Second Karabakh war: interim results Azerbaijan uses the superiority of its own combat potential
About the authors: Ruslan N. Pukhov - Director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies; Mikhail Sergeevich Barabanov is the scientific editor of the Arms Export magazine.
The hostilities launched by Azerbaijan on September 27 in Nagorno-Karabakh, as it is already quite obvious, have developed into a full-scale second Karabakh war, directed by Baku to break the long status quo in the zone of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict that has developed since the 1994 ceasefire.
The main goal of the Azerbaijani side in the launched military campaign was the exploitation of a significant shift in the potential of the sides in favor of Azerbaijan, which had been going on over the past two decades. This shift gave Azerbaijan the resources and opportunities to finally solve the main national task - taking revenge for Azerbaijan's military defeat in the 1992-1994 Karabakh war.
As far as can be judged, the minimum task for Baku in the new military campaign was the liberation of the territory of a part of the Azeri regions held by the Armenians, which were not previously part of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region (NKAO). However, the main consequence of the new war was the opportunity for Azerbaijan to unfreeze the Karabakh conflict, preventing a return to the 1994 ceasefire and opening up the possibility of constant pressure on the Armenian side. Even if it is necessary to stop the advance, the Azerbaijani side, apparently, does not intend to allow a complete ceasefire.
An important military-political feature of the new Karabakh war was the full support of Azerbaijan from Turkey, which supplies Baku with modern weapons, as well as provides broad intelligence, information, personnel and advisory support. There are several hundred Turkish military personnel in Azerbaijan, F-16 fighters of the Turkish Air Force have been deployed, and, apparently, Turkish military personnel directly control unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from the Azerbaijani side. Turkey has also recruited and deployed significant numbers of Syrian and Libyan fighters to Azerbaijan.
Such support from Turkey is combined with an overall favorable international situation for Azerbaijan. The reaction of the main world powers of the West in general to the unleashing of military actions by Azerbaijan remains sluggish, and Russia did not actively support Armenia as its ally in the Collective Security Treaty Organization and, in general, for maintaining the status quo.
Thus, objectively, the Armenian side is isolated, and Baku has a free hand to continue active hostilities, which the Azerbaijani side uses. It is characteristic that Azerbaijan does not hesitate to strike at the enemy's weapons on the territory of Armenia proper.
Assessing the course of hostilities, we can conclude that after the Azerbaijanis attempted decisive offensive actions in the north and south of the territory of the self-proclaimed NKR in the first days, accompanied by quite significant losses due to the opposition of the Armenian forces in prepared defensive positions, the Azerbaijani command changed its tactics and switched to a slow one. the methodical gnawing of pieces of the territory controlled by the Armenians. In general, it is obvious that the numerical superiority of the Azerbaijani ground forces is not large enough to carry out massive breakthroughs, bypasses and encirclements of the operational scale of the Armenian forces in Karabakh,However, in combination with general fire superiority (including through the use of UAVs and high-precision weapons), it makes it possible to implement the method of gradually capturing territory and pushing back the enemy.
The Azerbaijani tactics of a gradual offensive are based on the “softening” of the Armenian positional defense and tactical reserves in Karabakh. The main methods of action by the Azerbaijani side are the delivery of long-term strong strikes against Armenian positions and places of concentration and the transfer of tactical reserves with artillery, missile weapons and unmanned strike weapons; attempts to “knock out” Armenian air defense systems with high-precision weapons (primarily guided weapons from drones and unmanned patrolling ammunition), as well as military equipment in caponiers and firing points. The offensive is carried out primarily by detachments of special operations forces and infantry units with the support of armored vehicles, while achieving a large numerical superiority in selected sectors of the offensive.
As a result, in three weeks of hostilities, the Azerbaijani side was able to occupy the flat part of the Tartar region in the north of the NKR. The greatest successes by the Azerbaijanis were achieved in the relatively flat southern part of the NKR, where the Azerbaijani troops managed to achieve large penetrations both along the Iranian border and in the directions of Gadrut and Fizuli, which was apparently achieved by the introduction of forces there, acting as an operational reserve. 1st army corps of the Azerbaijani army. As far as can be judged, the Armenian attempts at counterstrikes in the south have failed, now the Azerbaijanis are gradually slowly moving north.
