Israeli defense officials have reportedly confirmed a deal to sell Azerbaijan unmanned military aircraft, antiaircraft and missile defense systems for some $1.6 billion.
The Associated Press news agency quoted Israeli defense officials, speaking under condition of anonymity, as saying on Sunday that the contract between Azerbaijan’s government the state-run Israel Aerospace Industries was in the works for some time. They said it is not a response to Iran's nuclear development program or recent attempts, allegedly by Iranian agents, to kill Israeli diplomats in India, Thailand, Georgia and Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan is known to already have unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), most of them reportedly purchased them from Israel. Also, a joint venture set up by the Azerbaijani government and Israel Aerospace Industries began assembling Israeli-designed drones in Azerbaijan in March last year.
According to Israeli media, the two sides discussed in September the possibility of joint Israeli-Azerbaijani construction of drones with missiles.
Also in September, one Israeli-made UAV was reportedly shot down by Armenian forces while flying a reconnaissance mission over Nagorno-Karabakh. A top military official in Yerevan said Karabakh army units used special “radioelectronic” equipment to destroy the UAV.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry claimed, however, that the downed plane did not belong to its armed forces.
Later in September, Armenia for the first time demonstrated its own UAVs during a military parade in Yerevan. Military officials say the “Krunk” (Crane) drones were designed and manufactured by Armenian specialists.