Israel’s Elbit Systems sells Azerbaijan SkyStriker suicide drone

The silent UAV can dive towards a target at 300knots

By
January 11, 2019 11:46
2 minute read.
SkyStriker suicide drones sold by Elbit Systems to Azerbaijan

SkyStriker suicide drones sold by Elbit Systems to Azerbaijan. (photo credit: AZERIDEFENSE)

 
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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 flare-up 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.

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