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Turkey says it exported armed UAVs to Saudi Arabia

Turkey has said it exported three unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to Saudi Arabia in a recently released report to the UN Register of Conventional Weapons (UNROCA).

The report did not not identify the UAVs but listed them under category IV b, which covers armed UAVs. There are two types being produced in Turkey: the Baykar Bayraktar TB2 and the larger Turkish Aerospace (TUSAŞ) Anka, both of which can use a guided munitions made by Roketsan.

The UNROCA report also said that three unidentified missiles and/or missile launchers were exported to Saudi Arabia: a category that can apply to both surface- and air-launched systems.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on 16 March that Saudi Arabia had requested the sale of armed UAVs, suggesting none had taken place at that time.

Saudi Arabia currently operates Chinese-made CH-4 armed UAVs, several of which have now been lost over Yemen, most recently on 20 May, when the Houthi rebels showed the remnants of one they claimed to have shot down with a surface-to-air missile.

Other regional CH-4 operators have seemingly been disappointed with the UAV, with the Royal Jordanian Air Force putting its six up for sale in 2019. Eight of the 20 acquired by Iraqi Army Aviation have crashed and the rest have been grounded since September 2019 due to a lack of spares, according to a recent US Department of Defense report.

In contrast, the apparent success of Turkish UAVs during recent operations in Syria and Libya, as well as in Azerbaijani service during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war, has encouraged a surge in interest.

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