south front for tuesday

Battle Of Nagorno-Karabakh
South Front, Oct 27 2020

Weapons of Karabakh War: Israel’s Hermes 450 Medium-Size Multi-Payload UAV
South Front, Oct 27 2020

The Elbit Hermes 450 is an Israeli medium-sized multi-payload unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designed for tactical long endurance missions. It has an endurance of over 20 hours, with a primary mission of reconnaissance, surveillance and communications relay. Payload options include electro-optical/infrared sensors, communications and electronic intelligence, synthetic-aperture radar/ground-moving target indication, electronic warfare, and hyperspectral sensors. Choice of payloads includes EO/IR/Laser, SAR/GMTI & MPR, COMINT/COMMJAM, ELINT, hyperspectral systems, large area scanning systems and other payloads. Hermes 450’s highly autonomous and ergonomic operation results in mission effectiveness with no piloting skills required. The system is easily mobilized and rapidly deployable. Mission management is performed via the Hermes ground control system (GCS). Hermes 450 can perform two concurrent missions from the same GCS using two ground data terminals (GDT). With multi-payload capability (150 kg, 300 L, 1.6 kVA) the Hermes 450 is effective for ISTAR, SIGINT, communication relays and other missions for Division to Corps levels. It is powered by a 52 hp rotary UEL engine that provides a maximum speed of 95 KTAS@SL, altitude over 18 kft, endurance over 20 hours. The Hermes 450 features fully redundant avionics, fully autonomous flight, LOS and/or satellite communication data link with a fully composite structure that is highly mobile and easily deployed. The Hermes 450 UAV is one of the many Israeli unmanned systems in use by the Azerbaijani armed forces in the fight against Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Hermes 450 is the backbone of the UK WATCHKEEPER program.

Armenian-Azerbaijani War: Military Situation In Nagorno-Karabakh
South Front, Oct 27 2020

The Armenian-Azerbaijani war continues at its full-scale despite the US-sponsored ceasefire, which allegedly started on Oct 26.

  • Commander-in-Chief of the Iran’s IRGC visited Khodaafarin, inspecting the situation near the border with Nagorno-Karabakh;
  • Clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenian forces continue in the Qobadli area. The town is in hands of Azerbaijan;
  • Clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenian forces are ongoing in the Fuzuli area;
  • Clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenian forces are ongoing in the Martuni area;
  • Adel al-Shahir, a prominent field commander of the Hamza Division, was killed in the Karabakh area by Armenian artillery;
  • Azerbaijan Army shelled the town of Martuni;
  • Azerbaijan Army shelled the town of Martakert;
  • Armenian Army shelled the town of Tartar;
  • Armenian Army shelled the area of Aghband;
  • Nagorno-Karabakh authorities appointed Maj-Gen Mikael Arzumanyan as a new Minister of Defense, due to the injury of the previous Minister Lt-Gen Jalal Harutyunyan in military operations.

Bombardier And Others Prohibit Sales Of Parts For Turkey’s Bayraktar TB2 UAVs
South Front, Oct 27 2020

International pressure appears to be mounting on Turkey’s Bayraktar TB2 attack drones. It should be noted that this is often not political pressure, but a result from Armenian lobbying to business itself, since governments appear all the happier to receive funds for arms exports. The indigenous Turkish drone is “homemade” as far as assembly goes, with most of its parts being imported from the UK, Canada, Germany and others. The infographic above provides some insight into where each part originates from. Project Ploughshare, a Canadian NGO which works to advance policies and actions to prevent war and armed violence and build peace, published a report into Wescam’s selling of sensors to Turkey. The entire report can be found here. Photos taken at arms fairs and in conflict zones commonly display Turkish UAVs fitted with WESCAM products, usually the MX-15D, the favourite of the Turkish Air Force (Türk Hava Kuvvetleri or THK). This model is easily identifiable when mounted to an airframe.

Baykar, the manufacturer of Turkey’s most popular UAV, the TB2, has publicly lauded WES-CAM systems and lists WESCAM as their sole EO/IR provider. WESCAM now has an authorized service centre at the Baykar site in Istanbul. And this happened in recent years, in 2016 Canadian arms exports to Turkey stood at $4.2m, in 2019 they reached $192m. In Oct 2019, Canada joined Germany & FUK in an arms embargo against Turkey in response to Turkey’s unilateral invasion of Syria, which GAC deemed could risk “undermining the stability of an already fragile region, exacerbating the humanitarian situation and rolling back progress achieved by the Global Coalition Against Daesh.”

