Planned drone factory is boost for Ukraine, as Kremlin threatens to destroy it, analysts say

The Bayraktar TB2 UAV has played a prominent role in Kyiv’s attacks on Russian forces

 Smoke rises after a missile strike, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Pokrovsk, Donetsk region, Ukraine in this screen grab taken from a handout video released July 16, 2022. (photo credit: State National Police of Ukraine/Handout via REUTERS)
Smoke rises after a missile strike, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Pokrovsk, Donetsk region, Ukraine in this screen grab taken from a handout video released July 16, 2022.
(photo credit: State National Police of Ukraine/Handout via REUTERS)

A Turkish drone factory in Ukraine would provide significant help in the war effort, analysts tell The Media Line, as Russia threatens an attack if one is built in the country.

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Ukrainian Ambassador to Turkey Vasyl Bodnar told the RBC Ukraine news outlet on Monday that Turkish defense firm Baykar has registered in Ukraine and acquired a plot of land.

"Ukraine will be able to rely on its own resources to manufacture a very valuable asset that has proven itself effective against the Russian military."

Samuel Bendett

Bodnar added that an agreement on the construction of the factory has been sent to parliament. Samuel Bendett, an analyst specializing in weapons systems at the Arlington, Virginia-based Center for Naval Analyses think tank, said having a factory would be of major benefit to Ukraine and help to increase access to other types of drones produced by Baykar.

“It will have a significant impact. Ukraine will be able to rely on its own resources to manufacture a very valuable asset that has proven itself effective against the Russian military,” he told The Media Line. “They’ll just have more drones to begin with, all matter of drones.”

The agreement for Ukraine to produce Baykar drones was reached weeks before Russia’s invasion of the country in February.

Baykar’s Bayraktar TB2 medium-altitude long-endurance drones grabbed international attention for helping the Ukrainian military successfully attack Russian targets, which Kyiv highlighted in social media posts.

Ukraine’s army has a song dedicated to the company’s drones and Baykar has donated some for free after international crowdfunding efforts to buy them for the country. Bendett said that having a factory in Ukraine will mean that locals in the country learn how to work with advanced drone technology, helping the military in the long term. “Your military industrial enterprises and your people working in this factory are going to knowhow to assemble one of the most modern combat [unmanned aerial vehicles] in the world right now,” he said.

 RUSSIAN PRESIDENT Vladimir Putin, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hold talks – and hands – in Tehran on July 19. (credit: Sputnik/Sergei Savostyanov/Pool/via Reuters) RUSSIAN PRESIDENT Vladimir Putin, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hold talks – and hands – in Tehran on July 19. (credit: Sputnik/Sergei Savostyanov/Pool/via Reuters)

Russia's drone facility claim 

Ukraine is likely concerned by Russia’s claim that it will have a drone facility finished around theend of the year, increasing Kyiv’s desire for an in-country source of its own, Bendett said. Arda Mevlütoğlu, an Ankara-based defense analyst, told The Media Line that Ukraine would be able to get drones more quickly into combat from the factory. “Ukraine would have the luxury or liberty to modify these drones according to its own capabilities or requirements, and that would produce some significant advantage in terms of the timerequired to deliver these products to frontline service,” he said. A day after the Ukrainian ambassador’s comments, Moscow issued a threat to the planned factory, the TASS Russian News Agency reported.

“The fact of opening such a facility, which will definitely be an immediate subject to the course of ‘demilitarization,’ will only prolong the sufferings of Ukrainians but will in no way help to avoid the main objective of the special military operation,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said. CNN Turk reported last month that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested having a Baykar factory in his country.

Baykar’s CEO, Haluk Bayraktar, earlier told CNN the company had not provided drones to Russiaand that it had no plans to do so.

“We will never do such a thing,” he said. “We support Ukraine, support its sovereignty and support its resistance for its independence.” Russia’s attack on Ukraine has both enhanced Turkey’s geopolitical position, as it cultivates a role as an intermediary, and increased its sensitivity, as it tries to maintain ties with both sides.Ankara largely depends on Russia as a source of energy, trade, and tourism. Erdoğan has moved to strengthen relations with Moscow for years, to the ire of his NATO allies, most notably buying the Russian S-400 anti-missile defense system. However, Russia also poses security risks for Turkey. They are neighbors on the Black Sea andopponents in Syria where they support warring sides.

Both Mevlütoğlu and Bendett do not believe Russia wants a Turkish drone factory on its soil. Mevlütoğlu said Putin may have been simply trying to compliment Turkey and it would be unwise for Turkey to share its technology, which has proven so successful, with Russia.

“Turkey, being a NATO member, would not want to risk all its alliance relations and … its position within the alliance, which is already stretched thin,” he said.