A few months ago, the word spread around the world, which reportedly surprised even the insiders: Poland and Turkey signed a contract for the supply of Turkish Bayraktar TB2 unmanned combat drones for the Polish army. In the spirit of the present times, let us add that the purchase of these drones was made without the usual tender or public debate, and the public was informed by the Minister of National Defense Mariusz Błaszczak on Twitter.
Poland has ordered a total of 24 machines of this type that can be equipped with anti-tank missiles. The contract is to include a logistics and training package, and the so-called service offset. As part of the contract, a 24-month warranty will be provided, as well as technology transfer ensuring the possibility of servicing and repairing, among others, engines, ground control stations, and cameras. Some estimate the value of the contract at USD 270 million, and the Turkish press even reports the amount of nearly USD 400 million.
Deliveries of the first six aircraft are to take place next year. Minister Błaszczak went to Ankara with a delegation led by President Duda, where on May 24, together with the head of the weapons manufacturer - Baykar - Haluk Bayraktar, and in the presence of the Polish and Turkish presidents, he signed the agreement.
Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drones are medium-range tactical machines that are to operate as part of the so-called Gryf program, i.e. a program for the purchase of combat drones. These drones develop speeds of up to 137 mph (cruising speed is 80 mph) and are powered by a 100 HP Austrian-made Rotax 912 piston engine with a push propeller. The range of the machine is from 93 to 186 miles, depending on the version. This drone has an operating ceiling of 18,000 feet, or roughly 3.4 miles. It can stay in the air for up to 27 hours.
These drones have been used by the Turkish armed forces since 2015. These machines have also been used by Ukraine since 2019, and Azerbaijan used them during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with very good results. Other users of these machines are Libya, Qatar and Morocco.
Some commentators are excited that, this way, Poland has overtaken even Germany in terms of military capabilities and has been promoted to the exclusive club of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operators. After France, which uses American drones, Poland will be the second EU country to have such systems. At the same time, the agreement with Poland is undoubtedly a success for Turkey, which sold its drones to an EU and NATO country for the first time.
The, so-called, "drones", or unmanned (remotely controlled) aircraft, or simply "unmanned aerial vehicles" (UAVs), have been a hot topic recently. They are said to have determined Azerbaijan's success in the war over Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia, are on the agenda in the Ukrainian conflict, and changed the balance of power in the Syrian war and the conflict in Libya. For many countries, such as Russia and Iran, drones are also proof of technical prowess and military power.
The Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drones gained the greatest publicity — even the fame of tipping the balance of victory — in the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, where they are said to have contributed significantly to the destruction of many Russian-made tanks.
Drone warfare is developing rapidly, both in theory and in practice, and some expect it to define and shape an entirely new character of war in the near future. It is a technology that allows small states, and non-state actors, to provide asymmetric and effective responses even to great powers. Even the American general Kenneth McKenzie admitted, in the context of the wars in Iraq, that for the first time since the wars in Korea, Americans had to operate there without ensuring complete air control, all due to drones. 
The combination of robots in general, and autonomous drones in particular, on the one hand, with advanced artificial intelligence on the other, is the future of the battlefield.
A trap with no way out?
EU countries currently do not have their own drones. Although no Polish companies now produce drones of this type, if such a weapon would appear in the offer of domestic manufacturers, then - according to Minister Błaszczak - the Ministry of National Defense would apparently be "willing to consider such a purchase". Well, it's a bit like saying that "we will only sow when we see how the harvest is going". Common sense dictates that you would have to sow first, and then you could talk about harvesting the crops...
On the one hand, the Polish army is incredibly conservative in this respect and will not buy something unproven, or worse — something that is still under construction (because you would have to make a decision, and who would dare?). On the other hand, the Polish arms industry will not take the risk of developing technologies that are not known whether the army will be interested in them, and the costs are enormous. It is a vicious circle - a kind of trap with no way out.
The Polish army is trying to completely eliminate the "risk of innovation" and that is why, among other things, no large Bayraktar TB2-class systems that would enter the action and prove their usefulness on the battlefield have been developed in Poland to date. There is no discernible long-term strategic plan and this purchase seems to have been made hastily. Could this be the reaction of the Polish government to the Nord Stream II fiasco, when the trust in the US as a partner was shaken?
There are currently drone manufacturers in Poland who have unquestioned achievements and experience. For example, the private defense company WB Electronics has been producing FlyEye and Warmate UAVs, which have gained international recognition, for ten years. The Polish army has bought only a few of them, but their exports are booming. However, these are machines with lower capabilities than the Bayraktar TB2 and, today, they could not compete with the Turkish ones.
