ANKARA, Turkey — Russia was sending a clear message to Turkey when it bombed Ukrainian business Motor Sich, which makes engines for Turkish aircraft, analysts have told Defense News.
The Aug. 6 missile and drone attack across Ukraine killed six people, Kyiv officials said. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the Zaporizhzhia-based facilities of Motor Sich, which his government took over in November, also came under attack.
The privately owned business Baykar builds the Akinci and Kizilelma drones, for which Motor Sich provides engines.
Eugene Kogan, a security and defense analyst based in Tbilisi, Georgia, said Russian President Vladimir Putin was essentially telling his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "Despite our friendly relations and respect to each other, your son-in-law's undertaking in Ukraine will cost him dearly" — a reference to Baykar chairman Selcuk Bayraktar, who is married to one of the Turkish president's daughters.
"Any military facility in Ukraine, local or foreign, is a legitimate target, and Russia is not going to be deterred by Ukraine to destroy such targets," Kogan added.
Motor Sich and Ukrainian firm Ivchenko-Progress have been providing AI-450 engines for the Akinci drone, as well as AI-25TLT engines for the Anka-3 and Kizilelma drones. Turkish Aerospace Industries produces the Anka-3, and Baykar's Kizilelma is still under development.
Motor Sich engines also power Turkish Aerospace Industries' Atak II heavyweight combat helicopter. And talks were underway for a Motor Sich engine to power the T925, TAI's utility helicopter. It's unclear where negotiations now stand.
In 2019, LLC Avia Ventures, a Baykar subsidiary, obtained permission to produce its Akinci and TB2 drones in Ukraine, with work to start in 2025. In January of that year, Baykar won a $69 million contract to sell six TB2 systems to Ukraine.
Later that year, state-controlled Ukrainian company Ukrspecexport and Baykar signed a deal to develop and produce "sensitive technologies in defense and aerospace."
And in 2021, Turkey and Ukraine signed a contract to establish a helicopter repair and maintenance facility in Ankara. As part of the deal, Motor Sich would provide spare parts and engine testing services.
Baykar and TAI did not reply to Defense News' queries.
"We take it [the Russian missile attack on Motor Sich] as a symbolic Russian warning reflecting Russia's discontent over a few Turkish initiatives," a senior Turkish diplomat told Defense News on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the topic.
While Turkey is a member of NATO, it has maintained friendly relations with Russia. In 2017, Turkey bought the Russian-made S-400 air defense system, angering members of the Western alliance. But last month, Erdoğan met with Zelenskyy and backed Ukraine's hopes of joining NATO.
Ozgur Eksi, an Ankara-based analyst, said the Aug. 6 attack "is a message both to Ukraine and to Turkey."
"The Russian attack effectively kills co-production plans and any Turkish appetite to buy Motor Sich," Eksi told Defense News.
A Turkish procurement official said the country has enough Ukrainian-made engines on hand to run, among others, its drone programs uninterrupted. The official was not authorized to speak to the press, and Defense News could not independently verify the claim.
However, Eksi said, "this may be a short-term solution, but not a relief from a long-term perspective."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based political analyst and a Charles Wax Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum.