Canada has scrapped the export of drone technology to Turkey after it found that some of the Canadian-made systems had been used by the Azerbaijani side in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as well as in Syria.
Defence export permits to Turkey were suspended by Canada in early October when reports surfaced that Azerbaijan, a country that was backed by Ankara, was using drones equipped with imaging and targeting systems manufactured by L3Harris Wescam, the Canada-based unit of L3Harris Technologies Inc.
Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau said in a statement on Monday that a government review “found credible evidence” that Canadian technology was used in the disputed territory during six weeks of fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia late last year.
Canada had suspended export licenses in 2019 during Turkish military incursion into northeastern Syria. Restrictions were then eased but re-imposed during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The parts under embargo include camera systems fitted on drones produced by Turkish firm Baykar. Some of the Baykar combat drones are Bayraktar TB2 and Anka, extensively used by Azerbaijan.
“There is credible evidence that Bayraktar TB2 UAVs – equipped with Canadian sensors – have been used the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. The department is not aware of credible evidence that other Canadian military goods and technology have been employed in the conflict,” a government report said.
Turkey has openly agreed to supply Azerbaijan with combat drones including the deadly Bayraktar TB2, ammunition, missiles and air defence systems, and has proposed to work with the country to modernize its defense systems.
“The department is not in a position to confirm the diversion of Canadian military goods and technology exported to Turkey. However, the Turkish Government’s actions could be interpreted as being inconsistent with end-use assurances provided to the Government of Canada in March 2020,” the report said.
The Canadian Department of National Defence reached out to L3Harris WESCAM to provide the company an opportunity to assist in the review of the allegations that its sensors were used in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. WESCAM provided further analysis.
While refraining from commenting on the authenticity of the images and videos, WESCAM confirmed that the external product representation contained in some of the publicly available video footage as well as the other images, seem consistent with WESCAM-produced ones. The company said that the crash scene seen in various tweets shows expected destruction of the aircraft.
WESCAM also confirmed that the part number, product name and serial number on the tag, shown in the image shared by Armenian defense officials, are consistent with WESCAM’s naming conventions. WESCAM indicated that a system with a particular serial number was delivered in September 2020 under permit number approved in September 2019, for the Turkish Naval Forces as the stated end-user.
The department added that there was “insufficient” evidence to prove that Canadian technologies were being used by Government of National Accord (GNA) forces, supported by Turkey, in Libya; while they were “most likely” utilized by Bayraktar TB2s in Syria.
“There is credible evidence that suggest that Bayraktar TB2 UAVs – most likely equipped with Canadian sensors – have been used in Turkey’s Syria-related military and security operations for surveillance and targeting,” the statement read.