Experts interviewed by Forbes noted that Turkish drones are superior to their Russian and Iranian counterparts, and that Ankara may soon become a leader in the UAV market in Central Asia, thereby increasing its political influence in the region

Turkey, promoting “drone diplomacy,” may soon become a major player in the UAV market in Central Asia and increase its economic and political influence, Forbes writes.

According to the publication, Central Asian countries have been importing an “unprecedented” number of military drones since the early 2020s, including from Turkey, Russia and Iran. Ankara, in particular, exported its well-known Bayraktar TB2 drone to Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan and reached an agreement with Kazakhstan to produce Anka-S drones.

Experts interviewed by Forbes believe that Turkey is likely to take center stage in the drone market in the region, “because it is more than just military cooperation for it. Through “drone diplomacy,” the country expects to strengthen political and economic cooperation with members of the Organization of Turkic States (Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan). For example, drones tip the scales in favor of Kyrgyzstan in its border conflict with Tajikistan, the paper notes.

Nevertheless, “drone diplomacy” is not without risks, in particular, it may provoke retaliatory actions of China, Russia and Iran, Forbes points out. “Faced with strong objections from Kyrgyzstan, Turkey failed to complete the drone sale to Tajikistan, which then turned to Iran and signed a deal with Tehran,” said Suleiman Ozeren, a professor at American University and senior fellow at the Orion Policy Institute.

At the same time, Samuel Bendett, a research analyst at the Center for Naval Analysis, noted that TB2 sales to Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan are a clear sign that “these countries expect to take a share of the Turkish drone market.” “Central Asian countries are likely to keep an open policy and purchase drones from different countries and invest in domestic UAV development, as in Kazakhstan today,” the expert pointed out.

Turkey’s main export drones are the Bayraktar TB2 and Bayraktar AKINCI, manufactured by Baykar Makina. They are equipped with artificial intelligence, capable of launching cruise missiles and carry up to 1,350 kg of cargo. The company earlier said it sells the UAVs for export to 13 countries, but did not specify a list. Defense News cited sources earlier reported that potential buyers of the Bayraktar include Britain, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Saudi Arabia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Slovakia and Uruguay.