On October 5, under mounting pressure from civil society and the Armenian diaspora community, Global Affairs Canada (GAC) suspended exports of Canadian-made L3Harris WESCAM surveillance and targeting sensors to Turkey. These sensors had been found on Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones) that were illicitly diverted to Azerbaijan by ally Turkey for use in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Ploughshares Communications Officer Tasneem Jamal spoke with Kelsey Gallagher about the genesis of Killer Optics, the impact of its publication, and the role of open-source data in tracking arms transfers.
Since 2017, Turkey has been a major customer for WESCAM products, second only to the United States. During this time, the Turkish military has not only been active in trying to put down an insurgency in southeast Turkey, but has become increasingly involved in armed conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and Libya.
In January of this year, armed drones owned by Houthis, a Yemeni rebel group, killed several Yemeni government officials. This was the first time, as far as we know, that a nonstate group had successfully deployed a drone to carry out a precision-targeted operation. In September, the Houthis, with alleged support from Iran, were suspected in the attack on the world’s largest oil-processing facility in Saudi Arabia.
Earlier this year, Amnesty International (AI) released a report, The Hidden US War in Somalia: Civilian Casualties from Air Strikes in Lower Shabelle. According to this report, which explored five incidents, at least 14 civilians had been killed by airstrikes from both manned aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones).