Today, unmanned aerial vehicles are considered one of the most effective means of warfare. In reality, the potential of drones has yet to be fully explored, so it's no surprise that governments in many countries today are sparing no expense to understand what drones are capable of.
One of these countries is Azerbaijan, where in 2009, a representative office of one of the largest Israeli defense companies Elbit Systems, known for the Hermes series of unmanned aerial vehicles, was opened.
In 2012, Azerbaijan purchased UAVs and air defense systems from Israel for $ 1.6 billion. By 2016, Baku acquired Orbiter 3 and Heron TP, in 2018 - Hermes 900 and SkyStriker. All of these drones have raised the arsenal of the Azerbaijani army to a new level.
Today, Israeli drones have been successfully introduced into the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan and have repeatedly proved their effectiveness during the hostilities in the Four-Day War in April 2016 and now, in the July 2020 war on the Tovuz area of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.
For example, in the April war, with the help of drones, the Akatsia self-propelled artillery unit and an Armenian infantry strike group were destroyed, among other targets.
The next Israeli weapon used in hostilities is the SPIKE LR anti-tank missile, thanks to which it was possible to destroy dozens of pieces of enemy military equipment. The Armenians admitted the loss of 14 tanks in battle, 4 infantry fighting vehicles, several cannons and an anti-aircraft gun "OSA".
In this counter-offensive operation, the Azerbaijani army did not set the goal of waging a full-scale war, but solved the problem of suppressing the firing points of the Armenians who were shelling the Azerbaijani civilian population.
The result of the 2016 war: the Azerbaijani army took control of several strategic heights - these are the heights around the village of Talish, as well as the heights of Leletepe in the Fizuli direction. The control of the heights around the village of Talish by the Armenian armed forces had created a danger for the Goranboy region of Azerbaijan and the city of Naftalan, and the Leletepe height was taken to ensure the safety of the city of Horadiz.
As for the recent July war, the Azerbaijani side used Israeli drones with a fairly high frequency compared to the April 2016 battles.
Drones played an important role in the destruction of a significant part of the enemy's military equipment. Israeli-developed drones made high-quality images of thousands of hectares in a short time, provided access to any territory, showed high resistance to severe weather conditions (during fog), and performed several tasks at once (shooting, navigation, information transfer to the operator, data processing). Eleven videos released by the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry on attacks on Armenian positions captured all these advantages of drones.
All these videos give reason to believe that the Armenian side, during the recent escalation in the Armenian-Azerbaijani position, may have suffered much more losses of manpower and military equipment than the Azerbaijani side.
The Armenians paid special attention to the destruction of drones - on July 21, Yerevan organized an exhibition of Azerbaijani drones, which, according to the Armenians, were shot down by air defense forces or intercepted using electronic warfare (EW) systems. It is reported that, with the exception of two reconnaissance drones - Hermes 180 and ThunderB, all the other drones were destroyed during the recent fighting on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. Among them: reconnaissance drones Orbiter 2 and Orbiter 3, as well as attack UAVs SkyStriker and Harop. All the drones are of Israeli design.
The head of the institute, Major General Daniel Balayan, stated at the exhibition that recent events have shown that Armenian-made drones are no worse than Israeli-made drones. However, how can one judge from one exhibition that the damaged and undamaged drones on display are of Israeli production, shot down during the recent July battles? Among them could well be the wreckage of Armenian drones, already shot down on the very territory of Armenia or crashed due to the inefficiency of the drones themselves.
None of the Armenian journalists asked Balayan any questions about the video footage of how all 13 drones were shot down. The Armenian Ministry of Defense has distributed several photographs showing the destruction of Azerbaijani drones, but they later turned out to be fake, according to the military analyst of the German publication Bild Julian Repke, who pointed to the unreliability of the video. He posted the footage on his Twitter account. Repke noticed that the video actually captured a civilian airliner.
"Hint: If you claim to have shot down a drone, do not show the twin-engine narrow-body passenger aircraft your air defense system is aiming at," the journalist wrote.
In addition, it turned out that drones shot down in 2016 and 2014 were demonstrated at the exhibition. The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry stated that Yerevan is presenting the American unmanned aerial vehicle shot down in Afghanistan in 2014 as Azerbaijani.
Seymur Mammadov is director of the international expert club EurAsiaAz and editor-in-chief of Azerbaijan news agency Vzglyad.az.