Former Commander of US Army Europe Ben Hodges conducted an interview with the Defense24. Hodges stated that Poland’s Bayraktar TB2 decision was a “very good decision” and that Turkey provided high quality systems.
“Poland has decided to supply the Turkish Bayraktar TB2 UAV. Warsaw is the first NATO member country to make such a decision. How do you comment on that?” he answered this question as follows:
“First and foremost, I believe that Poland has made a very good decision, since this purchase is related to the special capacity and needs of Poland. TB2 will support reconnaissance activities, as well as strengthen anti-tank defense and strike capabilities against other targets. On the other hand, Turkey provides high-quality systems, we were able to observe them in an operational environment. Because of that it’s a good decision. I am pleased that Poland has increased its capabilities.”
Hodges, on the question of how Bayraktar TB2s will work in a different environment than in Libya and Syria, and how they will strengthen the eastern flank of NATO, stated that the Bayraktar TB2s will not work independently, but can work together with warplanes and artillery systems, and that their only ability will not be shooting and can prevent the enemy from hiding.
“Besides the strike capabilities of UAVs, the reconnaissance capabilities are also very important and need to be emphasized. They help observe the areas that the enemy hides. In the US, we rely on drones. We are sending MQ-9 to both Poland and Romania, and Poland is not the same at the moment, but to some extent getting similar opportunities.”
Hodges underlined that there is no “magic weapon system” and stated that UAVs are a part of the system, for example, long-range attack systems can be used to identify their targets.
Some Polish experts have stated that these UAVs cannot be used because the enemy (Russia) has a layered air defense system, but Hodges said: “Any air platform can be shot down, including F-35 aircraft. The UAVs should be integrated into a tactical plan that will include artillery systems and other measures.” Hodges also hinted that there could be risks in every operation, and that more risks could be taken because there are no pilots on UAVs.
S-400 and F-35 conflict
Former Commander of US Army Europe Ben Hodges was also asked about Turkey’s S-400 and F-35 conflict with the US and the NATO impact of this conflict. Hodges said that relations should be devoped and improved. Expressing that Turkey has taken “annoying steps,” Hodges said,
“The same can be said for other member states of the alliance such as France, Germany and even the USA.”
He added that Turkey supported the decision to exclude the S-400 from the program under the F-35 project, which was a mistake. On the other hand, relations are not defined at a single point, and Turkey “acts as a barrier against Islamic extremism and Iran, as well as its importance in the Black Sea,” he said.
Hodges said that Turkey can cooperate with Russia, Norway also has many agreements with Russia in the field of “wood industry, fishing and even energy”, even the United States wants to cooperate with Russia. Stating that Turkey’s support for Ukraine and Georgia is a good thing, Hodges said, “We cannot base our decisions on emotions. I’m afraid we will lose a whole generation of young people in Turkey who see the US and the West as enemies.” said.
Finally, Hodges stated that the USA should take the first step.
Hodges’s comments are important in terms of both the technical and strategic aspects of Bayraktar TB2’s achievements and exports. Hodges’s comments show that the Turkish defense industry is gaining acclaim despite biased comments in the West.