Azerbaijan Claims to be Producing Armed Drone
Azerbaijan claims to be close to fielding a domestically produced armed drone, another escalation in its race to arm to take back the territory it lost to Armenian forces.
Azerbaijan's domestic arms industry will be able to supply the drones to its armed forces "in the near future," said Yaver Jamalov, the country's Minister of Defense Industry, at a cabinet meeting Sunday.
"Testing of the unmanned aerial vehicle 'Zarba,' created by your [President Ilham Aliev] on short notice, has been successful, and in the near future the device will be handed over to the armed forces," Jamalov said.
This would seem to be Azerbaijan's first armed drone. It has used surveillance drones, mostly purchased from Israel, for several years and in April's heavy fighting with Armenia it emerged that Azerbaijan also had Israeli Harop "kamizake drones," which are themselves the bomb. Armenia also operates small, domestically produced surveillance UAVs.
This announcement comes amid an unprecedented diplomatic push to try to resolve the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the territory of Nagorno Karabakh, which Armenia won from Azerbaijan in a war as the Soviet Union collapsed.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Baku on Tuesday and said after meeting Aliyev that "we have reasons to believe that we’re much closer now to success than ever before.” U.S. President Barack Obama discussed the conflict in a phone call with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin last week, and Secretary of State John Kerry is visiting Moscow later this week to discuss the conflict. Even the Pope is getting involved.
Diplomatic progress notwithstanding, Azerbaijan is not backing down in its quest to outmuscle Armenia. In addition to the Zarba, Jamalov reported that Azerbaijan's defense industry is working on several other new products including anti-tank missiles and three types of armored vehicles.
"I would like to note with confidence that this is combat weapon, along with other weaponry and ammunition, produced by our country, will become a shadow of death for the Armenian army and will play an important role in liberating our lands," Jamalov said.
Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at Eurasianet, and author of The Bug Pit.
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