Kurdish militants knocking Turkish drones out of sky with Iranian “loitering” missiles, footage suggests

Kurdish militants knocking Turkish drones out of sky with Iranian “loitering” missiles, footage suggests
The 358 is sometimes referred to as a "kamikaze" drone. / udefense.info
By bne IntelliNews June 10, 2024

Kurdish militants are knocking Turkish armed drones out of the skies with Iranian “loitering” missiles.

At least that’s the working theory suggested by regional sources for the downing of unmanned aircraft flown by Turkey into Iraq as part of Ankara’s pursuit of Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) fighters.

Those sources spoke to Middle East Eye (MEE) following the end-of-May release of video footage by the PKK showing the shooting down of a Turkish armed drone, identified as an Aksungur, which is seen disintegrating as it plummets to the earth.

Expensive piece of kit: The indications are that the PKK shot down an Aksungur drone made by Turkish Aerospace Industries (Credit: CeeGee, cc-by-sa 4.0).

Three independent defence experts who analysed the video—who talked to the publication on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject—were cited as saying it is highly probable that the Turkish drone was brought down with an Iranian 358 loitering surface-to-air missile, also known as a "kamikaze" drone.

"This is a jet-propelled missile. It flies very slowly and, because it's not rocket-propelled, if it misses, it tries to turn around and hit the target again," one of the experts was quoted as saying.

The PKK, which has been fighting an insurgency campaign against Turkey since 1984, has its main stronghold in the Qandil Mountains, which mostly lie in northern Iraq but stretch into Iran. Turkish officials claim some PKK senior cadres have survived Turkish air strikes by crossing to the Iranian side to find refuge.

Iran has denied turning a blind eye to the PKK’s movements and activities but, in the convoluted politics of the region, there are claims that Tehran has grown increasingly collaborative with the group, designated as “terrorist” by Turkey, the EU and US.

In May, Turkey’s defence minister, Yasar Guler, told a Turkish newspaper that Iran was not cooperative with Ankara in its fight against the PKK.

"Unfortunately, our Iranian friends do not regard PKK terrorists in the same way as we do," Guler said.

"We say, 'Look, brother, the PKK is here, in that house, this is the address where they are staying,' and after a short while, the answer comes, 'Sir, we researched that address, there is no such person.' Of course, this is not acceptable."

Defence and political analysts remain unsure from where the PKK could have obtained 358s, if indeed they have the missile.

An Iraqi source close to the PKK, contacted by MEE, claimed that Iran supplied the 358 system in parts, which the PKK then assembled.

Iran-supplied 358s are known to be in the arsenals of the Houthis in Yemen, Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iranian proxies in Iraq may also boast the missile.