Armenian and Russian military officers at the start of a joint air-defense exercise

YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Armenian and Russian troops are practicing how to deal with enemy military drones during a joint air-defense exercise that began in Armenia on Thursday.

According to the Armenian Defense Ministry, the command-and-staff exercise involves the commanders of a Russian-Armenian air-defense system and the Armenian army’s separate anti-aircraft units as well as air force officers from the two states.

“During the exercise they will develop new ways of fighting against UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) for the purpose of improving the counter-drone system,” the ministry said in a statement. They are simulating various “scenarios” of drone warfare, it said.

The joint air-defense system was set up in the late 1990s and upgraded by a Russian-Armenian treaty signed in 2015. It includes elements of a Russian military base stationed in Armenia.

The Defense Ministry statement also said that participants of the drill are looking into last week’s deadly clashes on Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan during which both sides used reconnaissance and attack drones. “The Armenian side is analyzing the enemy’s tactics and actions of its air-defense detachments,” it added.

The Armenian military claims to have shot down or intercepted 13 Azerbaijani drones during the hostilities that broke out at a border section on July 12 and left at least 17 soldiers from both sides dead. It demonstrated on Tuesday what it described as fragments of some of those Israeli-made UAVs.

A military spokesman, Artsrun Hovannisian, publicized on Friday a photograph of two Armenian officers standing next to a SkyStriker “suicide” drone manufactured by the Israeli company Elbit Systems. Hovannisian said earlier that the largely intact drone was brought down by an Armenian electronic warfare system.

The Armenian military also says that it used for the first time domestically manufactured attack drones during last week’s hostilities. It claims that they destroyed at least one Azerbaijani tank.

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