YEREVAN — A senior Armenian military official has praised Israeli authorities’ reported decision to halt exports to Azerbaijan of “suicide” drones manufactured by an Israeli company accused of using them against an Armenian army position.
In a newspaper interview published this week, Deputy Defense Minister Davit Pakhchanian echoed those accusations, saying that Israeli arms dealers have repeatedly struck Armenian targets at the behest of Azerbaijani officials.
The company in question, Aeronautics Defense Systems (ADS), said last week that the Israeli Defense Ministry’s export control agency has at least temporarily banned it from delivering a batch of Orbiter 1K drones to a key foreign client. In a statement, ADS said it was due to supply $20 million worth of such unmanned aircraft, capable of carrying special explosive payload, to the client in 2017-2018.
The ADS statement did not specify the buyer of the sophisticated weapon. But it did attribute the ban to an ongoing inquiry conducted by the Israeli agency.
The Israeli newspaper “Maariv” reported on August 13 that the agency launched an investigation after receiving a formal complaint stemming from ADS’s commercial dealings with the Azerbaijani government. It said ADS representatives traveled to Azerbaijan earlier this summer to finalize a contract for the sale of Orbiter drones to the Azerbaijani military.
The paper claimed that two Israeli drone operators working for the company rebuffed Azerbaijani officials’ demand to demonstrate the use of the deadly drone by hitting the Armenian position with it. But other, more senior ADS executives agreed on launch the deadly craft on the target, according to “Maariv.” ADS denied the report.
According to Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army, the Azerbaijani military most recently attacked its frontline positions with a suicide drone on July 7. The commander of an army unit stationed in northeastern Karabakh said in early August that two of his soldiers were lightly wounded in the incident.
“Naturally, I find the Israeli Defense Ministry’s decision positive, but they must be consistent,” Pakhchanian told the Armenian military’s “Hay Zinvor” newspaper. “That incident may have been exposed, but I am convinced that there have been many more such cases.” Pakhchanian did not elaborate.
The Azerbaijani army heavily used similar suicide drones manufactured by another Israeli company, Israel Aerospace Industries, during the April 2016 hostilities in Karabakh. Baku had bought the Harop drones as part of multimillion-dollar defense contracts signed with Israeli arms manufacturers.