In Apr 2020, the Canadian arms embargo was indefinitely extended. The principled and proactive freeze on Turkish-bound exports was seen as a positive example of Canada’s arms-control regime working as it should. In response, Turkish officials frantically pressured Ottawa to allow an exemption, explicitly for WESCAM sensors, which have become essential to the operation of its UAVs. Erdoğan personally called Trudeau to request that the export freeze be reversed, emphasizing the “utmost importance to the import of the optics and surveillance systems from the Canadian firm Wescam for its military drones,” which were being used in Syria and Libya. And an exemption was granted, so Bayraktar keeps receiving the equipment, for the drones to keep shooting.

The Bayraktar TB2 has been used in all operations in Northern Iraq, Northeastern Syria, Syria’s Idlib, Libya, and now is actively being used in Nagorno-Karabakh against Armenia. In Germany, protests led to the company Rotax to stop supplying aircraft engines to “countries with unclear use.” Rotax is a subsidiary of Canadian Bombardier Recreational Products says it has suspended the delivery of aircraft engines to “countries with unclear usage” in the wake of reports that some of those engines are being used on Turkish combat drones deployed by Azerbaijan in fighting against Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Quebec-based company, better known for its Ski-Doo and Lynx snowmobiles, said it became aware late last week that some of the recreational aircraft engines produced by its Austrian subsidiary, Rotax, are being used on Turkish Bayraktar TB2 unmanned aerial vehicles. Martin Langelier, BPR’s senior vice president and the company’s spokesperson, told Radio Canada International in an email statement:

We have recently been made aware that some Rotax engines are currently used in military UAVs, and have started a thorough investigation immediately.

Armenian officials also have accused Azerbaijan of using the Turkish drones to not only target military forces but also to conduct strikes against civilian infrastructure across Nagorno-Karabakh and in Armenia proper:

In the meantime, we are suspending delivery of aircraft engines in countries with unclear usage.

Turkey and Azerbaijan have denied these reports. The Turkish embassy did not respond to a request for comment. Officials at Global Affairs Canada said they are investigating allegations regarding the possible use of Canadian technology in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and “will continue to assess the situation.” Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne suspended the export permits for WESCAM optical sensors and target acquisition systems on Oct 6. However, senior Global Affairs officials speaking at a briefing for MPs on the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh could not explain why an exemption was made for these exports in the first place, given the embargo announced in 2019 and renewed in April of this year. Essentially, Turkey is accused of using these drones to indiscriminately target military targets, as well as civilians in every battlefield they’re employed, and it is suspect to consider that there’s not a single grain of truth in these reports.

Azerbaijan’s President Mimics “Big Brother” Erdogan’s Rhetoric And Attitudes
South Front, Oct 27 2020

On Oct 26, Aliyev made an address regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Armenia. Some of his statements are quite notable, and remind of another close ally of his “big brother” Erdogan, which Aliyev strongly appears to be “cosplaying.” Azerbaijan is restoring historical justice today, President Ilham Aliyev said. According to him, in recent years, official Baku has done a great job of informing the world community about the realities of the South Caucasus. Aliyev said:

