YEREVAN -- Armenian officials say they are manufacturing and supplying the country's military with unmanned aircraft, or drones, capable of flying deep into enemy territory, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.
Colonel Armen Mkrtchian, deputy commander of the air force, said on June 18 in Yerevan that "we have quite serious unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), even those capable of carrying out objectives deep inside enemy territory." He said the drones are made in Armenia.
"Having said that, we do not rule out the possibility of acquiring foreign-made ones, including for mere comparison," Mkrtchian said. "After all, you can [only] tell good and bad things through comparison."
Mkrtchian declined to give any details about domestic drone manufacturing, which exists in a small number of countries. He refused to say if Armenian-made UAVs are designed only for surveillance missions or air strikes as well.
That the Armenian military is equipped with domestically designed and manufactured drones has been claimed by some local defense analysts in the last few years. Mkrtchian's remarks are the first official confirmation of those assertions.
Armenia's arch foe, Azerbaijan, is known to have UAVs. It had, until recently, bought them from Israel. An Azerbaijani-Israeli joint venture reportedly began assembling drones in Azerbaijan earlier this year.
In the past decade, Azerbaijan has also acquired dozens of conventional military aircraft as part of an ongoing military build-up. Its air force is thought to have numerical superiority over the Armenian air force.
Both Mkrtchian and Artsrun Hovannisian, an Armenian Defense Ministry expert, downplayed that advantage. They claimed that Baku's air capability is grossly inflated and would be of little use to the Azerbaijani army in case of another war over the disputed breakaway Azerbaijani territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Mkrtchian also said the Armenian air force has received "quite sophisticated and precise air-strike means" that put it in a position to wage offensive warfare.
"In the last 19 years we have gone through a very difficult process of military training," he said. "Our pilots are today ready to carry out flights at night and in difficult meteorological conditions. They are ready for any actions in any place and at any moment."
He added that "like developed NATO countries, [Armenia is] ready to carry out targeted strikes on any enemy target, economic facility, and the like."