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Turkey, Azerbaijan drone success should worry Europe, says European Council analyst

The Bayraktar TB2 drone is pictured on December 16, 2019 at Gecitkale Airport in Famagusta in the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). [BIROL BEBEK/AFP via Getty Images]
The Bayraktar TB2 drone is pictured on December 16, 2019 at Gecitkale Airport in Famagusta in the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). [BIROL BEBEK/AFP via Getty Images]

The success in drone warfare conducted by Turkey and Azerbaijan is a cause of concern for Europe and should force it to consider its options, a senior policy fellow and analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) has warned.

In the analysis written by Gustav Gressel, he noted that Azerbaijan's victory over Armenia in the renewed conflict for the Nagorno-Karabakh region offers "distinct lessons for how well Europe can defend itself".

During that 44-day conflict, in which Armenia and its militias suffered the loss of thousands of troops and military vehicles, one of the key decisive factors which granted Azerbaijan superiority were the Turkish drones used by the Azeri military.

Those drones, along with the methods of warfare developed through their use in other fronts, enabled Azerbaijan to capture the strategic city of Shusha and force Armenia's surrender on 9 November, leading to the Russia-brokered ceasefire deal which returned the territory to Baku.

Gressel stated that instead of dismissing that conflict as "a minor war between poor countries," Europe should make itself aware of the threat posed by the Turkish drone warfare used by Azerbaijan. He even reasoned that most armies of European states "would do as miserably as the Armenian Army".

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Over the past decade, Turkey has dramatically developed its drone technology to overcome the arms embargoes and restrictions imposed on it by countries with a long history in drone warfare such as the US. Those restrictions to drone technology prompted Turkey to build up its own drone-manufacturing industry, which resulted in the likes of the Bayraktar and Anka-S drones.

It was the Bayraktar TB2 drones in particular which had wreaked havoc on Syrian regime forces earlier this year in retaliation for the killing of 34 Turkish soldiers, and which had also been instrumental in helping the Libyan government in defeating Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar's offensive on Tripoli and pushing back his forces in the summer.

The drones, which utilise electronic warfare while conducting the usual reconnaissance and surveillance tasks, have also been able to hack into enemy radio and command systems to collect information or to broadcast warnings. They are also capable of jamming the Russian air defence systems used on those fronts.

Turkey's drone technology and warfare was deemed so effective that the British defence secretary himself hailed it as "game-changing" and a US security expert called it "unprecedented".

Gressel concluded his analysis by revealing that "No European army has a high-resolution sensor-fusion- or plot-fusion-capable armoured air-defence system to protect its own armour. Only France and Germany have (short range) anti-drone jammers and base-protection assets" which would be able to defend against and counter Turkish drones. "That should make them think – and worry."

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