Israel is set to sell its Iron Dome missile defense system to regional ally Azerbaijan, reports in that country’s media said Thursday.
A battery of the interceptors is ready to be handed over to the Azerbaijan military, Azeri media said according to the Hebrew-language Walla news site. There was no indication of when they were to arrive.
Israel’s Iron Dome system has been used in recent years to intercept and destroy rockets launched by Hamas from the Gaza Strip. It has proven highly effective in protecting civilian populations from the rocket threat.
This would be the first sale of the sophisticated system outside of Israel.
Thursday’s reports could not be independently confirmed. Earlier this year, local media reported a former Azeri military commander claiming Baku had already purchased four of the missile defense batteries from Israel.
Azerbaijan and neighboring Armenia have warred for years over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory, which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but ruled by Armenian separatists.
Fighting between the two sides flared up earlier this year. Armenian forces claimed Azerbaijan deployed Israeli-made kamikaze drones in a battle against Armenian “volunteers.” A video released online in April claimed to show the Harop drone carry out a strike on a bus, killing several people.
Muslim Azerbaijan is Israel’s biggest oil supplier, a key recipient of Israeli arms, and a partner in a complicated three-way dance with Iran, which it neighbors.
The two countries signed a $1.4 billion defense deal in February 2012 that focused on drones and missile defense systems.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to visit Azerbaijan and neighboring Kazakhstan this winter as he looks to extend a series of overtures aimed at expanding Israel’s diplomatic reach in Central Asia.