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Nagorno-Karabakh Witnesses Debut Of 'Kamikaze Drone'

Possible Israeli-Made 'Kamikaze' Drone Spotted Over Nagorno-Karabakh
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WATCH: An RFE/RL camera in Azerbaijan's breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh captured what could be the first use of an Israeli-made "kamikaze" drone in combat on April 4.

For a glimpse into the future of drone warfare, look no further than the battlefields of the South Caucasus.

Formally known as unmanned aerial vehicles, drone technology has catapulted forward in recent years as countries see their versatility in everything from surveillance to precision strikes.

In the United States, President Barack Obama's administration has made the use of drones central to its campaign to target Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

And though U.S. drones are some of the better known in the world today -- think of the models known as the Reaper or Predator -- countries like Israel, Russia, and many others have also pushed hard into developing drones, both for their own military use and for export markets.

For drones geared for an offensive mission, most are outfitted with air-to-surface missiles, such as the U.S.-made Hellfire.

Earlier this week, over the battlefields over Nagorno-Karabakh, where an unresolved territorial dispute flared into open fighting between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces, the newest advance in drone weaponry appears to have been deployed: The kamikaze drone.

Video footage by Karen Chilingaryan of RFE/RL's Armenian Service on April 4 in the mountainous enclave captured the flight of a drone that military observers say is likely an Israeli-made Harop model.

The footage shows the craft flying through the air, with a distinctive whine heard from many drones, and then diving behind the crest of a hill.

The Armenian Defense Ministry later announced that seven people were killed in what it said was an Azerbaijani drone attack on a bus carrying volunteers to the disputed region.

According to IHS Jane's Defense Weekly, the Harop is packed with a 15-kilogram explosive warhead and specifically designed for kamikaze missions.

Last year, Harop's manufacturer, Israel Aerospace Industries, announced it was flight-testing the model for an undisclosed customer. IHS Jane's said in a report posted on April 6 that that customer now appeared to be Azerbaijan.

A call to Israel Aerospace Industries' North American offices, in a Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C., was not immediately returned on April 6.

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    Mike Eckel

    Mike Eckel is a senior correspondent reporting on political and economic developments in Russia, Ukraine, and around the former Soviet Union, as well as news involving cybercrime and espionage. He's reported on the ground on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the wars in Chechnya and Georgia, and the 2004 Beslan hostage crisis, as well as the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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