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The Washington Post reports on “what appears to be an Israeli-made suicide drone” filmed “flying over the disputed area of Nagorno-Karabakh,” area of historic conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, where the two countries have once again clashed in recent days. This could be “one of the first instances of such a weapon being used in combat,” writes Thomas Gibbons-Neff for the Post.
The drone looks to be an Israeli Aerospace Industries Harop loitering munition. Unlike its more famous cousins, the Harop doesn’t carry munitions, but is itself one. It destroys targets the old-fashioned kamikaze way – by ramming itself into them.
This appears to be what the Harop did here, targeting a bus full of “Armenian volunteers,” according to Artsrun Hovhannisyan, spokesman for Armenia’s Defense Ministry. Seven were killed in the strike. Hovhannisyan posted on the matter on Facebook, indicating that the Harop “was piloted by Azerbaijani forces.”
The Harop, in contrast with its predecessors, the Harpy, can be remotely piloted or fly and find its targets autonomously using radar and radio emissions. The Harpy is fully autonomous after launch. The two targeting methods, combined with its relatively small size, give the Harop an advantage in attacking enemy air defences, as it can evade systems designed against much larger craft.
Israeli surveillance drones have been spotted on both Ukraine and Syria in recent months, but it’s unclear how many of them have been sold, or to whom. In a press release last June, Israeli Aerospace Industries indicated that “hundreds of [Harop] systems have been sold to different customers.”