Azerbaijan on March 4 kick-started the manufacture of unmanned aircraft, most probably to peek into the goings-on in Armenia and Armenian-guarded, breakaway Nagorno Karabakh.
Defense officials yesterday updated Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on their progress with the domestic production of Israeli-designed drones. The two models, Orbiter 2M and Aerostar, both manufactured by a local company, AZAD Systems Co., can cruise for five and 12 hours at altitudes of six and 10 kilometers, respectively.
Armenia, which occasionally exchanges gunfire with Azerbaijan, in the past has complained about Baku reportedly flying drones over disputed Karabakh.
Drones have become a popular defense toy elsewhere in the South Caucasus, too. Some two months before the 2008 Russia-Georgia war, a Russian jet shot down an unmanned Georgian reconnaissance aircraft that was hovering over breakaway Abkhazia. Since the war, Moscow has offered to sell Abkhazia Russian-made drones.
The Azerbaijani models, financed by a $3.12-billion defense budget, may not have attack capabilities, but their presence similarly promises to add tensions to an atmosphere already charged with war rhetoric.