Ukraine's Bayraktar TB2 UAV rehearsed in Mykolaiv province in June 2021. Photo: Ukrinform

The Bayraktar TB2 UAV was once considered the “savior” of the Ukrainian army but is now almost useless against Russian air defense and electronic warfare systems.

In the first weeks of the Russia-Ukraine war, the Bayraktar TB2 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) made by the Turkish company Baykar was praised for repeatedly attacking Russian tanks, armor, and artillery.

The Bayraktar TB2 UAV was then hailed as the “savior of the Ukrainian army” and was a weapon that helped the country’s army change the war situation, repelling Russian forces in the northern region. Some people even consider Bayraktar TB2 “a weapon of the future battlefield.”

However, this UAV model has recently stopped appearing in fighting videos in Ukraine, and their activities are increasingly limited in the face of Russia’s increasingly complex air defense system.

In an interview on October 31, Colonel Volodymyr Valiush, a commander of the General Directorate of Military Intelligence of Ukraine (GUR), said he “did not want to use the word useless to refer to the Bayraktar TB2 UAV, but it is very difficult to find it.” situations in which to use them.”

Mr. Valiush said that Ukraine continues to use Bayraktar TB2, but the frequency of deployment and role of this UAV has changed. “We are very grateful to TB2, but they were deployed and conducted more raids in the early stages of the conflict,” Colonel Valiush said.

According to him, Russia is currently strengthening its air defense and electronic warfare units in both quality and quantity, making Bayraktar TB2 unable to play its role as before. In the most recent sortie that Valiush witnessed, the Bayraktar TB2 UAV only survived for about 30 minutes, even though this UAV model can operate in the air for 27 hours continuously.

Haluk Bayraktar, CEO of Baykar, said that this UAV model faces many difficulties because it must operate “in a challenging environment,” where Russia deploys hundreds of medium- and long-range air defense complexes.

“Bayraktar TB2 is currently mainly used for target tracking, an activity that is as high-value as launching attacks,” Mr. Bayraktar said. “TB2 do not attack unless they find a suitable position and do not become an easy target for Russian air defense complexes.”

Ukraine’s TB2 UAV was recently upgraded and equipped with advanced cameras manufactured by a Canadian company. According to the supplier, the new camera system allows TB2 to perform surveillance tasks at higher positions and longer distances, increasing the survivability of this UAV.