Yesterday, grassroots Instagram-based journalists Popular Front posted video footage of Azerbaijani drone strikes on two Armenian positions, presumably within the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region. The footage comes just days after clashes broke out in the region.
You can view the drone strike footage here. Viewer caution: graphic content.
Explanation of the scenes in the video
In the first strike video, we can see when the Armenian troops — especially those to the left side of the frame — suddenly scramble when they most likely hear a warning of incoming munitions. The, approximately, 10 soldiers in the center attempt to take cover in the sandbag-reinforced protective position that is unfortunately the exact spot being lazed by the drone.
In the second strike, there is apparently no prior alarm sounded, as the soldiers remain relatively motionless until the very impact of the munition. The drone has the pipper aimed at the nose of the vehicle where the bulk of the Armenian soldiers are assembled.
How the Strikes Were Carried Out
The two rather gruesome scenes were likely captured by the same drone that is marking the target for the weapon system that launched the munition which impacted these two Armenian troop positions. Visible in the center of the images is the crosshair — the essential aiming alignment marks or “pipper” — used by the remotely-located drone pilot to show where the laser target designator from the Azerbaijani drone is focused.
The munition launched, from either another drone or piloted aircraft, will interrogate the laser to determine if it is the correct target designator. Typically the target laser is encoded with a value that is known by the laser-guided munition. Once the interrogation “handshake” is successful, the munition will lock onto the laser bean and follow it until terminal impact.
The diagram above depicts how the essential scenario plays out between the target designator and the munition delivery platform. Here, the designator is a ground-based soldier, with a laser designator, who has a line-of-sight fix on the target subject. The launch platform for the strike munition in the scenario is a ground-based self-propelled howitzer launching a sophisticated laser-guided cannon round, perhaps of type M982 Excalibur.
What this Tells Us About the Situation on the Ground
These images confirm that the recent clashes between the two nations have taken a serious tone. These aren’t small-arms firefights or random shelling. Azerbaijan’s technological capabilities — and its willingness to use them — suggest that the country is well-equipped and unafraid of escalating the conflict.