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Israeli companies are negotiating more sales of advanced loitering weapon systems to Azerbaijan, which is becoming one of Israel’s largest markets for loitering weapon, and other, systems.

The defence ties between Israel and Azerbaijan are very close as in late 2018, the latter purchased the Elbit systems SkyStriker Loitering Munition (LM) system as part of Azerbaijan’s plan to acquire autonomous strike capabilities. Though the Israeli company refused to comment on the contract, videos of tests with this system in Azerbaijan recently surfaced on the net.

SkyStriker, the first such system developed by Elbit Systems and based on Elbit’s vast experience providing precise long-range tactical solutions, is a remotely operated, electro-optical, precise guided LM that is designed to seek, locate and engage various targets for the tactical level military force. According to Elbit, SkyStriker is capable of locating, acquiring and striking operator-marked targets, enabling high-precision performance. The system’s electric propulsion provides a low acoustic signature and enables covert low altitude operations while due to its flight speed capability, it can reach a distance of tens of miles within minutes and upon reaching the target area, it can loiter and pursue the target for up to two hours.

The Israeli company says that the SkyStriker offers quick deployment and ease of operation in the field, providing forces with the ability to observe and identify an enemy target before delivering a rapid precision air strike. Its remote operation capability reduces the exposure of the operator to detection and enemy fire while guiding it to its target. In addition to high accuracy, long range and a significant loitering time, the SkyStriker is capable of carrying up to 21 pounds of munitions alongside the ability to choose any target, to engage at any direction and in various angles (shallow to steep) while significantly decreasing costs. Moreover, SkyStriker enables the operator to abort a strike at up to two seconds to impact, to re-engage and in case of a lack of authorised targets, to order a safe return home.

Deepening relationship

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Azerbaijan is one of the largest weapons markets for Israeli military equipment. In the past, the country has purchased another loitering weapon system, the HAROP, made by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to destroy high quality targets while it also purchased the Long Range (LORA) Surface-to-Surface missile, also made by IAI.

The HAROP is armed with a 35 pound warhead and is equipped with a very advanced day/night payload (POP-250) made by the Tamam division of IAI while it has an operational range of 620 miles and an endurance of six hours. The LM is launched from transportable launchers and navigates towards the target area, where it can loiter and search for targets for up to six hours. Once a target, whether stationary or moving, is detected, it is attacked and destroyed. The attack can be performed from any direction and at any attack angle, from flat to vertical.