Reversing a position it took last year, Canada’s government says it is sending cutting-edge surveillance cameras for use on Turkish military drones in armed conflict – this time in Ukraine.
Last year, the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ruled out selling the sensors to companies in Turkey. The decision followed discovery the tech was included on Bayraktar TB2 UAVs Ankara delivered to Azerbaijan’s armed forces in their brutal battle with ethnic Armenians for control of the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. Keen to assist Ukrainian troops in repelling invading Russian armed forces, however, Ottawa now says it will deliver the high-performance surveillance cameras to be fitted on the same drones Ukraine bought from Turkey.
“We have obtained a number of specialized equipment, including cameras used in drones that a Canadian company makes that we will be able to start sending towards Ukraine in the coming days,” Trudeau said Wednesday after a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. “There are challenges at borders in terms of getting the equipment securely across and into Ukrainian hands, but we are working through that with partners alongside all allies who are facing the logistical challenges that are real, but not insurmountable.”
Produced by Canadian defense company L3Harris, the Westcam imaging sensors are described as “ideal for medium-altitude covert surveillance, reconnaissance, and search and rescue missions from manned and unmanned airborne platforms.” Deployment of the surveillance cameras on Ukraine’s drones are intended to further enhance what up to now has been impressive performances by the Turkish Bayraktar TB2 UAVs.
But it also marks a reversal of Canadian foreign policy, which was apparently adapted in response to differing conflicts and allies involved.
Last April, then-Foreign Minister Marc Garneau scotched plans to continue selling the tech to Turkey. The ban was motivated by an inquiry that found earlier exports of surveillance cameras were fitted on drones Azeri forces used to pummel Armenian foes during their brutal 2020 war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
“Following this review, which found credible evidence that Canadian technology exported to Turkey was used in Nagorno-Karabakh, today I am announcing the cancellation of permits that were suspended in the fall of 2020,” Garneau said last April. “This use was not consistent with Canadian foreign policy, nor end-use assurances given by Turkey.
The export ban on the drone surveillance cameras to Turkey will be kept in place, even if Ankara’s drones will soon be outfitted with the tech in Ukraine.
Kyiv is believed to be operating around 50 Bayraktar TB2 UAVs, which it began buying in 2019. In addition to Ukraine and Azerbaijan, Albania, Ethiopia, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Morocco, Pakistan, Poland, Qatar, and Tunisia have all reportedly bought or are seeking to procure the craft.
Ukraine has also been using its domestically produced, mid-sized Punisher drone with devastating effects on Russian troops.