Kuwait strikes $367 million deal to acquire sought-after Turkish-made combat drones

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Kuwait reached an agreement worth $367 million with Turkish drone giant Baykar to purchase its increasingly sought-after TB2 combat drones, the Kuwaiti army said.

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The drone, Bayraktar TB2, boasts unmanned aerial vehicles that can carry lightweight, laser-guided bombs, and fly for up to 27 hours at a time, which, according to the company, was “a record,” it had set while testing the drone in Kuwait in 2019.

The announcement, on Tuesday, would set Kuwait to become the 28th country to procure the TB2 drones.

Demand for the drones has surged 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 their Twitter account that the drone fleet can support the navy and coast guard, as well as monitor maritime and land borders.

He said the drones can also “carry out reconnaissance and targeted missions” in addition to supporting search and rescue efforts.

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

The drones ‒ priced under $2 million each according to estimates ‒ are produced by Baykar Defense company, which belongs to the family of Selcuk Bayraktar, the son-in-law of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Bayraktar is the company’s chief technical officer.

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

It has also enabled Ukraine to mount a stiff defense of its cities, carrying out attacks against Russian forces with an effectiveness that surprised many Western military experts and triggered a rush among nations to procure the unmanned craft.

A video using a song titled “Bayraktar” — with sounds of explosions timed to coincide with the beats — has been uploaded on YouTube and played on Ukrainian radio.

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

The drone contract between Baykar and Kuwait, struck through direct negotiations between the Turkish and Kuwaiti governments, also includes weapons provisioning, 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 US have had a close military partnership since America launched the 1991 Gulf War to expel Iraqi troops after Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded the country. The country hosts the US Army Central’s forward headquarters and some 13,500 American troops.

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