A music video celebrating Azerbaijan’s border guards and showcasing the Azeri army’s military capabilities has revealed that advanced weapons systems made by the Israeli defense industry are being used by the Azeri army.
The video, which clocks in at 4 minutes and 15 seconds, shows local singer Narmin Karimbayova exalting the Azerbaijan State Border Service in song, accompanied by footage of all the military systems the Azeri military has to offer. It also shows two additional advanced weapons systems manufactured in Israel by Israel Aerospace Industries and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.
At 1:55 the video shows a launch of the IAI Harop loitering munition system. The Harop is an anti-radiation drone that can autonomously zero in on radio emissions. It can be operated from land or sea and rather than carrying a separate warhead, the drone itself is the main munition – also known as a suicide drone. The Harop is fired from a 12-missile launcher, usually carried on a truck, and has a relatively high flying time of 6 hours.
The drone is equipped with a day and night sensor, allowing forces to seek and detect targets across a wide terrain. It allows operators to set the attack time and make high precision hits on both stationary and moving targets. With a wing span of three meters and weighing 135 kilograms, the Harop is capable of carrying warheads of up to 15 kilograms and allows attacks from different angles, with the operator having control of the system right up to the point of impact. Operators can halt the assault if necessary and even recall the missile without triggering it. The Harop can also crash into the designated target with optimal precision.
In April 2016, the Washington Post reported that footage filmed in the Armenian separatist enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, where battles erupted between Armenian and Azeri soldiers, shows what appears to be an Israeli suicide drone hovering in the sky. This seems to be one of the first times the Azeri army used a deadly aircraft and based on the footage, it looks like the Harop drone. Responding to the incident to the Russian news agency RIA Novosti, the Armenian defense ministry spokesperson said the footage shows the drone attempted to hit a bus full of “Armenian volunteers” and killed seven of them.
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The Armenian government subsequently issued a harsh condemnation of Israeli arms being supplied to the Azeri army.
In response to the Azeri army video, IAI stated it does not “discuss its deals or clients.” Rafael also holds to this principle and does not officially comment on arms deals made with different countries.
At 3:18 in the video, the Typhoon weapon system is seen firing Spike missiles from an Azeri navy ship. The system, called Typhoon MLS-NLOS, was developed at Rafael and is carried on a warship. It allows for full control of the launched missiles, up to the point of impact; the missile can be diverted from its course in case the operator aborts the mission. The system is based on Spike missiles, electro-optical missiles that have been used by Israeli Defense Forces since the 1980s, although upgraded version were made over the years.
In recent years, many cargo planes have flown the Azerbaijan-Israel route on a regular basis. Silk Way Airlines cargo planes land in Ben-Gurion International Airport three times a week. According to international flight tracking websites, over the past two years, six planes belonging to the Azeri defense ministry landed in an Israeli military base in southern Israel and took off several hours later after loading or unloading cargo.
Azerbaijan and Israel have had a solid relationship for over 20 years. Azerbaijan’s geographic location along the northern border of Iran also plays a critical role in this relationship. Two-thirds of the oil entering Israel comes from Azerbaijan, with President Ilham Aliyev’s approval. Media outlets have addressed the security cooperation between the two countries in the past. It was reported that Israel sells Azerbaijan radar systems and drones, and according to foreign media reports, Israel collects intelligence on Iran from Azeri territory.
In 2016, Azerbaijan said it purchased nearly $5 billion worth of defense equipment from Israel. Aliyev said at the time that defense industry cooperation between the countries had lasted for several years and was flourishing. “The biggest part of these [defense equipment purchasing] contracts has already been executed and still we continue to work on that,” said Aliyev, continuing, “And we are very satisfied with the level of this cooperation.”