links. However, Ankara’s response not only marked the beginning of a new stage in the Syrian civil war, but yet another escalation in global drone warfare.  Read more

Armed Drone Proliferation Update, January 2020

The third of our twice-yearly updates details new operators and other significant developments around the proliferation of armed drones.  For our complete list of states operating, or close to operating, armed drones see Who Has Armed Drones?

France undertakes first drone strikes

As has long been expected, the French Reaper fleet started to undergo weaponization in October 2019, with Jane’s reporting that this process will continue to run until Nov 2021 under a contract worth $17.87m.  A mere two days after completing a first test launch with its new missiles, the French air force carried out its first drone strike in Mali.  The strike, on 23 December, was part of an operation that reportedly killed 40 ‘terrorists’. A further drone strike in Mali on 19 January was reported by the French Ministry of Defence, killing five alleged armed militants.  This represents a clear escalation in the use of force. Read more

Armed drones control process must be opened to civil society groups and drone victims

Expanding drone strikes

Details of a US-initiated proposed control agreement on the export and use of armed drones have been announced. The Joint Declaration on the Export and Subsequent Use of Armed or Strike-Enabled Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), signed by 48 nations including the UK, sets out very briefly – on less than one side of paper – five broad principles to be adhered to in relation to the export and use of armed drones. According to an accompanying Fact Sheet issued by the US State Department, The “will serve as a basis for discussions on a more detailed set of international standards… which the United States and its partners will convene in spring 2017.” Read more

A new international control regime on armed drones led by the US?  What is going on?

Reaper-17The United States has begun moves to develop what amounts to a new international control regime on the proliferation and use of armed drones.  US officials presented details of a ‘Proposed Joint Declaration of Principles for the Export and Subsequent Use of Armed or Strike-Enabled Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)’ to international export control officials during the arms trade treaty review conference in Geneva this week. Read more

Large military drones continue to crash as they spread

A US Predator drone crashed in Turkey, Feb. 2016
US Predator crashed in Turkey, Feb. 2016

In the latest of our six-monthly updates, Drone Wars has added another 35 crashes of large military drones to the Drone Crash database. 21 of the crashes have occurred since the last update in September 2015, with a further 14 previously unknown US military drone crashes in 2014 and 2015 revealed by the Freedom of Information work in the US by the Washington Post. Drone Wars UK has been tracking crashes of large military drones (Class 2 and 3) since 2010 as a means of researching the proliferation and use of large military drones. Read more

Military drone crashes show spread of drone wars

US drone crashed in Iraq, July 2015
US drone crash in Samawa province, Iraq, July 2015

Drone Wars UK has updated the Drone Crash Database with details of a further 19 large drone crashes since our last update in February 2015.  Sixteen of the crashes occurred in 2015 while three previously unknown US drone crashes from 2014 have been revealed through the publication of accident investigation reports.

For the past five years Drone Wars UK has been recording crashes of large military drones (Class 2 & Class 3) as a way of tracking the spread and expansion of the use of drones. Due to the secrecy surrounding their use the database is almost certainly not complete. Read more