Karabakh conflict calls for investments into high-tech weapons - Part 1

The conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh clearly demonstrated the abilities of the opposing parties. Drones of Azerbaijan played the main role in the armed standoff. They headlined all global media, expert Denis Fedutinov writes in the Army Standard.
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In June 2017, the Azerbaijani Army unveiled its new Israeli-made Orbiter-3 small tactical UAS (Picture source: azeridefence)

Since the second half of 2020, Azerbaijan has launched a major rearmament of its forces. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) occupied an important place. At present, Azerbaijan operates various drones, ranging from small ones to heavy medium-altitude long-flight UAV.

Israel is the main supplier. Small drones procured by Azerbaijan include Orbiter 2 of Aeronautics Company. The hybrid-wing vehicle with a 3-meter wingspan has the maximum takeoff weight of 9.5 kg. A noiseless electric engine powers the drone. The UAV can fly 3-3.5 hours in a radius of 15 km. It conducts air reconnaissance by the optical-electronic system of Controp Company installed in the nose.

Azerbaijan later procured heavier Orbiter 3. The unmanned aerial vehicle of canard configuration has a wingspan of 3.6 meters and a takeoff weight of 20 kg. It can fly 6-8 hours and carry a 3-kg payload. The vehicle uses an upgraded optical-electronic system, which also illuminates the target by a laser aimer.

Azerbaijan operates tactical drones of three producers. It is the Aerostar of Aeronautics, which was procured together with Orbiter. The two-beam vehicle designed on the basis of Scout has a takeoff weight of 220 kg and a high wing with a span of 8.5 meters. It can fly 12 hours. The drone operates in a radius of 250 km from the ground control.

Azerbaijan also procured a batch of Searcher drones from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). The two- beam vehicle is heavier than Orbiter. The takeoff weight is 436 kg and the payload is 120 kg. It can fly 15-18 hours depending on the payload and engage in reconnaissance and guidance at a distance of 250 km from the ground control. Azerbaijan reportedly operates five UAV.

Azerbaijan also procured Hermes 450 from Elbit Systems. The drone has an ordinary aerodynamic scheme with a high wing of 10.5-meter span and V-shaped tail fins. The maximum takeoff weight is close to 550 kg. The maximum flight duration of the basic modification is 17 hours. The operational radius is 200 km. Azerbaijan purchased ten drones in 2008.

MALE-class drones of Azerbaijan are Heron and Hermes 900. The two-beam Heron has a takeoff weight of 1150 kg. The high wing has a span of 16.6 meters. It can fly 46 hours at an altitude of 9,150 meters. The operational radius is 300 km by direct visibility transmission channel and is unlimited in case of a satellite channel. The drone has an optical-electronic system with a synthesized aperture. Azerbaijan already operated 15 Herons in 2015. The current figure is unknown.

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