Baku explained and substantiated to the whole world that Nagorno-Karabakh is the historical land of Azerbaijan and this fact is based on historical evidence. I have repeatedly called on RUFUS to impose sanctions against Armenia. Nagorno-Karabakh is the only issue on which the positions of these countries coincide. This is because the occupation and the status quo met the interests of the co-chairing countries and Armenia. Today Azerbaijan alone is fulfilling the UNSCRs. We are shaping new realities! The conflict must be resolved either by peace or by war. We are ready to stop as soon as Baku presents a clear schedule for the withdrawal of Armenian troops from the territory of Azerbaijan. Over the past month, they continue to actively supply weapons to Armenia. Will a country striving for a ceasefire continue to arm itself? During the fighting, 252 tanks of the Armenian Armed Forces were disabled in a month, 53 were taken as trophies. Six S-400 air defense systems were destroyed. I ask, where does poverty-stricken Armenia get this amount of money from? In the UNSC, a number of countries tried to pass an anti-Azerbaijani resolution, but the member states of the Non-Aligned Movement did not allow this document to be adopted. This is because there is international law and justice. No-one is allowed to play with the feelings of the people of Azerbaijan. The mediators must either achieve the withdrawal of the occupying forces, or move out of the way of Baku. Over the past month, the mediating countries have only tried to put pressure on Azerbaijan. These states should abandon the preconceived position. The main thing now is to achieve a complete and early settlement of the conflict! These planes arrived in Azerbaijan to participate in the exercises, and after the escalation the situation remained on our territory. F-16s of the Turkish Air Force will be used to prevent aggression from abroad. The peoples will coexist peacefully throughout the country. 4 villages of Zangilan, 6 of Jabrail, 7 of Gubadli regions, as well as the city of Gubadli, have been liberated from the occupation.

The above video was also shared online showing the level of demoralization and presumed fear among Armenian soldiers. The ceasefire is all but done, as Armenia continues noting violations by Azerbaijan, while Baku also accuses Yerevan of the same. At around 10:00-10:15 local time on Oct 27, Azerbaijan reportedly violated the ceasefire and used drones to shell border guard guiding posts of the Republic of Armenia at its southern border with Iran.

https://southfront.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/IMG_4222.mp4?_=1

Noting this latest violation of the ceasefire and the shelling of the state border of the Republic of Armenia, the Artsakh Ministry of Defense declares that it is forced to strike retaliatory blows at the Azerbaijani forces. Armenian Ministry of Defense spox Shushan Stepanyan said:

The Armenian armed forces retaliated against Azerbaijan. As a result of the enemy’s shelling of the southern border of Armenia, the Armenian side did not suffer any losses.

Despite reports in Armenian media, the truth is, and it is evident in Pashinyan’s admitting that concessions will be necessary is that Azerbaijan has the upper hand in the situation now, and its advantage is becoming greater with each day. It is unclear if Russia plans to step in, but it also could be too little too late.

Nobody Believes In Peace. Azerbaijan Attacks Armenian Forces Despite US-Sponsored Ceasefire
South Front, Oct 27 2020

As of Oct 26, Azerbaijan and Turkey kept their operational initiative in the war with Armenia in the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region. Their forces continue developing their offensive in southern Karabakh by trying to remove Armenian forces from of the Lachin corridor area in order to cut off the link between the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and Armenia itself. Attempts of Armenian forces to retake the initiative and counter—attacks near the Iranian border did not lead to any breakthrough results. In turn, the Armenian Defense Ministry was forced to admit that it in fact has lost the south of Karabakh. Nonetheless, according to its version of events, the towns of Fuzuli and Hadrut are still not controlled by Azerbaijan. This goes contrary to videos from the ground. At the same time, the Azerbaijani advance on the town of Qubadli faced particular difficulties and in fact the town remains contested. Further development of the Azerbaijani forces’ advance poses a direct thereat to the town of Shushi, near the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic capital, Stepankert, and the Lanchin corridor. Both these directions are considered as strategically vital by the Armenian leadership and it will likely contribute every possible effort to prevent this scenario.

On Oct 25, the General Prosecutor’s Office of Armenia announced that it has factual evidence that numerous operators of Turkish Special Forces took part in clashes in Karabakh. According to the report, since August, Turkish personnel have been training the Azerbaijani military and participating in the conflict. Earlier it became known that after the joint Turkish-Azerbaijani drills in August a large number of Turkish military specialists, service members and equipment remained in Azerbaijan. The presence of Turkish F-16 fighter jets at the airbases of Ganja and Qabala were confirmed by satellite images. The Armenian side insists that the Turkish F-16s were involved in the shooting down of Armenian aircraft and providing air cover for Azerbaijani combat drones bombing Armenian positions in Karabakh. Turkish weapon supplies and the contribution of Turkish intelligence and top officers to the planning and employment the Azerbaijani advance in Karabakh are another open secret. The presence of members of Turkish-backed Syrian militant groups in the combat zone area was also confirmed by photo and video evidence.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev insists that the Turkish military and Syrian militants do not participate in the war while simultaneously making loud statements about victories of Azerbaijani forces. During an operational meeting with the leadership of the Ministry of Defense and commanders of units on the front line, Aliyev claimed that his forces eliminated or captured about 300 Armenian battle tanks and destroyed 6 S-300 air defense systems. The Azerbaijani leader also stated that Armenia received modern weapons every day somehow forgetting to mention various Turkish and Israeli weapon systems employed by the Azerbaijani military.

