The footage of the drone strikes has become one of the symbols of a new round of conflict that has been smoldering between Armenia and Azerbaijan with varying intensity since the end of the bloody war of 1994.
In recent years, Azerbaijan, rich in oil and gas, has spent large sums on the purchase of unmanned vehicles. Experts noted its use back in April 2016, when fierce battles were fought on the borders of Karabakh for four days.
Today, when the armed conflict has flared up with renewed vigor, this trend is obvious. "Thanks to modern unmanned vehicles from Turkey and Israel, Baku has come to the conclusion that it has an advantage over Yerevan," analyst Matthew Briza told Forbes magazine.
According to him, Azerbaijan, instead of taking risks and attacking well-fortified positions in the mountainous terrain, has relied on an exhausting war, during which it wants to destroy the enemy's air defense system and his armored vehicles with targeted strikes.
Turkish pride over Karabakh
Since late September, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry has been publishing recordings showing rockets launched from unmanned aerial vehicles or suicide drones striking Armenian equipment, infantry and warehouses. Baku even said that with the help of a suicide drone, he managed to destroy the S-300 anti-aircraft missile system. True, Yerevan denies this.
The use of the Bayraktar TB2 apparatus, which is produced by the Turkish consortium Kale-Baykar, is the most discussed topic. It is interesting that the ambitious engineer Selcuk Bayraktar, the son-in-law of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, participated in its development.
Bayraktar TB2 can be considered the Turkish answer to the American Predator. This device reaches a speed of about 250 kilometers per hour, and its wingspan reaches 12 meters. He is able to climb to a height of over six and a half thousand meters and stay aloft for more than 24 hours. Bayraktar TB2 is designed for reconnaissance and strikes with ammunition, which is directed by a laser.
This spring, Ankara used this apparatus in armed operations against the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the province of Idlib and in Libya against the forces of General Haftar. This use of Bayraktar TB2 in Karabakh suggests that this drone has become an important tool in the hands of Erdogan, who seeks to strengthen Turkey's sovereign position.
“Today Turkey is among the widest circle of the best drone manufacturers. Given its ambitions, it is very likely that Turkish combat drones will also appear in other conflict areas and bring commercial success,” military expert and security analyst Lukas Vizingr told Idnes.
Although the use of Bayraktar TB2 in Karabakh is confirmed by many videos, it is not officially in service with the Azerbaijani army. Experts believe that Baku acquired these drones secretly or put them into service just before the outbreak of the conflict.
The lack of official information, apparently, is due to the fact that we are talking about the use of technologies from a third country. The Armenian diaspora in Canada stated that the strikes in Karabakh are being carried out by drones equipped with Canadian sensors. Ottawa suspended the export of this technology to Turkey on Monday.
However, the unmanned arsenal of the Azerbaijani army is not limited to one Bayraktar TB2. In 2019, it was armed with two Israeli reconnaissance vehicles Heron TP and Hermes 4507 (ten units), as well as 100 SkyStriker suicide drones and 50 Nagor suicide drones.
It is the suicide drones or loitering munitions that have become increasingly popular in recent years. In fact, these are flying bombs that are capable of being in the air for tens of minutes, and then, upon the order of the operator, attack the target. Their great advantage is their low price.
The regime in Baku is also investing in the production of its own drones. The joint Azerbaijani-Israeli consortium Azad Systems has already presented the Aerostar reconnaissance drone and the Orbiter1K and Orbiter-3 suicide drones.
There is even information that Azerbaijan has an unmanned modification of the old An-2 biplanes, which we know as Andula. Over Karabakh, they are used as a flying decoy that helps to detect air defense positions.
Disguise and fake targets
Armenia underestimated the purchase of drones. “Russia does not produce anything of the kind. Of course, they should have turned to China or Iran. But it all comes down to money. They buy weapons from Russia with lucrative loans, and with China, it's not so simple. As for American-made drones, which are talked about, we haven’t seen them yet,” military analyst Andrei Frolov told the Russian Air Force.
Today, the Armenian army has only light reconnaissance vehicles Krunk, Bazé, and X-55. Defense against drones is also bad. Yerevan claims that it managed to shoot down several enemy drones with the Osa AKM and Strela-10 anti-aircraft missile systems.
However, according to experts, these missile systems do not play a special role in combat with drones. "They were probably trying their best to detect Bayraktar TB2 on their radars. However, they were designed to fight helicopters and attack aircraft, not small unmanned aerial vehicles," Robert Lee, an expert on Russian weapons systems from King's College London, told the Russian Air Force.
Therefore, Armenia remains to defend itself primarily by camouflage, fake targets, and electronic warfare. "Some primitive methods turned out to be quite effective, and the Armenians managed to shoot down several drones with anti-aircraft guns. But for Russia, the bad news is that the Azerbaijani drone destroyed the Russian Repellent electronic warfare complex, which is intended specifically to destroy drones," Lukas Vizingr explained.
The future of war
Azerbaijani drones inflict great damage on Armenians and severely undermine their air defense systems in Nagorno-Karabakh, but this does not mean that they will decide the outcome of the war on their own. The most important role is still played by artillery, tanks, infantry and missile forces.
“However, for the first time, two states, militarily equivalent and possessing completely modern weapons, have used combat drones so widely and with such publicity,” says Jan Grogmann, chief editor of Armadni Novina.
Thus, the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh reminded that advanced unmanned technologies are no longer the privilege of the best armies in the world. Today, in addition to the United States, Israel, and Turkey, effective military drones are used or developed by Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan, and Poland.
It is clear that in the near future drones will play an increasing role in conflicts and that the methods of combat will change completely. “If today six combat aircraft with a crew are taking to the skies to fight, then in the future there will be two, where people will be. They will accompany the host of drones,” Lukas Vizingr is sure.
The effective use of Turkish drones in Syrian Idlib earlier this year even sparked controversy in the UK about the need to maintain many of the Challenger 2 main battle tanks. Experts point out that they would be easy targets for drones, and the question is whether they will pay off at all. expensive upgrade.
Read the original text at iDNES