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New Images Show Ukraine TB2 Drone Strike Damage On Russian Landing Craft

TB2 Strikes Again Off the Coast of Snake Island – Overnight, satellite images from a missile strike against Russian forces on Snake Island have emerged. While 1945 cannot independently verify the authenticity of the images, they appear to show the deadly results of another Baykar Bayraktar TB2 drone strike. NBC News reporter Bianca Britton posted the photos to her Twitter feed. “Images from May 12 appear to show missile attacks on Russian Serna-class landing craft near the island, smoke contrails & a sunken ship,” Britton wrote. The missile strikes are likely the latest of several incidents involving the TB2 drone during the Ukraine-Russia conflict.

 TB2 Proves Its Worth 

Turkish firm Baykar Bayraktar, under the guidance of founder and MIT graduate Selcuk Bayraktar, developed the weapon, which first flew in 2014. TB2 development began when the US banned the export of UCAV technology to Turkey – for fear that the Turkish would share the tech with the PKK guerillas – So rather than rely on the Americans, Turkey decided to develop their own, homegrown drone. The TB2, an ultra-cheap yet reliable model, results from those efforts.

The TB2 is a medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV), with a 21-foot-long, blended wing body and an inverted V-tail structure. The TB-2, with its 39 foot wingspan, relies on a variable pitch, two-blade propeller in pusher configuration to develop thrust. The prop sits in the rear of the airframe, between the two tail booms. A 100 horsepower Rotax 912 internal combustion engine powers the prop.. The fuselage is constructed, primarily, of carbon fiber composite. Internal bladder tanks hold the craft’s 79 gallons of fuel. The TB-2 has a cruising speed of 70 knots, a maximum speed of 120 knots, and a respectable range of up to 4,000 kilometers. The drone can operate for 27 consecutive hours. The drone’s service ceiling is 25,000 feet, but the ideal operational altitude is 18,000 feet.

The TB2 carries its capable armament externally, like all drones. Using four L3Harris Hornet bomb racks, the TB2 can carry various combinations of munitions, including: MAM guided bombs, L-UMTAS anti-tank missiles, Roketsan Cirit 70mm missiles, TUBITAK-SAGE BOZOK Laser Guided Rockets, TUBITAK-SAGE TOGAN GPS guided 81 milimeter mortars – all of which have been used effectively to complicate Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine purchased 12 TB2s from Turkey in 2019. Impressed with the drone’s initial performance, Ukraine ordered 6 more in 2021, and entered an agreement with Turkey to jointly develop 48 more. Now, with the Ukraine-Russia conflict in full swing, the TB2 enjoys regular action. Yesterday, for example, a drone sank that Serna-class landing craft off the coast of Snake Island. And on May 7th, a TB2 destroyed a Russian Mil Mi-8 transport helicopter, as passengers unloaded onto Snake Island. On May 2, TB2s destroyed two Russian Raptor-class patrol boats – again, near Snake Island. And TB2s were reportedly used as decoys during the remarkable sinking of the Russian cruiser Moskva.

TB2 drone of Turkish drone-maker Baykar is seen at a stand during the first day of SAHA EXPO Defence & Aerospace Exhibition in Istanbul, Turkey, November 10, 2021. REUTERS/Umit Bektas/File Photo
A view shows fire on Zmiinyi (Snake) Island, Ukraine, in this screengrab taken from a drone video obtained by Reuters on May 8, 2022. Ukrainian Ground Forces/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT
                                                            TB2 Drone. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

TB2 Not Perfect

Yet, despite the UAVs successes, there have been drawbacks. The TB2 is slow, stealthless, and defenseless. Operating at just 18,000 feet altitude, the drone is easily targetable. Not surprisingly, seven TB-2 drones have already been shot down during the conflict. The most recent TB2 casualty was on May 1st, in the Kursk region. On April 26th and 27th, three more TB2 drones were destroyed, in Kursk Oblast and Belgorod Oblast.

Regardless, the affordably priced drone has become a vaunted and celebrated asset to the Ukrainian resistance. The chief of Ukraine’s Air Force, Lt. Gen. Mykola Oleshchu called the TB2 “life-giving.” And most notably, the TB2 now has its own song, “Bayraktar,” written to celebrate the drone’s popularity. Expect the TB2 to remain an integral part of Ukraine’s defensive efforts.