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Turkey Has a Drone Air Force. And It Just Went to War in Syria.

Turkey’s got a drone air force. And it struck hard in Syria on March 1, 2020. Turkish medium-altitude drones, which are similar to the U.S. Air Force’s own Reaper drones, struck Syrian forces in and around the city of Idlib, killing 19 people, according to the United Kingdom-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Turkey on March 1, 2020 also shot down two Syrian warplanes. Ankara claimed that, in weeks of fighting, it has killed 2,200 Syrian troops and destroyed 103 tanks and eight helicopters. The Syrian government, in turn, claimed it shot down three Turkish drones.

Nineteen years after a U.S. Air Force Predator fired a missile in combat for the first time, more and more countries have armed drones of their own — and are less and less shy about deploying them in combat.

The March 2020 drone strikes were part of Turkey’s escalating military campaign in Syria. The campaign, which includes air strikes and attacks by ground forces, aims to create a buffer between Syria and Turkey.

The Turkish military’s drones represent an “asymmetric” force in Syria. Damascus’s forces lack the technology reliably to defeat attacks by unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.

“Only sophisticated [electronic-warfare] capabilities that are matched with robust radar-warning and air-defenses can potentially tackle this threat,” drone expert Samuel Bendett told The National Interest. Bendett is a member of the Russia Studies Program at the Center for Naval Analyses’ International Affairs Group.

Russian forces, which arrived in Syria back in 2015 in order to bolster the regime of Syrian president Bashar Al Assad, have deployed sophisticated defenses against rebels’ drones, including radars

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