A team of Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) officers is currently in Türkiye for training on the operation of recently acquired unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), according to Defence Minister Mohamed Ghassan Maumoon.

The UAVs, Bayraktar TB2 drones manufactured by Baykar Technologies of Türkiye, were commissioned in March this year. The acquisition is part of a strategic initiative to enhance MNDF’s surveillance capabilities over the country’s vast exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

However, the Defence Minister has remained tight-lipped about the number of MNDF personnel involved in operating and maintaining the UAVs. When pressed by local media, Minister Maumoon deflected the question, stating that such operational details are not for public disclosure.

The UAVs were first unveiled on 15 March at Maafaru Airport in Noonu Atoll, following an agreement signed during President Mohamed Muizzu’s inaugural state visit to Türkiye. The government has indicated plans to acquire additional drones in the future.

While some drones were purchased outright, others were received as part of a grant from Türkiye, according to President Muizzu. The unveiling of the military drones coincided with the establishment of the MNDF’s Air Corps.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has voiced serious concerns over the government’s lack of transparency surrounding the acquisition of military UAVs. The MDP highlighted a notable disparity: while the market value of a single ‘Bayraktar TB2’ drone stands at approximately US$2 million, the government has yet to clarify its expenditure of US$39 million on the acquisition.

In response to the ongoing scrutiny, Minister Maumoon called for enacting a confidentiality act aimed at protecting government secrets, particularly in light of the controversy surrounding the MNDF’s procurement of military drones.