During this year’s Sea Breeze military exercise in the Black Sea hosted by the U.S. Sixth Fleet and the Ukrainian Naval Forces, a Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 unmanned combat aerial vehicle was deployed by the Ukrainian armed forces. The drone was used extensively last year in the Turkish-supported war waged by Azerbaijan against the small enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.
After testing the drone against Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia (with claims of hitting over 500 targets), Turkey sold Bayraktar TB2s to Ukraine for use against the republics of Donetsk and Lugansk in the Donbass. It’s recently been announced that Turkey will supply Poland and Albania with the weapons, the first time they will be provided to fellow NATO member states.
This year’s Sea Breeze features the participation of the largest number of nations in the history of the exercises, which commenced in 1997. Thirty-two nations, including Turkey, from six continents are involved.
The exercise will mark the first time Ukraine has used the drone in an exercise of this scope. Turkish media reports the drones are equipped with Turkey’s latest smart munitions (MAM-C).
The commander of the Ukrainian navy, Rear Admiral Oleksiy Neizhpapa said: “The Navy, like other types/branches of the Armed Forces, like the entire civilized world, is switching to unmanned technologies. This is a step forward. This year, the Navy will receive the first set of the Bayraktar unmanned complex, which will be used both in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov by surface forces and the marines.”
The Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and the Sea of Azov are bones of contention between Ukraine and Russia and they have been flash points between Russia and the British navy and Russia and Ukraine, respectively. On June 29 the Russian defense ministry confirmed it had activated S-400 batteries, Pantsir-S surface-to-air missile systems and 20 military aircraft, including Su-27 fighters, in Crimea as part of training exercises in response to the U.S.-led war games.