Azerbaijan has had Israeli drones since at least 2008, when they were seen in a public parade of that year. Then, in September 2011, an Azeri drone of Israeli origin was shot down over Nagorno Karabakh, territory disputed with Armenia. According to Gary Mortimer, writing in UAS News, the shooting down of the Hermes drone was a concern to the Israeli company due to the ease with with it was brought down by the Russian made Azeri warplane.
Also in September 2011, the Azeri government announced that it was building an Azeri drone built under license and based on the Orbiter and Aerostar UAV’s of Israeli Aeronautic Defense Systems.
Israeli made UAV’s being used by the Georgian military were also shot down by Russian forces in 2008 during the brushfire war between Georgia and Russia in that year.
In February 2012 it was announced that Azerbaijan would be buying drones and other military technology from Israel Aerospace Industries in a $1.4 billion deal. It isn’t clear how many drones would be involved, but would involve IAI’s Searcher and Heron 1 models. Azerbaijan already had more than sixty drones of various sizes, none of which are known to be armed. It isn’t clear how it plans to use such an extensive surveillance capacity.
The relationship of Azerbaijan and Israel was recently analysed by Mark Perry, writing in Azeri Report, with respect to the conflict and potential military confrontation between Israel and Iran and Azerbaijan’s role in it.
2011 purchases of Israeli military technology amounted to almost a quarter of Azerbaijan’s TOTAL government revenues of $7.8 billion in 2011. With another purchase from Israel in 2012 estimated to be $1.6 billion, Israel is becoming a major recipient of Azeri military expenditures. Israel uses its trade relationship with Azerbaijan to buy oil and (according to recent rumours) to acquire access to Azeri airfields abandoned by the Russians. US officials are apparently worried that the Israeli control of Azeri airfields will enable the Israeli military to more easily make unilateral attacks on Iran.