Karabakh conflict calls for investments into high-tech weapons - Part 2

The Heavy Hermes 900 drone used by Azerbaijan was created by Elbit Company with a normal aerodynamic scheme and V-shaped tail fins. The maximum takeoff weight is 1,100 kg. The wingspan is close to 15 meters. Hermes 900 can loiter at an altitude of 9100 meters (outside manpad range) for 40 hours. The payload may include an optical-electronic system or a radar with a synchronized aperture. In 2017, Azerbaijan had at least two Hermes 900 drones.
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Turkish armed drone Bayraktar TB2 (Picture source: SSB)

Turkish Bayraktar TB2 deserves specific attention. They are likely to have been recently supplied to Azerbaijan. The procurement information appeared only in May 2020. The drone with a 650-kg takeoff weight has a two-beam design with a low wing with a span of 12 meters and tail fins in the shape of an overturned letter V.

The drone can fly for a day with a 150-kg payload, including four antitank laser-guided missiles UMTAS or smart gliding precision bombs Roketsan MAM-C and MAM-L. The operational range is 150 km. The number of Bayraktar TB2 drones in the Azerbaijani army has not been disclosed.

Besides traditional drones, Azerbaijan procured and engaged the so-called kamikaze drones or loitering munitions. It acquired them from various producers, such as IAI, Elbit, and Aeronautics.

Orbiter-1K of Aeronautics was developed from Orbiter-2 and is a loitering munition that detects a target, tracks and destroys it in any time of the day. The loitering time is 2-3 hours and the operational radius is 100 km. The drone fights infantry and stationary and moving light armor. Besides a standard optical-electronic system, it carries a high-explosive fragmentation warhead of 2.2 kg. A contract worth 20 million dollars was signed in 2016 for the supply and assembly of the drones in Azerbaijan.

SkyStriker of Elbit Systems is the second loitering munition engaged by Azerbaijan. It has a normal aerodynamic scheme with a low strait wing and a takeoff weight of 35 kg. The integrated modular combat unit weighs 5-10 kg. The maximum flight duration is 2 hours. The procurement of the drones by Azerbaijan was reported in 2019.

Harop is the biggest loitering munition operated by Azerbaijan. It was developed by IAI Company from the Harpy anti-radar model and obtained new fuselage lines, another wing and other changes to become universal. The maximum speed remained the same, but the range increased to 1000 km. The munition can loiter six hours and search for targets by an optical-electronic system in the nose. Azerbaijan engaged Harop in the 2020 war in Nagorno-Karabakh and earlier in 2016.

The Azerbaijani army has progressed from a complete absence of drones to their effective engagement. It was due to the political will of the national leadership and financial capabilities. The country has rapidly developed into a leader in the operation of military drones. It was a difficult task, as there was no experience, but the result is evident. Azerbaijan will continue the course due to the success in Nagorno-Karabakh, which showed that considerable investments into high-tech arms and hardware provide major military-political dividends, expert Denis Fedutinov writes in the Army Standard.

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