Meanwhile, Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov met with Deputy Sec State Stephen Biegun in Washington and agreed on the establishment of another humanitarian ceasefire, the third one since the start of the war on Sep 27. Nonetheless, it does not look like it will allow for any strategic breakthrough as the previous two ceasefires collapsed immediately after their formal start. Moreover, the current situation on the front line does not sit well with the goals of both sides. The Turkish-Azerbaijani bloc still seeks to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh question by military means dismantling the Armenian republic there and pushing the Armenians out of the region. At the same time, for the Armenians the current configuration of the frontline, even if the conflict is temporarily frozen, will be a source of permanent threat to the vital infrastructure of Karabakh. In these conditions, the resumption of the Azerbaijani advance will be almost inevitable. The Iranian leadership is also skeptical regarding the diplomatic settlement of the conflict. Iran has deployed large forces to the border with Karabakh and launched large-scale military drills in the area.

As Azerbaijan’s Military Victories Continue, Armenian Prime Minister Concedes ‘Painful’ Concessions Will Be Necessary
South Front, Oct 27 2020

As the third ‘humanitarian ceasefire’ not unexpectedly ended before it began, and Armenia/ Nagorno-Karabakh continue to lose ground on the battlefield, Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan appears to be facing the new reality. In an address broadcast live on ‘Facebook’ he stated that the Armenian people must be willing to make ‘painful’ mutual concessions in any peace agreement. However, he reiterated that this does not mean Armenia will capitulate entirely. As South Front reported earlier today, Azerbaijan has triumphantly announced a string of military victories and advances today, even as the third ‘humanitarian ceasefire’ was supposed to take effect. The Azerbaijani political and military leadership is clearly not interested in easing up on its military offensives when they appear to have a decisive upper hand on the battlefield. Were the negotiations then a deliberate ploy to keep up formal appearances of desiring peace, to try to trick the enemy into a false sense of security, and to string the international community along as a pack of fools? Or did they simply change their mind at the last minute? Whatever the case may be, they have made substantial additional gains on the battlefield today. Meanwhile, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan spoke live on Facebook, assuring that the Armenian side has been doing everything it can to ensure the US-brokered ceasefire is maintained. Pashinyan said:

The Defence Army has shown restraint since morning, but at this moment we can state that the ceasefire has failed to be observed for a third time. I talked to Pompeo last night and said that I was sure the ceasefire would be violated. I asked him, firstly: if the ceasefire is not respected, how are we going to find out which side violated it? Secondly, I asked what would be the consequences for the party breaching the ceasefire? I received no answers at the time, but I hope Washington will answer my questions today. I am convinced that the Presidents of RUFUS are sincere in their efforts to help establish a ceasefire. While the Armenian side has been very flexible in this period, Azerbaijan has not shown any willingness to accept anything. What Azerbaijan wants is capitulation of Nagorno Karabakh at least. While the Armenian nation is ready for mutual concessions, even painful ones, Armenian people are in no event ready for capitulation. Therefore, the Armenian nation should find resources to struggle and protect its interests.

The international community appears powerless to influence events on the ground through diplomacy. So much so, that Azerbaijan is now acknowledging Turkey’s involvement and even the deployment of F-16’s to Azerbaijan, something they categorically denied previously. Hours after the truce agreement took effect, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said in a televised address that his country would “carry on to the end” until Armenians announced a withdrawal from its territory, while also saying he’d ordered his military to observe the truce. Aliyev warned that as many as six Turkish F-16 fighter jets located in his country would intervene if Azerbaijan came under attack, saying:

Our Turkish brothers kept them here to show us moral support. If there’s an aggression against us from abroad, they’ll face the F-16s.

