Since the outbreak of hostilities between Armenian and Azerbaijan over the disputed Armenian-controlled territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, both sides have extensively used Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs), more commonly known as drones.
Azerbaijan in particular has posted numerous videos showing their Turkish and Israeli-made drones destroying Armenian vehicles.
On Oct. 8, Azerbaijani presidential adviser Hikmet Hajiyev tweeted photos showing wreckage that he claimed was from a downed Armenian “kamikaze” attack drone.
The tweet read:
“Armenia's kamikadze dron [sic] was successfully destroyed by Azerbaijan's air defence forces. Dron [sic] was whirling around civilian area. More civilian lives saved. Armenia's state terror continues.”
The claim that the drone shot down by Azerbaijan’s forces was Armenian is misleading.
Readers replied to Hajiyev, pointing out that the drone wreckage looked more like that of an IAI HAROP, an Israeli-made drone supplied to Azerbaijan but not used by Armenian forces.
In fact, Hajiyev himself had praised the HAROP’s effectiveness in a recent interview with the Times of Israel.
The Israeli Aerospace Industries HAROP (sometimes called the Harpy-2) is what’s known as a “Loitering Munition System,” a type of missile which can remain in flight around a user-defined area for an extended period and attack once it detects a target.
When that happens, the drone speeds towards its target and detonates in a kamikaze-style attack.
The Harop was first seen in use by Azerbaijan during a flare-up in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in April 2016.
Hajiyev’s tweet includes two photos of the drone’s main fuselage section and one of the wings, which is detached from it. It is not clear exactly what or who brought the weapon down. Like other weapon systems, drones can be identified by key features and their general shape. The fuselage and wing section of the vehicle in the photos bear a close resemblance to the HAROP.
The fuselage section, which is laying right-side up, has several key features. One is a sharp probe extending from the drone’s right front (left in the photo), which can also be seen in the manufacturer’s photos and other images and videos of the HAROP.
Another is a central panel, which has a small metallic rectangle in the middle (see photos). In addition, the shape of the central fuselage matches the HAROP’s profile, where the body meets the drone’s motor section.
While strongly resembling the IAI HAROP, the wreckage in the photos also looks very different from Armenian drones known to be in use, like the HREESH. A video posted in May by a YouTube channel supporting the Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh purports to show the testing of a kamikaze-drone allegedly developed within the disputed territory. However, the shape is different from the HAROP’s, and it isn’t clear whether this type of drone has been mass-produced or used in recent fighting.