Armenia and Azerbaijan: How are drones changing the face of the...

  • Pavel Aksenov
  • BBC

46 minutes ago


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Bayraktar drone

The tapes depicting Azerbaijani drone strikes on Armenian targets in Nagorno Karabakh have come to symbolize the sudden escalation of fighting in this conflict that has been going on in one way or another for more than three decades.

These photos also raised fears that Azerbaijan had acquired the Turkish “Bayraktars” drones, a move that sparked international criticism.

The Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense is distributing photos taken by reconnaissance drones, showing the nature of the targeted areas, as well as tapes taken by “suicide” drones, which are aircraft loaded with explosives that hit their targets and explode.

It is reported that the two countries have recently been busy arming themselves, especially Azerbaijan and specifically with regard to drone systems.

The most striking drones in the current conflict are the Turkish TB2 Bayraktars.

Experts say that most of the tapes distributed and published by the Azerbaijani army for the bombing operations in Nagorno Karabakh were filmed by this type of aircraft.

It is noteworthy that the Turkish company Baykar developed these drones a few years ago, and the drone can operate on its own and can be used for reconnaissance and targeting purposes.

The TB2 drone is a bright star in the sky of the market for this type of aircraft, and Turkey used it in Operation Spring Shield, which its forces carried out in Syria in February 2020, and before that in Libya against the forces of war leader Khalifa Haftar.

Turkey sold this drone to Ukraine, and the Turkish Anadolu news agency reported on the sixth of this month that Serbia expressed its desire to buy models of it as well.

While experts assert that these TB2 aircraft were the ones that took pictures of the Armenian armor destruction, there has been no official confirmation that they form part of the Azeri military arsenal.

On the fifth of October, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev announced that his country owns a number of these drones, but the Azeri authorities have not published any documents proving their purchase and receipt.

Last June, media reports reported that the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry hoped to receive them in the future.

Andrei Frolov, editor-in-chief of the Russian “Arms Exports” bulletin, believes that Azerbaijan either secretly stored these aircraft, or that it began receiving them shortly before the outbreak of the current fighting.



The absence of any official information about the export and use of Turkish drones may be related to the fact that they use technologies developed in other countries. On Monday, Canada announced that it intends to stop exporting technologies used in the production of drones to Turkey due to doubts about their use in the Nagorno-Karabakh war.

The Canadian non-governmental project (Plowshares) says that the images showing the bombing operations carried out by drones in Nagorno Karabakh show that the planes that took them were using equipment produced by the Canadian subsidiary of L3Harris Technologies – a multinational company specializing in technical and defense affairs.

Turkey responded by accusing Canada, its NATO ally, of double standards and acting against the spirit of the alliance.

Walkers game: from theaWill be informed of the attack

The Azerbaijani army also uses other types of drones. The American Bard College Center for the Study of UAVs says that the Azeri army owns two Israeli “Heron TP” drones and 10 other “Hermes 4507”, 100 “Sky Strikers” and 50 “Harop” aircraft.

The joint Israeli Azad Systems Company of Azerbaijan developed the “Aerostar” drone and two Orbiter 1K and Orbiter 3K suicide drones. It also provided the Azerbaijani Coast Guard with two long-range Hermes 900 drones.

Rob Lee, a military affairs researcher at King’s College in the British capital, London, told the BBC that the main difference between the escalation that we are currently seeing in the intensity of the fighting in Nagorno Karabakh and the clashes that occurred in the past lies in the use of attack drones. It can drop bombs. In the past, Azerbaijan used only suicide drones.

A tape released by Armenia shows the moment an anti-aircraft missile hits a plane that closely resembles a Soviet-era dual-wing Antonov-2. Media reports indicated that this aircraft was also flying a drone, and that its purpose was to deceive air defense systems into revealing their locations.

China has developed many military drones, but they are too expensive for Armenia to purchase

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China has developed many military drones, but they are too expensive for Armenia to purchase

Armenia does not buy drones

Russian expert Andrei Frolov says that Armenia has not purchased any drones in the recent period, and that the reason for this is that Yerevan may have misjudged the extent of the threat posed by Azeri drones.

