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UK defense chief: Turkish use of drones 'game-changing'

The first Turkish military drone lands at Gecitkale Airport in the eastern coastal city of Magusa (Famagusta) in Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) on 16 December 2019. [Muhammed Enes Yıldırım - Anadolu Agency]
The first Turkish military drone lands at Gecitkale Airport in the eastern coastal city of Magusa (Famagusta) in Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) on 16 December 2019. [Muhammed Enes Yıldırım - Anadolu Agency]

Britain's defense secretary on Wednesday stressed the "game-changing" role of Turkish drones in modern warfare in the Middle East and North Africa, Anadolu reports.

"We need to look at the lessons of others. Look how Turkey has been operating in Libya where it has used Bayraktar TB-2 UAVs since mid-2019," Ben Wallace told a virtual gathering of the Air and Space Power Conference.

"Those UAVs have conducted intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and targeting operations against frontlines, supply lines and logistics bases."

"In July last year they struck the Libyan National Army-controlled Jufrah Airfield destroying several command and control nodes as well as two transport aircraft," he added, referring to a force under Khalifa Haftar, a renegade warlord fighting Libya's UN-recognized government.

Last year, Turkey and Libya signed a pact on defense cooperation.

On Turkey's counter terrorism operations in northern Syria, he underlined the success of lightly armed drones used there.

READ: 'We will not let anybody harm Turkey's interests' 

"Or consider Turkey's involvement in Syria and its use of electronic warfare, lightly armed drones, and smart ammunition to stop tanks, armored cars, and air defense systems in their tracks," he said.

"According to reports, the Assad regime suffered heavy losses '3,000 soldiers, 151 tanks, eight helicopters, three drones, three fighter jets vehicles and trucks, eight aerial defense systems and one headquarters among other military equipment and facilities'," he said.

"Even if only half of these claims are true, the implications are game-changing."

Also at the conference, Wallace announced that the UK had signed a £65 million ($81.8 million) contract to build the UK's first three Protector drones.

They will enter service by mid-2024 and will be the first British-operated system capable of strike missions anywhere in the world.

They have enhanced range and endurance and will replace the UK's current stock of Reaper drones.

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