Turkey is training Nigerian military personnel on the operation of its advanced drone systems.
Nigeria is reported to have ordered Turkish drones although, the exact type is still uncertain, however, unofficial sources indicate that Abuja opted for either the Bayraktar TB2 or Akinci drone, or even both.
Senator Ali Ndume, Chairman Senate Committee on Army, in a recent media interview explained that Nigerian UAV pilots are currently undergoing training in Turkey.
“It is not only the United States that is willing to help, Turkey recently, but the President [Tayyip Erdogan] also was around, and I know that in this fight against insurgency we need drones. And Turkey as a country is advanced in drone technology, and so, the Nigerian government is also procuring some drones from them. And after the training, we have gotten to a level whereby personnel are being trained now as to the deployment of the drone which is very critical in the success of this war.”
This provides further confirmation that Nigeria has placed orders for Bayraktar drones.
For a while now, there have been some diplomatic back and forth between Nigeria and Abuja over military acquisition and collaboration, particularly in the wake Turkish push to increase its footprint in Africa.
In January, Nigeria and Turkey entered talks on defence collaboration in counter-terrorism support as well as the acquisition of various military hardware which may include attack helicopters, armed drones, and other infantry systems. A team from the Turkish Defense Establishment would meet its Nigerian counterpart in Abuja for the 5th Turkey-Nigeria Defence Industry Consultation Meeting.
At the meeting, leading Turkish defence companies pitched their hardware to the Nigerian military leadership in a bid to make some sales including TUSAŞ, OTOKAR, Roketsan, BMC, Tais Shipyard, Katmerciler, ASELSAN, TAI and 10 others.
The delegation was led by Savunma Salihi Sanayii where they met with the Nigerian Minister of Defence Major General Bashir Magashi.
Nigeria and Turkey first began talks aimed at improving their defence ties on August 31, 2021, during the visit of the Turkish Ambassador to Nigeria, Ambassador Hidaye Bayraktar paid a courtesy call on the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Faruk Yahaya, at the Army Headquarters, Abuja.
In October 2021, after a meeting between the Turkish-Nigerian Business Congress, and some Nigerian Governors, Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State announced that he will acquire armed drones from a Turkish company to aid in the war against terrorism in the state.
BayraktarTB2 costs on average between $1 million and $2 million per unit, which is “far less than the near $20m per drone for a Protector drones manufactured by US defense company General Atomics.
Affordability and combat successes is propelling Turkish drones attractiveness to foreign buyers, especially the nations that cannot spend large sums in buying western UCAVs.
Bayraktar Akinci drone
The Bayraktar Akinci drone is the most sophisticated built by Turkey to date.
The Akinci has a 65-feet wingspan, is designed to have an impressive 24 hours of endurance and to fly as high as 40,000 feet. It is powered by Ukrainian-built AI-450 turboprop engines but can be equipped with 750-horsepower engines or locally made 240-horsepower engines.
The Akinci can carry a variety of weaponry, including the same Smart Micro Munitions (MAM-L) its predecessor the Bayraktar TB2 does in addition to general purpose bombs. In the future, it may be able to fire the Turkish-built Bozdoğan (Merlin) and Gökdoğan (Peregrine) within visual range and beyond visual range air-to-air missiles, and also the Turkish-built Roketsan SOM long-range air-launched cruise missiles that can hit targets up to 150 miles away.
The drone will be equipped with Turkish-made systems when developed, including a multi-role active electronically scanned array radar, a SAR/GMTI radar, a wide-area surveillance system, electronic warfare, an electronic and signal intelligence suite, and beyond-line-of-sight satellite communications systems.
Bayraktar TB2 drone
The Bayraktar TB2 on the other hand is a combat-proven UAV system which has been successfully deployed to several conflicts around the world. Most especially, Libya, Syria, Ukraine. Bayraktar TB2 armed drones have gained large business recently after their successes in combat over three active war zones in 2020.
TB2s deployed in Libya helped the Government of National Accord (GNA) in the capital Tripoli, to counter a siege laid by the Libyan National Army (LNA) and launch a counteroffensive.
In that conflict, the TB2s successfully countered Russian-built Pantsir-S1 air defense systems in the LNA’s possession. Likewise, in the Nagorno-Karabakh war, TB2s in the Azerbaijani military devastated Armenian ground forces.
The type has been sold to several African militaries including Morocco, Nigér, and Ethiopia.