Mali is now the latest country to acquire Bayraktar TB2 combat drones from Turkey in order to strengthen its military counter-insurgent capabilities.
On December 22, the Malian state TV aired footage showing at least two newly delivered Bayraktar TB2 drones and a mobile ground control station being presented to the minister of defense Sadio Camara at an air base in Mopti.
The video showed a Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone being operated from the Sévaré air base in the central region of Mali. The crew operating the ground control station and the drone’s ISR capabilities were also shown.
However, the Malian Air Force Bayraktar TB2 are equipped with the Turkish-made Aselsan CATS camera turret, the replacement for the L3 Wescam MX-15 camera after Canada blocked export of Wescam products to Turkey.
After export of the Wescam MX-15 camera from Canada to Turkey was blocked last year by the Canadian government, Bayraktar TB2 UAVs now use the Aselsan CATS camera unless the customer chooses otherwise.
Ethiopian Bayraktar TB2 also uses the CATS camera instead of the Canadian K3 Wescam MX-15 camera.
At IDEF 2021, Alselsan displayed its CATS electro-optical reconnaissance, surveillance and targeting pods.
ASELSAN’s airborne electro-optical reconnaissance, surveillance and targeting pods CATS use high-end technologies and employ different sensors in one compact design. These state-of-the-art solutions fulfill all the requirements of pilotage/navigation, surveillance, search-and-rescue, automatic tracking, surface target classification and targeting.
CATS is a cutting-edge technology common aperture targeting system on a 4-axis stabilized gimbal with superior range and image performance. It is composed of infrared (thermal) camera, day visual camera, low light near-infrared (LL-NIR) camera, laser range finder and designator unit, laser pointer and illuminator unit (LPI).
Additionally, it provides critical capabilities such as multi target tracking, simultaneous target tracking on IR, HDTV and LL-NIR videos, accurate target geo-location, determination of direction and speed of moving targets.
The Bayraktar TB2 has a wingspan of 12 meters, endurance of 24 hours, and a mission range of 150 km. It is powered by a Rotax 912 engine.
In West Africa, Mali is the fifth country to acquire Bayraktar TB2 combat drones from Turkish manufacturer Baykar after Libya, Nigér, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Togo and Burkina Faso, Djibouti, and Morocco.
Mali has been working to strengthen its military capabilities since the withdrawal of French troops from its territory and the end of Operation Barkhane. Besides Turkey, the country has been mainly cooperating with Russia, which supplied in September fighter jets and helicopters to help combat terrorist groups.
The Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 track terrorists in Mali as effectively as the American-made MQ-9 Reaper combat drones the French military use. Nevertheless, the lack of proper communications and reliable intelligence could be problematic.
In addition to these TB-2 drones, Mali has also received from Russia, several aircraft, including four L-39C Albatros, two helicopters [a Mil Mi-24P and Mil Mi-8] and two Su-25 “Frogfoot” attack aircraft, one of which was lost in October. These aircraft are piloted by Wagner personnel.