A Bayraktar TB2 drone is equipped with ASELSAN's CATS and electro-optic reconnaissance, surveillance and targeting system, and Roketsan's MAM-L smart ammunition, Tekirdağ, Turkey, Nov. 6, 2020. (AA Photo) 

Turkey-made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were once again deemed worthy of international comment, this time by the French media, which seems to be closely following President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ongoing tour in Africa.

A report by French daily Le Figaro entitled “Erdoğan strengthens his presence in Africa,” said that the Turkish president has noticed that the “Western colonial powers” had lost interest in Africa in the early 2000s, and that Turkey has begun to increase its presence in “Muslim African countries” such as Somalia and Libya.

It also stated that the national airline, Turkish Airlines (THY), is the only major airline company that has direct flights to Somali’s capital Mogadishu – where the West had carried out military operations between 1992 and 1994.

The possible sale of Turkish UAVs to Angola was discussed during Erdoğan’s visit on Monday, while similar talks are also expected to be held during his trip to Nigeria, the report noted. The Bayraktar TB2 unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) is the obvious choice, since it has already proven itself on the battlefield.

The report underlined that this particular UAV – either operated by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) or the countries that purchased it – neutralized senior PKK terrorist Ismail Özden in Iraq. As part of a joint operation launched with the National Intelligence Organization (MIT), the Turkish military killed Özden, code-named Mam Zeki, in the Sinjar region on Aug. 15, 2018. 

The UAVs were also used against putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar and Russian mercenaries in Libya, defeated Bashar Assad's regime in Syria’s Idlib province and ensured Azerbaijan's victory over Armenian occupation forces during the recent conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, it noted.

Le Figaro's report dubbed the Turkish UAVs as a “dream weapon,” stressing that they are 20 times cheaper than warplanes and do not endanger the lives of its pilots.

“They have become a vector of Turkish influence in Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. It is the influence that Erdoğan cleverly develops without engaging in conflict with countries more powerful than him, such as the United States, China and Russia. But he is not afraid to challenge less powerful countries like France. (Erdoğan) won the arm wrestling against France off the Libyan coast in June 2020,” it said.

The report also questioned how and why French industry lagged behind the U.S. and Israel and “even Turkey” in UAV production.

A historical reading of the French defense industry shows why. The first combat drone project was in 2008, but was canceled. Then a collaborative project was started between France, Germany, Italy and Spain, but expects the drone to make its maiden flight in 2028, 14 years after the Bayraktar TB2.

The report stated that Turkey once again framed its relations with Africa through an economic lens, which enables relations to also cover security issues.

Separately, French state radio RFI stated that Erdoğan wanted to strengthen his relations with Africa by visiting Angola, Nigeria and Togo, and that the economy was one of the aspects of the strategic partnership between Turkey and Africa.

It said that Turkey sells UCAVs to Ethiopia, Tunisia and Morocco, and those products “are cheaper than their Western counterparts and better quality than the Chinese ones.”

Angola sought Turkish UAVs

President Erdoğan on Monday, during his visit to the country, said Angola has requested to acquire Turkish-made combat drones, noting that the latest talks also included covered armored carriers.

Angola’s initial request for UAVs and UCAVs was made during President Joao Lourenco’s visit to Turkey three months ago.

Just last week, Turkey was reported to have expanded the export of its renowned drones by negotiating deals with Morocco and Ethiopia.

This was followed by a statement from Industry and Technology Minister Mustafa Varank, who on Friday said Turkey had presented options to the United Kingdom, which is “very interested” in buying Turkish-made armed drones.

Ukraine and Turkey’s NATO partner Poland have also ordered armed drones, which military experts say are cheaper than market rivals made in Israel, China and the U.S. Daily Sabah