Ukraine’s forces in Donbas have delivered their first ever drone missile strike against Russian-sponsored militants on Oct. 26, using the Bayraktar TB2, an unmanned aerial system purchased from Turkey.

As seen in a video released by the armed forces, the drone targeted an enemy D-30 howitzer from the sky before unleashing a guided projectile that silenced the artillery piece.

According to the Ukrainian military, the assault was launched in retaliation for the shelling that killed a Ukrainian soldier in the area and wounded another.

A squadron of militants was using its 122-millimeter D-30 howitzers to attack Ukrainian lines near the town of Hranitne in Donetsk Oblast, some 630 kilometers southeast of Kyiv.

According to the Minsk ceasefire accords signed by the warring parties in September 2014 and February 2015, weapons of this class must be pulled at least 25 kilometers away from the front line.

The day before the attack, the occupying authorities of Donbas had accused the Ukrainian military of attempting to retake Staromariivka, a tiny settlement trapped between the Ukrainian and militant lines, just south of Hranitne. The Ukrainian side responded by saying the front line in the area “has seen no changes.”

The ensuing hour-long shelling by the militants killed Master Sergeant Heorhiy Khalikov of the 93rd Mechanized Infantry Brigade.

The Ukrainian military sent a demand for the enemy to cease fire through the Special Monitoring Mission with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). A diplomatic cable was also sent. The enemy ignored the demands, the military said.

As a result, Ukraine’s top military commander, Lieutenant General Valeriy Zaluzhniy, authorized the employment of a Bayraktar TB2 system, which effectively ended the shelling.

The Ukrainian military added that the vehicle did not cross the front line into the enemy-controlled territory during its mission.

Ukraine purchased 12 Bayraktar TB2 systems from Turkey for $69 million, joining the club of countries that operate strike drones, which includes the United States, Israel and Russia. The Turkish manufacturer also supplied all necessary maintenance and training for operating crews.

Ukraine’s military started testing the first Bayraktar units on its soil in 2019-2021. In October 2020, the Ukrainian state-run foreign arms trade company UkrSpetsEksport said that as many as 48 Bayraktar units could be purchased for the Armed Forces.

Read more: Ukraine takes note as Turkey opens new chapter in drone warfare

In recent years, the systems designed by Istanbul-based Baykar Makina, have performed successfully in hotspots around the world, which greatly boosted their profile in the global arms market.

In particular, the systems were employed by the Azerbaijani military in the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war. Earlier that year, the Turkish military deployed mass swarms of Bayraktar drones to target pro-government forces of Syria in the country’s north.

In late February and early March 2020, the Turkish drones allegedly destroyed 73 Syrian armored vehicles in the province of Idlib, according to Middle East Institute, a United States-based think tank.

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