Turkey launched a wide-scale surveillance operation today over the border with Syria using a balloon, opening up a new strategy in its involvement in the Syrian conflict.
The balloon being used is 17 metres long and produced by the prominent Turkish defence company Aselsan. The deployment earlier today was on the border area in Turkey’s south-west district of Reyhanli in Hatay province, adjoining Syria’s Idlib.
Named Karagoz, the balloon is able to scan an area of eight square kilometres (3 square miles) with its surveillance camera, and can operate at altitudes of up to 500 metres.
Karagoz is a new addition to Turkey’s surveillance efforts along the border with Syria, where it has carried out a number of major military operations in recent years in order to clear the areas of Kurdish militias as well as provide support to the Syrian opposition in Idlib.
The balloon will serve to gather intelligence and alert the Turkish military to any attack on its military bases and facilities. It also has electro-optic cameras and 360 degree stabilised observation capabilities, enabling it to adapt to various tasks.
The military’s use of the balloon comes at a time when the country’s defence industry has provided invaluable assistance in Turkey’s operations within the region.
Its use of Bayraktar drones, for example, has seen the Turkish military dominate the skies over Syria and Libya, enabling Syrian opposition groups and the Libyan Government of National Accord to protect and expand the territory under their control.