Ukrainian TB2 Shot Down Over Kyiv By Friendly Forces

Dramatic imagery of a familiar-looking drone downed by a surface-to-air missile over the Ukrainian capital left many wondering what happened.

byJoseph Trevithick|
Ukraine photo


Ukraine's military has confirmed shooting down one of the country's own Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drones flying over Kyiv earlier today. Individuals on the ground had captured dramatic pictures and video of the incident. The Ukrainian Air Force claims that control of the drone was lost and the decision to destroy it was made in order to avoid "unwanted consequences." This has come as Russia has been launching strikes on Ukraine's capital in retaliation for still murky drone attacks on the Kremlin yesterday.

The TB2 was on a "planned flight" when control was lost, according to a statement from the Ukrainian Air Force. It added that the exact circumstances of the incident are still being investigated, but that a "technical malfunction" of some kind may have been to blame. The statement makes no reference of any kind to possible hostile action.

The official explanation is absolutely plausible and deliberately shooting down wayward friendly drones that have lost control is a standard practice. At the same time, air defenders in and around Kyiv have had cause to be on extreme alert recently and it wouldn't be surprising if an incident like this was the result of friendly fire. The somewhat similar flight profile of the TB2 and certain Russian drones also makes identifying friend versus foe that much tougher.

The official explanation is absolutely plausible and deliberately shooting down wayward friendly drones, or even crewed aircraft after everyone has bailed out, is hardly underheard of. At the same time, air defenders in and around Kyiv have had cause to be on heightened alert recently and there still remains a possibility that this incident may have actually been a case of accidental friendly fire.

Why the TB2 was flying in the area at all on this scheduled flight is unclear. It's unknown exactly how many of these drones Ukraine has, but it reportedly received dozens from Turkey after Russia's all-out invasion and has been receiving small numbers from other sources. In addition, there have been reports in the past that the use of these drones, which was very pronounced in the opening phases of the current conflict, has since been significantly curtailed overall due to the fortification of Russia's anti-air umbrella over and beyond the front lines.

These drones can be armed with various small precision-guided munitions or used for purely reconnaissance and surveillance missions. The drone flying over Kyiv did not appear to be carrying any weapons, but was fitted with a sensor turret under the fuselage, which is customary for the type.

A stock image of a Ukrainian TB2, in this case seen armed with MAM-series precision-guided munitions under its right wing. Ukrainian MoD

The exact weapon that was used to bring the drone down is unknown. However, pictures and videos from Kyiv clearly show it being hit by a missile of some kind, after which it explodes in a ball of fire and falls to the ground. The extent of any damage from the debris falling in the middle of the Ukrainian capital is unclear, but the country's Air Force says that no one was injured or killed as a result.

Pictures have since emerged showing at least some of the wreckage in what looks to be a wooded area with first responders covering it in fire-fighting foam.

Firefighters spray foam on the downed TB2. AP Photo/Alex Babenko
A part of the wing of the shot-down TB2 with its Ukrainian Air Force roundel plainly visible. AP Photo/Alex Babenko
A view of another part of the TB2 wreckage showing what looks to be its sensor turret. AP Photo/Alex Babenko

In addition, there appears to still be some confusion about whether or not the downing of the TB2 was an isolated incident or if it came amid fresh Russian strikes on Kyiv. Air raid alerts had been issued at around the same time, but may have just been in regard to the stray TB2. A fire at a four-story shopping center building in the Ukrainian capital was subsequently reported and said to have been caused by unspecified falling drone debris. Other falling debris was reported elsewhere in the city, too.

The blaze at the shopping center, which appears to be miles from where the TB2 looked to have been shot down, appeared to be relatively quickly extinguished and there were no reported casualties. The Kyiv City Military Administration, also known by its Ukrainian acronym, KMVA, later said in a statement that details about the situation were still being "clarified."

On the night of May 3-4, at least, Russia's forces had launched a number of Iranian-made Kamikaze drones at the Ukrainian capital, as well as the port city of Odesa. Officials in Ukraine subsequently claimed they had shot down 18 of 24 total incoming drones. Kyiv “has not experienced such intensity of strikes since the beginning of this year," KMVA head Serhiy Popko said earlier today in a post on the Telegram social network.

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The Russian strikes were, as already noted, in retaliation for drone attacks on the Kremlin yesterday. The Russian government has blamed the Ukrainians for that and asserts, without evidence, they were directly assisted in some fashion by the United States. Officials in Ukraine, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, have denied responsibility. U.S. authorities have also denied any involvement. You can read more about what is known about that incident here.

Whatever the exact circumstances behind the downing of the TB2 might be, it certainly underscores that the skies above Kyiv remain tense more than a year after Russia launched its all-out invasion in Febraury 2022.

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