Kuwait signs $367m deal to acquire Turkish-made combat drones

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Kuwait has struck a deal worth $367 million with Turkish drone giant Baykar to buy its increasingly sought-after TB2 combat drones, the Kuwaiti military said. .

The drone, Bayraktar TB2, has unmanned aerial vehicles capable of carrying laser-guided light bombs and flying for up to 27 hours straight, which the company said was “a record” that it had established by testing the drone in Kuwait in 2019.

The announcement on Tuesday would make Kuwait the 28th country to procure the TB2 drones.

The demand for drones has increased due to their successful deployment in conflict zones such as Libya, Syria and Ukraine.

Kuwaiti Air Force Operations Chief Brigadier General Fahad Al-Dosari said in a video posted on his Twitter account that the drone fleet can support the Navy and Coast Guard, as well as monitor sea and land borders. He said the drones can also “perform reconnaissance and targeted missions” in addition to supporting search and rescue efforts.

Baykar and the Kuwaiti government did not say how many drones had been purchased or when they would be delivered. The two could not immediately be reached for comment.

The drones – priced at less than $2 million each according to estimates – are produced by the Baykar Defense company, which is owned by the family of Selcuk Bayraktar, the son-in-law of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Bayraktar is the technical director of the company.

TB2 has been credited with helping to tip the balance of conflict in Libya, as well as Turkey’s ally Azerbaijan in its battles with Armenian-backed forces in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020.

It also allowed Ukraine to mount a fierce defense of its cities, carrying out attacks against Russian forces with an efficiency that surprised many Western military experts and sparked a rush among nations to procure the device without pilot.

A video using a song called “Bayraktar” – with sounds of explosions timed to coincide with the beats – was uploaded to YouTube and played on Ukrainian radio.

A private Lithuanian crowdfunding campaign, inspired by the drone’s combat effectiveness, rallied ordinary citizens and raised nearly 6 million euros to purchase a TB2 for Ukraine.

The drone contract between Baykar and Kuwait, concluded through direct negotiations between the Turkish and Kuwaiti governments, also includes the supply of weapons, electronic warfare and mobile ground control facilities compatible with NATO standards according to Kuwaiti state media.

Kuwait, considered a major non-NATO ally, and the United States have enjoyed a close military partnership since America launched the Gulf War in 1991 to expel Iraqi troops after Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded the country. The country is home to U.S. Army Central’s forward headquarters and some 13,500 U.S. troops.

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