El­bit sells SkyStriker drone to Azer­bai­jan

Silent UAV can dive to­ward tar­get at 300 knots

The Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By ANNA AHRONHEIM

Is­rael’s El­bit Sys­tems has sold Azer­bai­jan its lat­est un­manned ae­rial ve­hi­cle which is ca­pa­ble of long-range pre­cise tac­ti­cal kamikaze strikes, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

The SkyStriker drone has been de­scribed by El­bit sys­tems as “a silent, in­vis­i­ble, and sur­prise at­tacker [that] de­liv­ers the ut­most in pre­ci­sion and re­li­a­bil­ity, pro­vid­ing a crit­i­cal ad­van­tage in the mod­ern bat­tle­field.”

The fully au­tonomous, loi­ter­ing mu­ni­tions sys­tem can carry a war­head of up to 10 kilo­grams and has a max­i­mum loi­ter­ing time of two hours. With a max­i­mum travel speed of 100 knots (185 kph) the SkyStriker can reach a dis­tance of 20 km. within 6.5 min­utes.

The drone is also easy to de­ploy in the field, and with a quiet elec­tric en­gine it al­lows op­er­a­tors to ob­serve and iden­tify en­emy tar­gets. Op­er­a­tors can pro­gram the drone to hover above an area be­fore it dives to­wards a tar­get at a speed of up to 300 knots, de­stroy­ing the tar­get on im­pact.

Ac­cord­ing to the Az­er­iDe­fense web­site, Azer­bai­jan is the first in­ter­na­tional cus­tomer of the SkyStriker. Some 10 SkyStrik­ers are seen in pictures re­leased by the web­site that in­clude Azer­bai­jan Pres­i­dent Il­ham Aliyev in­spect­ing a Harop “sui­cide drone” pro­duced by Is­rael Aero­space In­dus­tries.

The cen­tral Asian coun­try that bor­ders Iran has be­come the main sup­plier of crude oil to Is­rael and has be­come a ma­jor re­cip­i­ent of Is­raeli mil­i­tary hard­ware in re­cent years. The Stock­holm In­ter­na­tional Peace Re­search In­sti­tute placed Azer­bai­jan as the third largest con­sumer of Is­raeli arms, hav­ing bought $137 mil­lion worth in 2017.

An­other Is­raeli com­pany found it­self in the mid­dle of a storm last year when the De­fense Min­istry sus­pended its ex­port li­cense fol­low­ing an investigation into claims that it had been asked by Azer­bai­jan to carry out a live demon­stra­tion of an armed un­manned ae­rial ve­hi­cle against an Ar­me­nian mil­i­tary po­si­tion with its Or­biter-K loi­ter­ing sui­cide drone.

The firm, Aero­nau­tics De­fense Sys­tems, had opened a fac­tory in the coun­try to build the com­pany’s Aerostar and Or­biter UAVs in 2011.

In 2016, dur­ing a flare-up of vi­o­lence be­tween Azer­bai­jan and Ar­me­nia over the en­clave of Nagorno-Karabakh, it was re­ported that Baku used sui­cide drones against Ar­me­nian tar­gets, in­clud­ing tar­get­ing a bus by a Harop drone, killing seven soldiers.

Nagorono-Karabakh is in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized as be­ing part of Azer­bai­jan, but a large part of it is gov­erned by separatists who seized con­trol of the moun­tain­ous re­gion backed by Yere­van in a war in the 1990s.

De­spite a cease­fire signed by the two foes in 1994, they have never signed a peace treaty and the long-stand­ing dis­pute over the en­clave has in re­cent years led to the deaths of dozens of soldiers.

Ar­me­nian Am­bas­sador Ar­men Melkonyan later de­liv­ered a for­mal protest to Is­rael over the weapons, say­ing it was Jerusalem’s obli­ga­tion to en­sure that Is­raeli weapons sys­tems did not take part in at­tacks by either side.

“Ar­me­nia and Azer­bai­jan are both friendly to Is­rael, and it is in­con­ceiv­able that Is­raeli weapons be used in a war be­tween the two coun­tries over the Nagorno-Karabakh re­gion,” Melkonyan wrote shortly af­ter the in­ci­dent with the Harop.

A year af­ter the vi­o­lent flareup in Nagorno-Karabakh, a June re­port by Cri­sis Group warned that the two coun­tries were “closer to war than at any point since the 1994 cease­fire.”

The re­port stated that since the end of the April 2016 es­ca­la­tion Azer­bai­jan has in­creased its spend­ing on weapons, procur­ing heavy weaponry and other mil­i­tary equip­ment from coun­tries such as Is­rael, Rus­sia, Pak­istan and Turkey.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Israel

© PressReader. All rights reserved.