TB2 Bayraktar drones now “useless” in Ukraine against Russian anti-aircraft defense

Prior to the conflict in Ukraine, several specialists questioned the effectiveness of MALE drones in a so-called high-intensity conflict, judging them too vulnerable to modern anti-aircraft defenses. However, during the first weeks of combat, the Bayraktar TB2s supplied by Turkey to Ukraine played an important role in stopping the Russian columns advancing towards Kyiv, managing to insinuate themselves into the porous anti-aircraft defenses implemented by Russian forces in an obviously poorly planned offensive, and to strike or guide artillery strikes against supply columns, armor and even several anti-aircraft defense systems. It was enough for many voices, in Europe but also in France, to support this capability, and call on the national armies to quickly equip themselves with "cheap" MALE drones such as the TB2, to reproduce the tactical plan put in place. implemented by the Ukrainian General Staff. Nevertheless, beyond the second phase of this Russian "special military operation" in Ukraine from the end of March, the situation for these systems changed dramatically, as Russian forces began to implement a seamless integrated air defense system to defend their ground assaults.

In fact, for two months now, the Ukrainian TB2s have hardly been talked about, except in guiding strikes against Russian ships, in particular for the destruction of the Moskva cruiser. According to the Ukrainian operators themselves, TB2s are no longer useful in the Donbass, these being unable to penetrate the defensive anti-aircraft glacis deployed by the Russian forces, and relying on a triple layer of systems; the long range S-400 and S-300 for medium and high altitude theater defense, the Buk M2/M3 for medium and low altitude divisional defense, and the TOR M1/M2 for short range defense for low and very low altitude, in addition to SHORAD systems such as Tunguska, Sosna and MANPADS. This impressive defensive capability is further supported by a large concentration of electronic warfare means making the control of light drones very risky. The situation is so frozen that Ukrainian drone operators come to recommend to the United States not to deliver the 4 MALE MQ-1C Gray Eagle systems promised by Washington, for fear that these systems will be immediately neutralized by the Russian DCA , and their valuable on-board technologies from falling into enemy hands.

MQ 1C GEER with ALE boomy boys 1 Defense News | Russian-Ukrainian conflict | Air defense
The Ukrainians now recommend not to deliver the 4 MQ-1C Gray Eagle systems promised by Washington in the face of the threat posed by the Russian DCA

Unfortunately for the Ukrainian defenders, beyond strike capabilities, the neutralization of drones, whether MALE or light, creates a major tactical disadvantage, while the Ukrainian general staff now relies on precision and lengthens it more important part of European and American artillery systems to compensate for its critical numerical inferiority in this area. Indeed, in the absence of drones to recognize the targets in the depth of the Russian device, and to direct the attacks of artillery and multiple rocket launchers, the Ukrainians will no longer be able to rely only on ground intelligence, or the information provided by the counter-battery radars delivered by the West, without being able, moreover, to assess their effectiveness. In a context of marked numerical inferiority in terms of artillery systems, this is a constraint for the Ukrainians that could jeopardize their ability to defend the Donbass against the Russian thrust.

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