“They have not announced any plans to buy drones. Since these planes are not available to Russia, they had to go to China or Iran to buy them. But the matter is related to financing, while the Armenians can buy equipment from Russia under preferential loans,” Frolov told the Russian BBC. “Buying from China is not that easy. As for the domestically produced drones in Armenia that they are talking about, they have no effect at all.”

It is noteworthy that Armenia produces light reconnaissance drones called “Kronk” (meaning the crane), but the number of these aircraft participating in the Nagorno-Karabakh war is unknown.

Frolov says that Armenia has bought the Tor anti-aircraft missile systems from Russia, which are capable of shooting down drones, but there have been no reports of their deployment on the battlefronts.

A photo released by the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense shows a drone attacking an OSA missile launcher

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A photo released by the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense shows a drone attacking an OSA missile launcher

The Armenians are using a number of Soviet OSA and Strela surface-to-air missile launchers in Nagorno-Karabakh, and these missiles have already shot down several Azeri drones.

Did the drones help Azerbaijan?

Azerbaijan has published dozens of videos showing the raids carried out by its drones on Armenian sites.

The targets included mainly armor and, to a lesser extent, armories and soldiers’ depots. Azerbaijani drones also attacked the Osa and Strela anti-air systems sites.

It is not known how many air defense systems have been deployed by Armenia in Nagorno Karabakh, or the extent of damage it suffered as a result of the Azerbaijani raids.

The OSA and Strela missile systems do not play a decisive role in countering attack drones.

Expert Rob Lee says, “We have seen many tapes of drones bombing the sites of the OSA and Strela systems, which are outdated defense systems. The operators of these systems must have been trying hard to spot the Azeri TB2 drones on radar screens, but these systems are designed.” “To deal with helicopters and combat aircraft, it is therefore difficult for them to sense the presence of small-sized drones in the air. In fact, perhaps the main purpose of using drones in the first place is to neutralize the Nagorno-Karabakh air defense systems.”

As Russian military expert Viktor Murakhovsky says, the air defense systems in Nagorno-Karabakh are much weaker than those deployed in Armenia itself, as they only include old systems and lack sufficient radar field, so drones can operate without hindrance.

“However, not all air defense systems in Nagorno-Karabakh have been destroyed, as the other side (the Azerbaijani side) knows very well, and we do not see any real presence of conventional combat aircraft in the skies of battles, as Azerbaijan has not yet used its fighters or helicopters.”

The video tapes of the drone strikes on websites in Nagorno Karabakh had an impact on the Internet audience, who eagerly watched them, discussed them warmly, and exchanged them through social media platforms.

But Murakhovsky says that we must not judge the effectiveness of the drones through these tapes, adding, “They do not publish pictures of failures or pictures of targeting these aircraft.”

Can you defend yourself against drones?

The US military has been using drones in the Middle East for several years

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The US military has been using drones in the Middle East for years

Expert Rob Lee says that the drone strikes may have inflicted heavy losses on the Armenian side (despite the absence of exact details of those losses), “but this does not mean that Azerbaijan can convert its tactical successes achieved thanks to the TB2 aircraft into strategic successes or to the acquisition of Earth”.

And the Russian expert Murakhovsky, in turn, says that although drones are relatively recent weapons in the battlefields, they have been used for some time and extensively, and so there are ways and methods to deal with them. Syrian armed groups have had to develop tactics to resist them.

“They have used underground bunkers and shelters for their armored vehicles and their equipment, as they disperse their weapons and do not stack them in one place, as they use fortified trenches. Nagorno Karabakh, as it lacks the funds to purchase modern air defense systems, can use these methods and tactics to counter drones.” “.

In this situation, the false sites may be of use. In one of the video tapes distributed by the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense, a drone appears clearly altering a fake model of a surface-to-air missile launch base.

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