Azerbaijan’s space agency Azercosmos has purchased two multi-spectral electro-optical spy satellites from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) for approximately $120m.
The deal comes as part of the Azersky-2 programme, a long-term partnership between the Israeli and Azeri companies. Neither company revealed the satellite model in the joint announcement, but it is rumoured to be an OptSat-500.
Boaz Levy, IAI president and CEO, said: “The sky is not a limit but merely the starting point for our systems capabilities”, adding that Azercosmos and IAI intend to “ambitiously shape the future of space observation together”.
Israel sets sights beyond Middle East in push for regional crown
IAI is ranked as the 29th largest defence company in the world, reporting revenues of $4.97bn in 2022. Alongside Elbit Systems, it plays a key role in Israel’s burgeoning defence industry which saw exports reach a record $12.5bn last year.
This included a spike in sales among new Arab partners including Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), validated under the US-sponsored 2020 Abraham Accords.
Last week, the US-brokered talks to normalise relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, dangling the carrot of potential deals for jets, drones, missiles and nuclear weapons.
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Since 2019, Tel-Aviv has been the leading contributor to aerospace and defence deals in the Middle East.
Both nations see themselves as leaders in Middle Eastern aerospace and defence. Israel’s defence budget has risen from $19.3bn in 2019 to $23.6bn in 2023, while Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin-Salman’s ‘Vision 2030’ plan has propelled Riyadh’s defence budget to $69.1bn in 2023, a 5.7% increase.
Data for Azerbaijan’s defence deals is incomplete, but the southwest Asian country reported a defence budget of $3bn in 2022.
Azerbaijan has come under international scrutiny for its ongoing military operation in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. In a mass exodus, tens of thousands of Karabakh Armenians have fled over the border to Armenia due to fears of ethnic cleansing.
Officials and experts say Israel supplied Azerbaijan with weapons for the 24-hour assault. “For us, it is a major concern that Israeli weapons have been firing at our people,” said Arman Akopian, Armenia’s ambassador to Israel.
Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev withdrew on 5 October from EU-hosted talks with Armenia’s Prime Minister over the future of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which looks set to be taken under Baku’s control.
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