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Turkish UAVs suffer high attrition in Libya

12 December 2019
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A Ukrainian Bayraktar TB2 is seen with ground control stations in the background. The same Ford 2533 trucks with elevating platforms were seen being unloaded from the cargo ship when it docked in Tripoli on 18 May, according to the UN panel of experts on Libya report. Source: Ukroboronprom

Many of the Bayraktar TB2 armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that Turkey has deployed to Libya have been destroyed since June, according to the UN panel of experts report on Libya publicly released on 11 December.

The first indication that Ankara was deploying UAVs to Libya was seen on 18 May, when a ship delivered a consignment of Turkish Kirpi armoured vehicles to the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli. The panel of experts noted that two Ford 2533 trucks fitted with elevating platforms were also unloaded from the ship and retrospectively concluded these were for Bayraktar TB2 ground control stations, with the platforms being used to raise their communications antennas.

The report also included cargo manifests showing that An-12 transport aircraft carried parts and support equipment for at least three complete UAVs from Turkey to Misrata Air Academy in late May and June. These deliveries coincided with a report that another eight Bayraktars were being shipped to Libya. Satellite imagery also showed small aircraft shelters being constructed at Misrata.

The panel of experts said two Bayraktars were destroyed in airstrikes on Misrata Air Academy on 6 and 7 June. The strikes were claimed by the Libyan National Army (LNA) faction that is trying to overthrow the GNA. A third Bayraktar was shot down on 30 June. The LNA then attacked the new shelters at Misrata on 15 August.

The report also noted a mix of LNA claims and media reports - many seemingly unconfirmed - as saying that nine of the Turkish UAVs had been destroyed by 5 August. "The high attrition rate suffered by Bayraktar TB2 UCAVs … led to the deployment of a third batch," the report said, before noting LNA claims that another five were destroyed in September and October.

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