While Azerbaijan clearly enjoys the military advantage at the moment, they may yet find that the further they advance, the stiffer the resistance will become. The key question at this point seems to be how far are they intending to advance before they will be satisfied with a ceasefire and genuine peace negotiations? The more they advance militarily and engage in disingenuous ceasefire talks, the more international opinion will shift to the Armenian side. And as Turkey’s role becomes more difficult to deny, if there appears to be no end in sight to their military offensive it will become more difficult for Russia to not become directly involved.

Azerbaijan’s Effective Decade-Long UAV Partnership With Israel
South Front, Oct 27 2020

In the fighting for Nagorno-Karabakh, and primarily in the skies above, Azerbaijan evidently has the air superiority. This is predominantly thanks to Israeli drones, even though the Turkish Bayraktar TB2 take most of the credit, since they receive most of the media attention. Regardless, below is a list of the most used Israeli-made UAVs that Azerbaijan employs, with the information drafted by Militarizm.su, in the two parts of its analysis on the topic. The text below is based on the data articles by Militarizm.su. Since the “April war” of 2016, the armed forces of Azerbaijan regularly use not only reconnaissance UAVs, but also loitering munition UAVs. After that, the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan posts spectacular video footage of the exact defeat of enemy targets to the delight of its supporters. In fact, a real “drone war” is going on over Karabakh, in which Azerbaijan, which has great financial resources, demonstrates a noticeable superiority. While poor (in all senses) Armenia is forced, as it is called “on the knee,” to use its own samples of UAVs based on purchased components and its own developments, Azerbaijan bought many different types of UAVs from Israel, set up to assemble some of them in its own factories. It turned out to be not so easy to understand the types of drones in service with Azerbaijan, but it’s worth a try. The “era of unmanned aerial vehicles” began in Azerbaijan in 2008, when the first Israeli drones Aerostar, Orbiter-2M and Hermes-450 were purchased. At the same time, a contract was signed with Aeronautics Defense Systems for the licensed production of the first two models.

For the first time, the Israeli tactical reconnaissance drone Orbiter-2M was demonstrated at a parade in Baku on Jun 26 2008, and a platform with a catapult was installed on the roof of a UAZ, it is likely that a simple control system was installed in the cabin. At the same parade, the public was shown a larger UAV Aerostar of the same Israeli company Aeronautics Defense Systems. These drones were installed on camouflaged GAZ Sadko trucks in a four-wheel drive design with an incomprehensible body.

In 2011, the licensed assembly of Orbiter-2M under the name “Garangush” (Swallow) and Aerostar (“Shahin”) began at the Azad Systems enterprise set up for this in Baku, with the planned localization of production at 30%.

At the same time, it was announced that Azerbaijan intends to adopt 60 Orbiter-2M and Aerostar units. The UAV Aeronautics Defense Systems Orbiter-2M is a light tactical drone weighing about 9.5 kg, the fuselage length is 1 m, and the wingspan is 3 m. The UAV is equipped with a low-noise electric motor and is able to stay in the air for 3-3.5 hrs. The flight altitude is about 5.5 km, and the range is about 50 km. In those years, parades in Azerbaijan were held unforgivably rarely, only on round dates, so the next one was only in 2011, in honor of the 20th anniversary of the country’s independence. Photographs of Orbiter-2M from this parade could not be found, but Aerostar UAVs were installed on board KAMAZ vehicles. Developed by the Israeli company Aeronautics Defense Systems, the Aerostar UAV is an apparatus which is 4.5 m long and has a 8.5 m wingspan. The maximum take-off weight of the drone is 220 kg, of which 50 kg is a removable payload, in the standard version is a digital camera combined with a thermal imager providing round-the-clock use. Communication and data exchange facilities provide a range of 250 km.

The Aerostar is powered by a 29 kW Zanzottrra 498i diesel engine with which it can stay in the air for 12 hours. The maximum flight altitude is 5.5 km. An autonomous control center can be mounted on a vehicle. At the next major parade in 2013, the results of military-technical cooperation between Azerbaijan and Israel in the field of drones were presented by the same Orbiter-2M and Aerostar, possibly collected in Azerbaijan. Moreover, Orbiter-2M were installed on the chassis of Defender-110 jeeps. It is worth mentioning that there are statements in the press that Azerbaijan purchased from 5 to 10 UAV Searcher-II, similar in characteristics and appearance, produced by another Israeli company, IAI (Israel Aircraft Industries). There is no photo or video evidence of the purchase of Searcher-II by Azerbaijan was found. Successful cooperation with Israeli Aeronautics Defense Systems within the Azad Systems enterprise allowed not to be limited to the production of 60 Orbiter-2M and Aerostar drones, although the further scale of production was not officially announced.

