Polish MoD Buys TB-2 UCAVs

Rumors have abounded on the subject of the Polish Ministry of Defense’s desire to purchase the Turkish Bayraktar TB-2 MALE combat drones. It all started with a tweet coming from the Minister of Defense, Mariusz Blaszczak, presenting a scale model of the TB-2 UCAV with the Polish Air Force insignia transfers.

“Good news will be delivered soon… stay tuned!”

Turkish TB-2 Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle saw extensive use in Libya, Syria, and infamously during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict seeing considerable success against Armenian forces. Their capability to lift 150kg (or 330lbs) of payload would enable the Polish Air Force to acquire a tool for precise drone strikes for the first time in history.

As great as it sounds, there is a potential issue with the adoption of the platform. The TB-2 UCAVs remain vulnerable to the Russian Air defenses (A2/AD). During the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict it is claimed that 9 TB-2s were lost by Azerbaijan due to the Krashuka-4 Electronic Warfare System. It is also claimed that Pantsir S-1 systems were also able to down the TB-2 in Syria. It remains to be definitively seen how effective proliferated Russian A2/AD systems are against the Turkish drones but no system is infallible. As in the potential conflict scenario, Polish Army would face Russian forces, this raises concerns over the justification of the UCAVs purchase by the Polish MoD.

On the 22 May, the Minister of the National Defense stated in an interview that Poland will purchase 24 TB-2 drones equipped with Turkish missiles. The first batch of UCAVs will be delivered to Poland in 2022. The possibility of further purchases of TB-2s is open, yet, no declarations have been stated by the MoD.

The cost of this emergency purchase was not yet declared by the ministry, there is also a limited public outcry over the lack of tender for the UCAV purchase declared, and the actions of the ministry highlight a lack of interest in the domestic production of such platforms.