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Azerbaijan turns to Israeli defence industry to counter Iranian drone threat

By Arie Egozi

Iranian armed drones are continuing to play a role in clashes between countries in Europe. Now, according to a recent report, they may be used by Armenia in its dispute with Azerbaijan.

Israeli sources told Defence Industry Europe that this development will put Israeli-made anti-drone systems in a high place in the Azeri shopping list that includes many Israeli systems.

In a report written by Alexander Grinberg, an expert on Iran, on the website of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, he reveals that Armenia has already purchased some Iranian-made drones and targeted them at Azeri positions. That is further evidence that Iran works to escalate tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan through its “drone diplomacy.”

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been fighting for years over the disputed Nagorno Karabach region.

The expert writes that Armenia was seeking to purchase Iranian drones already in 2022. Iranian officials also confirmed Armenia’s desire to purchase UAVs from Iran. Despite both Iranian and Armenian denials, Azeri, Turkish, and even Iranian informal media have reported the Armenian armed forces’ usage of an Iranian drone against Azeri forces. The Zangezur corridor, which is supposed to pass along Armenia’s and Iran’s border, bears enormous importance for both Iran and Azerbaijan, although it is situated on Armenian soil.

 

 

“If Baku accomplishes its control over that territory, it will connect Azerbaijan to Turkey and then to Europe. The potential realization of the Zangezur corridor, which could link Azerbaijan’s western provinces with the Azeri Nakhchivan enclave along the Turkish border, is very significant in economic and geopolitical terms. As Iran rejects this Azeri project, it forces Armenia to engage in more skirmishes over the Zangezur corridor. Iran opened its new consulate in the Armenian city of Kapan, close to the Syunik and the Zangezur corridor.”

The expert writes that, in the meantime, Iranian media are whipping up war hysteria against Azerbaijan. Some openly maintain that the Iranian consulate in Kapan is insufficient to protect Iran’s interests. Others argue that Iran needs to beef up its military presence in Armenia.

“Some Iranian politicians spoke out for establishing an Iranian military base in Armenia because Armenia is interested in such a base and to counter the Baku regime and its Zionist allies. Prof. Sayed Hassan Amin proposed in 2021 that Iran, as the Islamic Republic, should develop a military presence in Armenia and the South Caucasus, as it has in Iraq and Syria. Naturally, Iran cannot carry out these plans without Armenia’s consent.”

As reported by Defence Industry Europe, Azerbaijan has, in recent years, purchased some Israeli-developed weapon systems, including loitering weapon systems to answer specific operational requirements. These systems were used extensively during the Nagorno-Karabakh war in 2020 between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Video clips from the war zone showed heavy use of Israeli loitering weapon systems by the Azeris.

In 2018, the Azeris acquired the Elbit Systems SkyStriker loitering weapon system. This was part of this country’s plan to acquire autonomous strike capabilities.

The Israeli company refused to comment on the contract, but videos showing tests with this system in Azerbaijan surfaced on the net.

The SkyStriker is the first such system developed by Elbit Systems.

 

 

The SkyStriker – a remotely operated electro-optical, precise-guided Loitering Munition (LM) is designed to seek, locate, and engage various targets for the tactical level military force.

According to Elbit, the SkyStriker is capable of locating, acquiring, and striking operator-marked targets, enabling high-precision performance. The system’s electric propulsion provides a low acoustic signature and enables covert low-altitude operations.

According to the Israeli company, due to its flight speed capability, it can reach a distance of tens of miles within minutes. Upon reaching the target area, it can loiter and pursue the target for up to two hours.

Azerbaijan is one of the largest weapons markets for Israeli military equipment, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

In the past, this country has purchased another loitering weapon system, the Harop made by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). It also purchased the Lora, a long-range surface-to-surface precise rocket.

The Harop has been developed to destroy high-quality targets.

It consists of the munitions unit, a transportable launcher, and a mission control shelter, which provides real-time access to control the Harop by a man-in-the-loop.

The Harop can be launched from various transportable platforms, including sea and ground-based canisters or air-launched to navigate towards the potential target area. It can be launched at any angle, horizontal or at a vertical trajectory. The sealed container ensures protection from harsh battlefield conditions.

The Harop is armed with a 35-pound warhead and is equipped with a very advanced day/night payload (POP-250) made by the Tamam division of IAI.

 

 

Harop has an operational range of 620 miles and an endurance of six hours.

In recent months, there were reports about some new Israeli-developed weapon systems that Azerbaijan wants to acquire.

Last year, Israeli defence company Meteor Aerospace teamed with Caspian Ship Building Company (CSBC) in Azerbaijan to jointly offer advanced defence solutions to meet the national needs of Azerbaijan. The two companies are well-positioned to offer a wide range of defence solutions, with local support and unique advantages to Azerbaijan’s defence needs and industry. A new company was established in Azerbaijan, named Caspian Meteor, to implement this cooperation.

 

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