(September 16, 2011)
Armenian military downed an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operated by the Azerbaijani armed forces, officials said on September 14. Video of the aircraft’s wreckage was posted on YouTube the same day.
The aircraft went down on September 12 at 7:30 AM local time near Vazgenashen in Nagorno Karabakh’s Martuni district “as a result of special measures undertaken by units of air defense and radio-electronic warfare of the Karabakh Defense Army,” the army’s press office reported.
Vazgenashen, previously known as Gulably, is about ten kilometers from the Line of Contact (LoC) between the two armies. Armenian officials believe the aircraft was on a reconnaissance mission.
Karabakh military officials said there was a spike in Azerbaijani UAV activity in recent days most of it along the LoC. But an Azerbaijani intrusion at such depth can be considered a significant escalation.
Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk from Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe arrived in Karabakh on September 14 to “discuss the latest trends on LoC” with Karabakh leadership.
According to Bloomberg news agency, Azerbaijani officials could not be reached for comment about the incident.
Armenia’s air defense chief Col. Nikolay Babayan told Armenian media that according to preliminary data the UAV was of Hermes series produced in Israel.
Azerbaijan is known to have procured UAVs from Israel.
In June 2008, a Russian industry web site GPSearch.org cited an Azerbaijani Defense Ministry source as expressing interest in acquiring ten Hermes-450 UAVs from Israel’s Elbit Systems, after the same aircraft were used by Georgian military over Abkhazia.
“Our choice of this technology is based on its ‘invisibility’ for the adversary’s air defenses,” the Azerbaijani source was quoted as saying at the time.
Col. Babayan noted the difficulty in detecting the aircraft made of composite materials and claimed that Armenians succeeded in doing so by using domestically developed air defense systems.
Azerbaijan’s Israeli-made UAVs were first seen in its June 2008 parade, when two other Israeli systems – Aerostar and Orbiter – were shown. Around that same time a UAV was seen near the Line of Contact for the first time and the drones have made at least several appearances since then.
Last year, Armenian aircraft were reportedly scrambled after UAV(s) intruded across the LoC. But this is the first known incident in which a UAV has been brought down in Karabakh.