Mali, one of the African countries that use Bayraktar TB2 armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), has received six more drones from Turkey, expanding its fleet and enhancing its aerial capabilities.
The new delivery, which arrived on 4 January 2024, followed a previous shipment of TB2s in January and March 2023. The FAMa released a photograph showing one had the serial TZ-17D. The FAMa previously displayed TB2s with serials running from TZ-01D to TZ-06D. With the latest addition, Mali now has at least 17 TB2s in its inventory, making it one of the largest operators of the Turkish-made drones in Africa.
The TB2s are manufactured by Baykar, a leading Turkish company in the defense industry. The drones have a wingspan of 12 meters, a maximum takeoff weight of 650 kilograms, and a payload capacity of 150 kilograms. They can fly up to 24 hours at an altitude of 27,000 feet, and can carry various types of munitions, such as MAM-L laser-guided bombs and Roketsan Cirit laser-guided rockets.
The TB2s delivered to Mali are equipped with ASELSAN’s CATS electro-optical system, which provides high-resolution imagery and target acquisition in day and night conditions. The CATS system is a replacement for the L3 Wescam MX-15 camera, which Canada banned from exporting to Turkey due to political tensions.
The TB2s have been used by the Malian Armed Forces (FAMa) for conducting airstrikes against terrorist groups, such as al-Qaeda and Islamic State affiliates, that have been plaguing the country for years. The drones have also been deployed for reconnaissance and surveillance missions, providing valuable intelligence and situational awareness for the Malian troops on the ground.
The FAMa have expressed their satisfaction and pride with the TB2s, which they consider as sophisticated and effective systems. Chief of Staff of the Air Force Brigadier General Alou Boï Diarra praised the drones in his speech during the reception ceremony, saying that they have proven their worth in combat operations. He also reminded the audience that the drones are not a substitute for the hard work and sacrifice of the Malian soldiers, who still need support and equipment.
The acquisition of the TB2s is part of Mali’s efforts to strengthen its military capabilities and security, especially after the withdrawal of French troops from its territory and the end of Operation Barkhane, a counter-terrorism mission led by France in the Sahel region. Mali has also been cooperating with Russia, which delivered a number of Su-25 Frogfoot, and L-39C Albatross fighter jets, Mi-17 helicopters, and two Mi-35M attack helicopters to the country in August 2023.
Mali is not the only African country that has purchased TB2s from Turkey. The drones have also been sold to Libya, Nigér, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Togo and Burkina Faso, Djibouti, and Morocco, making Turkey a major supplier of UAVs in the continent. The TB2s have demonstrated their performance and reliability in various conflict zones, such as Syria, Libya, and Nagorno-Karabakh, where they have changed the course of the battles and given Turkey a strategic edge.
Mali has indeed been facing a protracted struggle against Islamic insurgency, with the situation posing significant challenges for the country and its people. The threat of insurgency has had a profound impact on the stability and security of the region, leading to widespread displacement of populations and hindering socio-economic development. The government’s efforts to counter this threat have proven to be a complex and ongoing process, requiring a multifaceted approach that encompasses not only military action but also socio-political and economic reforms.
The TB2s are expected to play an important role in improving Mali’s aerial surveillance of its borders and ensuring comprehensive territorial coverage. The drones will also help Mali in its fight against terrorism and instability, which threaten its sovereignty and development.