[Look for this to become the new international tinderbox, if Azeri/Turkmen plans for undersea gas line take shape, or if Israel carries through on Lieberman’s threats to escalate the Armenian/Turkish rift. If Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and the EU can pull-off the Nabucco deal, then look for the Georgian war to become red hot.]
A new discovery Thursday linked an unmanned Azeri drone downed this week by Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Defense Army to a US Defense company that manufactures signal distribution products. This raises new questions about potential violations of U.S. arms export laws.
Saying that Azeri Air Force activity has “visibly increased” along the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic-Azerbaijan border, the Karabakh Army announced Wednesday that it downed an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)—a drone—early Monday morning saying it had violated Karabakh airspace.
A close review of a video of the drone wreckage released by the Karabakh Army revealed that the Pueblo West, Colorado-based GPS Source Inc., which manufactures and sells signal distribution products is the maker of a GPS splitter that was one of the components of the downed drone. The GPS splitter allows a single GPS antenna to be shared between multiple GPS receivers.
An earlier examination of the video revealed that the Canadian-based company, NovAtel, which has offices in Texas, is the manufacturer of the GPS antenna used on the drone.
The Armenian National Committee of America Wednesday called on the State Department to look into whether the use of the NovAtel-manufactured components warrants an investigation into potential violations of U.S. arms export laws. The discovery that parts manufactured by the US-based GPS Source raises renewed concern about possible violations of U.S. laws.
“…We are especially troubled by the prospect that Azerbaijan’s military escalation, threats of violence, and actual aggression may be, directly or indirectly, fueled by U.S. defense articles, in violation of U.S. law and in a manner contrary to the American people’s commitment to a peaceful settlement of conflicts in the Caucasus and around the world,” ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian told Hillary Clinton in a letter Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Azeri media outlets released a brief statement by the Defense Ministry denying any role in the drone flights.
“Azerbaijan has nothing to do with an unmanned aerial vehicle that crashed in Armenian-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh.”
Nagorno-Karabakh Republic President Bako Sahakian, through a spokesperson, told RFE/RL Thursday that the UAV reconnaissance flight constituted a serious violation of the cease-fire agreement.
“First of all, the [Azerbaijani] aggressor will now feel more restrained because the destruction of such military hardware also shows the extent of the technical sophistication of our army. That will certainly have a quite sobering impact on Baku’s behavior,” Sahakian’s press secretary, Davit Babayan, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Babayan said that the downed drone was positive proof of continued violations by Azerbaijan, calling on OSCE monitors to expand the scope of their ceasefire monitoring missions.
RFE/RL also suggested that the drones were a product of an Azeri-Israeli joint venture, under which a plant opened in March in Baku that assembles Israeli-designed drones for the Azeri armed forces. RFE/RL added that the Azeri military has also reportedly purchased such aircraft from Israel and Turkey.
According to Colonel Nikolay Babayan, commander of Armenia’s air-defense forces, Karabakh army units used special “radioelectronic” equipment to shoot down the spy plane, reported RFE/RL quoting Panorama.am
“It is very difficult to hit and even locate unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) because they are made of special composite materials,” Babayan told Panorama.am on Wednesday. “But we managed to do that by using special devices.”
The official did not specify the type of anti-aircraft weapon that was reportedly used to down the UAV. He said only that Azeri drones regularly carry out reconnaissance flights near Karabakh.
“This time, the UAV violated the border, as a result of which its flight was ended by the joint work of our air-defense troops and radioelectronic forces,” added Babayan.