It is known about the beginning of assembly of new modifications of UAVs created by Aeronautics Defense Systems. In particular, the modernized Aerostar, which received a wing with winglets that improve aerodynamics and, accordingly, fuel efficiency and flight duration. The total number of Aerostar UAVs assembled at Azad Systems is unknown, some estimates can be made by the side numbers of the vehicles. For example, the first known from photographs Aerostar with winglets has the number 212, numbers 214, 224, 233, 234 and 243 are also known. The numbering system of Azerbaijani drones is not very clear, since there are other types of drones with numbers in the same range. Perhaps it is end-to-end for all types of UAVs or only for the production of Azad Systems, so it is difficult to draw conclusions about the scale of supplies now, but there is no doubt that Aerostar UAVs are one of the most massive operational-tactical UAVs in Azerbaijan.

Along with operational-tactical drones, Israeli Aeronautics Defense Systems has continued to develop its tactical drones of the Orbiter family. First of all, Orbiter-2M underwent modernization, in particular, a satellite navigation antenna and a corresponding system were installed on it. The next parade in Azerbaijan had to wait for five whole years, but in 2018 there were two of them in the same year: on Jun 26, the traditional parade in honor of the 100th anniversary of the armed forces, and on Sep 15, especially for “the friend Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.” another parade was organized in “honor of the 100 anniversary of the liberation of Baku by the forces of the Caucasian Islamic Army and units of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic.” At these parades, the novelties of Azerbaijani unmanned aircraft were demonstrated, including the modernized Orbiter-2M and the new Orbiter-3, about which a little below.

In the fall of 2014, Aeronautics Defense Systems introduced a completely new tactical UAV: Orbiter-3. The drone retained the silent electric motor, ejection takeoff and parachute landing, but unlike the drones of the previous series, it has become noticeably larger: the wingspan reached 4.2 m. It is able to stay in the air for 7 hours, and the communication equipment provides a range of 150 km. Flight speed is 130 kmh, flight height 5.9 km. The reconnaissance complex includes a cooled infrared night vision camera, a high-resolution daytime camera and a laser designator. The data transmission system is capable of transmitting encoded data to the ground at a rate of 10 megabytes per second and storing it on an onboard medium. It is claimed that the drone is resistant to hacking of the control system and can fly without using satellite navigation. Obviously, the new tactical UAV quickly replaced the old Orbiter-2M on the Azad Systems assembly line as the main tactical drone, since already in the April 2016 battles, the Azerbaijani military demonstrated the wreckage of the shot down Orbiter-3 as a “shot-down Armenian drone.” Periodically military demonstrations are also held on the territory of Nakhichevan, separated from the main part of Azerbaijan, where in recent years a powerful strike group of the Azerbaijani army has been created, capable of striking from the rear to cut a narrow corridor connecting the territory of the main part of Armenia with the Iranian border. The same corridor is a critical logistical communication for Karabakh. At one of the shows in Nakhichevan, President Aliyev was also shown the Orbiter-3 reconnaissance complex mounted on a trailer. Despite the fact that Orbiter-3 is one of the best tactical drones in the world and, thanks to an electric motor, is practically silent, in the Jul 2020 battles, the Armenians apparently managed to shoot down at least 3 such drones.

