While reports of Azerbaijan using military drones against Armenia have been doing the rounds for more than a week, Baku has finally acknowledged the use of Turkish and Israeli produced drones to strike in the conflicted region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
“Thanks to advanced Turkish drones owned by the Azerbaijan military, our casualties on the front shrunk,” said Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev in an interview with the Turkish news channel TRT Haber. “These drones show Turkey’s strength. It also empowers us.”
Azerbaycan Silahlı Kuvvetleri, düşman mevzilerini ve araçlarını Bayraktar TB2 SİHA'larla vurmaya devam ediyor.
Azerbaijan Armed Forces is continuing to destroy enemy positions and vehicles with the aerial assaults conducted by Bayraktar TB2 Armed UAVs. pic.twitter.com/QEbAAChSx9
— Clash Report (@clashreport) October 2, 2020
Reportedly, the drones used by Baku were Turkish made Bayraktar TB2 and Israeli Harops.
The Turkish Bayraktar TB2 is a medium altitude long endurance unmanned combat aerial vehicle capable of remotely controlled or autonomous flight operations. The drones carry precision-guided MAM-L (Smart Micro Munitions).
President Aliyev lauded the capabilities of the Turkish drone in his interview saying that the drones show Ankara’s strength and they empower Baku as well.
He also stated that Azerbaijan military seeks to learn from the Turkish military and replicate it. The Turkish drones were provided this year only. The goal could be Azerbaijan’s motivation to acquire these drones.
“I believe Azerbaijan was inspired by Turkey’s innovative and decisive drone strikes in Syria (in late February/early March) and Libya (last May),” Matthew Bryza, a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, former U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan and a former U.S. mediator of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, talking to Forbes.
Another deadly drone, Israeli Harops, also known as ‘suicide’ or ‘kamikaze’ drones, “proved themselves very effective” said Hikmet Hajiyev, the foreign policy adviser to the president of Azerbaijan in an interview with Axios.
Developed by the MBT division of Israel Aerospace Industries, the Harop is an anti-radiation drone. It can easily destroy enemy radars as part of the suppression of enemy air defences (SEAD) operations.
“If Armenia is scared of the drones that Azerbaijan is using, it should stop its occupation,” he said. He added that the Israeli technology “helps Azerbaijan to provide security for its citizens” while lauding the engineers of the innovative military technology.
Experts believe that being strapped with such deadly drones, Baku is convinced that it has an added advantage in the violent conflict with Yerevan.
I suppose this would be first documented use of Israel's LORA missile system by Azerbaijan. pic.twitter.com/Mm5J80fdAP
— FJ (@Natsecjeff) October 2, 2020
“For this reason, Azerbaijan has been able to adapt its military strategy away from a more traditional ‘blitzkrieg’ assault, which would require breaking through Armenia’s heavily fortified defensive lines to enable deep strikes into occupied Azerbaijani territory,” Bryza said.
According to Bard College’s Center for the Study of Drones in the US, Turkey has two Heron TPs, ten Hermes 4507s, hundred Sky Strikers and 50 Harrops drones from Israel. Israel and Azerbaijan’s joint company Azad Systems have designed Aerostar search drones and Kamikaze Orbiter-1 and Orbiter-3.
Also, two long-range Hermes-900s have been deployed with the Coast Guard.
According to Russian expert Andrei Frolov, Armenia has not recently purchased unmanned aircraft. They say that the main reason for this is that Armenia must have miscalculated the drone power of Azerbaijan by now.
Russian military expert Viktor Murkowski explains that the air-defence system in Nagorno-Karabakh is not very powerful in co parison to the ones in Armenia. Nagorno-Karabakh air-defence systems are old and the radars in them are not as capable, so Azerbaijan drones can easily evade them.
“Azerbaijan understands this weakness. In this battle, pilots are not seen above the disputed area. Azerbaijan, realizing the whole situation, did not deploy helicopters or fighter jets in this area.”
Defence expert Rob Lee believes that Azerbaijani drone strikes may have caused serious destruction on the Armenian side. But this does not mean that Azerbaijan will be able to take any significant benefit from the success.
Azerbaijan and Armenia have been at loggerheads with the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh, after the two territories broke away from the Soviet Union, each claiming the territory as its own.
Fresh violence erupted on September 27 in the Armenian controlled region. Yerevan has blamed Ankara for extending military support to Baku and has claimed that it shot down its Su-25 by a Turkish F-16. However, Turkey and Azerbaijan have denied the claim that Ankara has provided any military support.