Azerbaijan starts production of Israeli drones

Thu 10 Mar 2011 04:36 GMT | 08:36 Local Time

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Production of drones has started at Azad Systems, a joint venture between Azerbaijan's Defence Industry Ministry and Israeli manufacturer Aeronautics.

Azad Systems, which was formally opened by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev last week, is producing the Orbiter 2M and Aerostar unmanned aircraft, Fineco/ABC reported.

The Orbiter 2M has four to five hours of free flight at an altitude of 4-6 km, while the Aerostar can fly for 12 hours at an altitude of up to 10 km.

Azerbaijan has already created a flight control centre for the Orbiter 2M, Fineco/ABC said.

Sources in Israel indicate that the close cooperation between Israeli company Aeronautics and Rafael Advanced Defence Systems may result in the production or assembly of some Rafael systems in the new Azad Systems facility, according to Flightglobal website.

Aeronautics is the third-largest Israeli UAV manufacturer, after Israel Aerospace Industries and Elbit Systems.

Aeronautics has formed a similar joint venture in Spain and the facility there will start operations by mid-2011.

In recent years, Israel has become a major arms supplier to Azerbaijan. The deals so far include artillery systems, communications equipment and UAVs of the same types that will be now assembled locally.

Azerbaijan's defence industry minister, Yaver Jamalov, said in May 2010 that negotiations were under way with an Israeli company on the joint production of pilotless aircraft, but did not name the company involved.

Azad Systems has also started production of a four-seat passenger aircraft, the Diamond DA42.

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