Turkiye delivers drones to UAE as Gulf States seek to counter Iran

Turkiye has sold and delivered drones to the United Arab Emirates, eight months after Ankara and Abu Dhabi reconciled and restored relations, Reuters has reported.

Anonymous Turkish sources have confirmed that the Baykar Company delivered twenty of its unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to the UAE earlier this month. There is the potential to sell even more.

A senior official source said that Saudi Arabia is also aiming to buy the military UAVs. The kingdom and the UAE are in negotiations with Ankara to acquire Bayraktar TB2 drones, with Riyadh wanting to set up a factory to manufacture them.

Baykar is reportedly considering the Saudi request for a production facility, but has clarified that it is a strategic decision for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to make. There is also an apparent reluctance to approve it, as Saudi investments in Turkiye are not yet at the required level and “are not moving as fast as possible”.

The Baykar Company’s only production facility outside Turkiye is being constructed in Ukraine, as part of Turkiye’s efforts to support Kyiv in its ongoing war against Russia.

Turkish-made UAVs have gained worldwide popularity following their combat effectiveness in Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh over the past few years. A number of countries besides Saudi Arabia and the UAE have asked to buy fleets of drones from Ankara, in a bid to boost their defence capabilities at a lower cost than American and European UAVs.

READ: Why Africa needs Turkish drones

Having signed export contracts for the Bayraktar TB2 with 22 countries so far, the company’s CEO Haluk Bayraktar has said that the demand for its UAVs far outweighs supply. Baykar reportedly produces twenty TB2s per month, and the CEO revealed last month that the order books for these and other models are full for the next three years.

According to the senior official Turkish source quoted by Reuters, “Some countries that have bought them are making additional demands. They are very satisfied with the results… but it is technically not possible to meet all demand.”

The primary reason for the Saudi and UAE efforts to acquire the Turkish drones, however, is reportedly to counter security challenges from Iran and its proxy groups in the region. In particular they wish to outperform Iranian drones which are not as effective or accurate as the Baykar models. “The Saudis and the UAE want to counter the effectiveness of the Iranian drones,” explained one of the sources. “If they get the TB2 they will be able to… stop the flow of Iranian drones.”

Such levels of defence cooperation between Turkiye and the two Gulf States comes months after Ankara reconciled with them and negotiated numerous deals for investment and foreign exchange reserves. That restoration of relations came after years of rivalry, when the Turkish government opposed Saudi Arabia and the UAE in regional conflicts and foreign policy matters.

READ: What did Turkiye gain from normalising its regional relations?

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