The Armenian side has posted photos of the downed Orbiter-3. As can be seen, the UAV landing systems worked; one can see the parachute system’s halyard and the canopy lying in the distance, as well as the inflatable pillow that worked on the “back.” Orbiter-3 normally lies on its “back.” Nevertheless, the drone was badly damaged. The wing console was destroyed and both winglets were broken off, the front stabilizer was torn off and the “ball” of the observation system was broken. Despite the fact that the Azerbaijani army adopted a new modern UAV Orbiter-3, Aeronautics Defense Systems continued to improve the previous model Orbiter-2M and in Sep 2016 brought a new model of a small kamikaze drone Orbiter-1K to Baku at the ADEX-2016 military exhibition. The attack drone is created in the body of the Orbiter-2M already mastered in production and has a weight of 10 kg, of which 2.5 kg is a warhead with 4000 tungsten submunitions. Launched from a catapult. Equipped with an electric motor, which provides a flight duration of 2-3 hrs at a speed of 65-100 kmh, a flight altitude of 4.5 km. With the Orbiter-1K, the kamikaze drone is reversible, and if no suitable target is found, it calmly returns and descends by parachute, after which it can be prepared for departure again. It is argued that Orbiter-1K is capable of autonomously filming a given area and independently, without a command from the control center, attack stationary and mobile targets in a given area. In one-way flight, the Orbiter-1K is capable of attacking a target at a range of 80-100 km. The assembly of the Orbiter-1K under the designation Zerbe-1K (Zerbe – Impact) began at the Azad Systems plant in 2017.

However, in Aug 2017, the Israeli government temporarily suspended the Aeronautics Defense Systems export license for the supply of kamikaze drones to Azerbaijan in connection with the high-profile scandal associated with these drones. The Israeli newspaper “Maariv” published a note that during the presentation of the Orbiter-1K UAV to a potential buyer in mid-summer 2017, the Azerbaijanis demanded a real blow to the Armenian positions in Karabakh. The Israeli prosecutor’s office brought charges against the leadership of Aeronautics Defense Systems, but the company denied the use of its kamikaze UAV against the Armenians of Karabakh, stating that “it never held a demonstration against living targets, including in this case.” It is difficult to say how the investigation of the Israeli prosecutor’s office ended, but apparently everything has settled down and the export of Orbiter-1K drone drones to Azerbaijan has continued safely. Of course, the Israelis didn’t test their Orbiter 1K on Armenian targets, the Azerbaijanis tested the Zerbe 1K on Armenian targets, and the fact that these two drones are actually one and the same is beside the point.

Another drone that’s reportedly used by Azerbaijan is the ThunderB reconnaissance drone. There is practically no information on the delivery of ThunderB reconnaissance drones to Azerbaijan by the Israeli company Bluebird Aero Systems. Moreover, it was never shown at parades, and in the videos of the Azerbaijani military they were also never shown. However, one such drone with N205 fell into the hands of Armenians on April 2, 2016 during the so-called “April war.” ThunderB is a tactical reconnaissance drone with a wingspan of 4 m and a fuselage length of 1.9 m. It is launched with a catapult, and lands by means of a parachute with an airbag.

The device is interesting in that it weighs 32 kg and can stay in the air for 16 to 24 hours. Apparently, it was this feature that attracted the attention of the Azerbaijani military, in comparison with the “electric” Orbiter-3, which otherwise has comparable characteristics and is assembled in Azerbaijan. One Russian-language source said that “the power plant of the BlueBird ThunderB UAV is represented by an electric motor, which allows the device to reach a maximum travel speed of up to 120 kmh, while, thanks to the use of a special technology, the battery charge lasts for a very long period of being in the air,” this statement is highly doubtful and most likely a consequence of a careless translation. At least Bluebird Aero Systems itself writes about “advanced fuel-injected engine,” in another English-language source, “The ThunderB UAV is powered by a digital electronic fuel injection (EFI) engine driving a pusher propeller,” equipped with a digital electronic injection engine driving a pusher propeller. That is, in both cases we are talking about an internal combustion engine with direct fuel injection. In addition, the available rear photo of the ThunderB N205 also shows that it is much closer to an internal combustion engine. There are elements not typical for an electric motor: an air intake, some kind of pipe and a cutout for engine cooling.

Practice shows that miracles do not happen. A small drone cannot carry so many batteries to stay in the air for a day on electric traction. Otherwise, ThunderB is a fairly standard drone with a speed of 60-130 kmh, a range of information transmission systems of 100-150 km, and a flight altitude of 4.85 km. The 3.5 kg gyro-stabilized payload includes a high-resolution daytime camera, thermal imager and laser designator. During the hostilities in Jul 2020, the Armenian press declared another ThunderB destroyed, but another drone, SkyStriker, was identified in the bad photo in the report, so this statement was erroneous.

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