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Turkey’s drone maker starts building Ukraine plant

Haluk Bayraktar, CEO of Turkish drone-maker Baykar Reuters/Umit Bektas
Haluk Bayraktar, CEO of Turkish drone-maker Baykar

Turkish defence company Baykar has started building a factory near Kyiv that will employ around 500 people, where it will manufacture either its TB2 or TB3 drone models, the company’s chief executive told Reuters.

Turkish-made Bayraktar drones have gained prominence globally after being used by Ukraine’s military to thwart Russian forces by destroying armoured vehicles and artillery systems.

Baykar has said it has signed export deals for its TB2 drone with 30 countries. These include Ukraine, Ethiopia, Libya and Azerbaijan since 2018, according to think tank SIPRI.

“Our factory is being built. We need about 12 months to finish construction and then we will move on to internal machinery, equipment and organisational structure,” Baykar CEO Haluk Bayraktar said on the sidelines of the World Defense Show in Riyadh.

“The factory in Ukraine is a big one, we are planning to employ around 500 people,” he said.

Bayraktar noted that capacity would total around 120 units every year, but said it was still not clear whether production at the Ukrainian factory would focus on the TB2 or TB3 drone model.

Asked if security issues related to the ongoing conflict would pose a concern for the plant, he said that plans were “fully moving ahead” and that “nothing” could halt them.

Bayraktar also said the Istanbul-based firm’s plans to start production in Saudi Arabia in the next two years were on track.

The announcement follows an agreement in July to sell the Bayraktar Akinci, another kind of drone, to Saudi Arabia in what Baykar described as the biggest defence contract in Turkey’s history.

Other defence firms at the event are also announcing deals with Riyadh – on Monday US weapons maker Lockheed Martin signed agreements for Saudi Arabian companies to manufacture parts of its missile defence system.

Bayraktar said that, looking at the current year, the firm planned to double domestic production of the Akinci, which stood at 36 units in 2023, while TB2 output would stay unchanged at 230 units.

It also aims to produce the new models of the Kızılelma and the TB3 drones “in the tens”, he added.