Is it really too high an expectation of the Polish engineers to be able to construct similar — or even better — drones? Certainly not. Polish industry has the potential to successfully develop its own technologies and equip the Polish army with them. However, the development of more advanced technologies would require concrete interest - and concrete sums of money - from the military. And again, a vicious circle. The military seems to simply distrust the domestic armaments industry, which nevertheless successfully exports its products to, for example, Ukraine.
Poland has been implementing its own drone building program since 2010, but — according to analysts — the current imports from Turkey may have a very negative impact on the Polish defense industry. It is a pity, because it is a niche in which the Polish industry could be successful on the world stage.
Is it a good buy?
Bayraktar TB2 is a tactical UAV system of MALE class (Medium-Altitude, Long -Endurance) capable of conducting observation and reconnaissance tasks (ISR, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaisance) and combat missions using guided missiles carried on four suspension points under the wings of a remotely controlled airframe. The TB2 drone is equipped with an avionics system enabling fully autonomous taxiing, take-off, cruise flight, and landing.
This description sounds impressive until we hear that the Bayraktar TB2 is a drone that corresponds to the first generation of American UAVs, so it is already 10-15 years old. For years, experts have been waiting for the purchase of more modern Israeli Hermes 900 drones or modern American MQ-9 Reaper drones by the Polish military.
According to some experts, the Bayraktar TB2 equipment is only suitable for conflicts in which the enemy does not have a modern, multi-layer anti-aircraft defense system. So its success against — for example — Russian forces, could be very limited. Apparently, the Russian defense system Buk very successfully dealt with these drones in the Battle of Sarakib in Syria. Consequently, even statements such as "sabotage" appear about the Polish-Turkish agreement among defense journalists.
Why from Turkey?
According to, for example, German observers, Poland clearly wants to be treated on an equal footing with the largest EU countries, such as France or Germany, but the importance of the Polish purchase of drones from Turkey goes beyond Poland and the European Union. This is undoubtedly also meant to be a signal to Russia and the USA.
"Poland is one of the world's most important buyers of US weapons systems, second only to Saudi Arabia." After 2015, "the Polish government relied almost exclusively on contracts with Washington to modernize its armed forces," writes the Warsaw correspondent of Die Welt. By purchasing drones from Turkey, the Polish government is showing the US that it is ready to change its arms partner if it is dissatisfied with some fundamental decisions, such as the lack of sanctions related to the Nord Stream II pipeline.  
Some point out that the purchase of drones from Turkey is problematic due to the determinants of Turkish policy, which gravitates towards authoritarianism under Recep Erdoğan. In addition, Turkey seems to be getting closer to Russia, as evidenced by the purchase of the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft system.
As a result, sanctions of various kinds — including the exclusion from the F-35 multi-role fighter development program — were imposed on Turkey not only by the United States, but also by Canada, France and Germany. Let us add that a number of important components used in Bayraktar drones, including motors and the optoelectronic head ("eyes" of the drone) are either of Canadian production, or Canadian-owned.
Decisions should be given time to ascertain their validity. Some observers were surprised that someone at the [Polish] Ministry of National Defense finally made a decision! There is only one way to be positive about it: make a dcision, and then do whatever one can to make sure one doesn't regret it. The decision to purchase combat drones has been made. Now the problem is for the army to incorporate the new equipment into its combat system as efficiently and as quickly as possible.
Pride in having new equipment is not enough. In addition, comprehensive use doctrines, operating regulations, a logistics system and air bases, a personnel qualification system, a system of transition to war status, a combat use plan, in general — all support is needed. After all, one can spend huge amounts on armaments and get nothing from it, if the equipment is not properly and fully used and effectively integrated with the rest of the battlefield.
In order not to waste Polish taxpayers' money and utilize the potential resulting from the purchase of combat drones, the Polish army must now develop its tactics. It must deploy the machines within the wide-ranging doctrine of conducting defense operations on the country's territory. Even the best weapon will not fulfill its role if the soldier operating it is not able to master it. For example, if drone pilots do not train under the conditions of comprehensive air defense, they will be surprised in real combat by their inability to defeat it.
Let's hope that, in a few years, we will be able to assess the decision to purchase the Bayraktar TB2 drones as exceptionally astute and beneficial not only for the Turkish defense industry, but also for Poland's defensive capabilities.