Published in The Globe and Mail on March 3, 2022
Canadian-made air strike targeting gear appears to be playing an important supporting role in the fight Ukraine is mounting against invading Russian forces.
Kyiv is using Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 military drones to strike back at Moscow’s invasion, with some success. Ukraine’s military says the drones have successfully attacked Russian convoys and blown up tanks and surface-to-air missile systems.
For years, the targeting system inside Bayraktar TB2 drones has been supplied by a Canadian manufacturer: Ontario-based L3Harris Wescam.
Former Ukrainian ambassador to Canada Andriy Shevchenko, speaking from Kyiv, said his country now celebrates the Turkish drones, which offer relatively inexpensive delivery systems for precision-guided weapons at the fraction of a cost of a fighter or bomber.
“Footage released of air strikes carried out by Ukrainian Bayraktar TB2s include the graphical interface associated with Wescam surveillance and targeting sensors. This is Canadian hardware." - Kelsey Gallagher
A pop song, Bayraktar!, has been penned to celebrate the drones, which, the lyrics say, turn “Russian bandits into ghosts.”
Mr. Shevchenko, who is also an officer in Ukraine’s reserve forces, spoke as he was waiting to learn where he would be posted to defend his country.
The diplomat said the Bayraktar drones this week helped Ukraine destroy a Russian Buk missile system, the same gear that was used to shoot down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014.
“It’s something which has been a big inspiration for all of us in Ukraine.”
Tony Osborne, the London bureau chief of Aviation Week, which covers aerospace, said the Russians don’t seem to be too well briefed on the TB2s because of the way they are parking their military vehicles.
He called the TB2 drone an “extraordinarily effective tool” for Ukraine and other countries that have relied on it. “You’ve got this cheap machine that is dropping very small bombs on very expensive tanks, armoured vehicles and surface-to-air missiles,” he said.
The Canadian government refuses to comment on the presence of Wescam gear in Ukrainian-operated drones attacking Russian forces. Jim Burke, director of global public relations for L3Harris, the Florida-based parent company of Wescam, also declined all questions on the matter.
However, weapons-trade researcher Kelsey Gallagher with Project Ploughshares, a Waterloo, Ont.-based arms control watchdog, said he is certain that Turkish drones being employed in Ukraine are outfitted with Wescam sensors.
He points to the graphic overlay on footage of Ukrainian drone strikes released by the Ukrainian military, saying it matches Wescam’s graphics overlay. Mr. Gallagher compared the overlay from February footage in Ukraine to 2020 footage released by Turkey’s military when it used TB2 drones in Operation Spring Shield in northwestern Syria.
“Footage released of air strikes carried out by Ukrainian Bayraktar TB2s include the graphical interface associated with Wescam surveillance and targeting sensors. This is Canadian hardware,” Mr. Gallagher said.
“This graphical interface has been visible in multiple conflict zones the TB2 has operated in, including Syria, Iraq, and Nagorno-Karabakh. It is not surprising we are now seeing it in Ukraine.”
Read the full article by Steven Chase at theglobeandmail.comPhoto: Bayraktar TB2 on Runway by Bayhaluk is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0