At the same time, until now, the main Azerbaijani successes have been achieved in relatively flat areas, the struggle for the mountainous areas, where the main Armenian fortified centers of resistance are located, is just beginning. As you can understand, the Armenian side is now betting on exhausting the forces of Azerbaijanis in mountainous regions, including in connection with the weakening of the Azerbaijanis' ability to use their military-technical superiority there. The imminent onset of autumn weather may also dramatically reduce Azerbaijan's ability to use unmanned aerial vehicles.
The massive use of UAVs from the Azerbaijani side for strikes against ground targets became a distinctive feature of the second Karabakh war. Azerbaijanis use a wide range of attack UAVs - both disposable loitering ammunition and tactical reconnaissance and strike UAVs. equipped with high-precision small-sized ammunition.
The UAV-loitering munitions available in Azerbaijan include Israeli-made vehicles: the older and larger Israel Aerospace Industries Harop (135 kg weight, 23 kg warhead weight, flight duration up to six hours with a flight range of up to 1000 km), and more modern and smaller Elbit Systems SkyStriker (weight 35 kg, warhead weight 5 or 10 kg, flight duration up to two hours, range up to 300 km) and Aeronautics Defense Systems Orbiter 1K (assembly of which was organized in Azerbaijan under the designation Zrb-K, weight 13 kg, warhead weight 3 kg, flight duration up to two and a half hours with a range of up to 120 km). The disadvantage of the Harop ammunition, with its considerable range, is the noisy internal combustion engine,the sound of which often unmasks the apparatus and allows the enemy personnel to take cover before his attack. SkyStriker and Orbiter 1K have silent electric motors, but are purely tactical UAVs, and their warheads are relatively weak.
For reconnaissance, Azerbaijan also has a whole range of Israeli-made UAVs: heavy medium-altitude Elbit Systems Hermes 900 (takeoff weight 1100 kg, flight altitude up to 9100 m, flight duration up to 36 hours) and Israel Aerospace Industries Heron (weight 1150 kg, flight altitude up to 10 000 m, flight duration up to 52 hours), tactical Elbit Systems Hermes 450 (weight 550 kg, flight altitude up to 5500 m, flight duration up to 18 hours), Israel Aerospace Industries Searcher Mk 2 (weight 500 kg, flight altitude up to 6100 m, flight duration up to 18 hours), Aeronautics Defense Systems Aerostar (weight 230 kg, flight duration up to 12 hours) and light Aeronautics Defense Systems Orbiter 2M (weight 10.5 kg, flight duration up to 3.5 hours), Orbiter 3 (weight 30 kg, flight duration up to 8 hours), Orbiter 4 (weight 50 kg,flight duration up to 24 hours) and BlueBird Aero Systems ThunderB (weight 32 kg, flight duration up to 24 hours).
However, apparently, the main air strike force of Azerbaijan in this conflict is the well-known Turkish-made tactical UAV Bayraktar TB2. Earlier, Azerbaijan did not report on the purchase of these UAVs (only about plans), so, apparently, all devices of this type used in the Karabakh war were provided to Azerbaijan by Turkey immediately before the start of hostilities and are probably controlled by Turkish operators. The Bayraktar TB2 UAV, developed and manufactured by Baykar Makina and previously noted for its successful combat use in Syria and Libya, has a wingspan of 12 meters, a takeoff weight of 650 kg, a payload mass of 55 kg, a flight altitude of up to 8100 m, a flight duration without weapons up to 24 hours. The control is carried out by radio channel,therefore, the actual range of the device does not exceed the radio horizon (up to 150-200 km). In general, Bayraktar TB2 is a fairly simple apparatus, made with a wide use of commercial components. The means of destruction for this UAV are also two types of very simple small-sized bombs with a semi-active laser guidance system - MAM-L (weight 22 kg, actually a "cut off" version of ATGM without an engine) and MAM-C (weight 8.5 kg, "cut off" a variant of a 70 mm rocket without an engine).actually a "cut" version of the ATGM without an engine) and MAM-C (weight 8.5 kg, a "cut off" version of a 70-mm rocket without an engine).actually a "cut" version of the ATGM without an engine) and MAM-C (weight 8.5 kg, a "cut off" version of a 70-mm rocket without an engine).
Azerbaijan's massive use of loitering ammunition and Bayraktar TB2 UAVs has become an effective means of destroying armored vehicles, artillery, vehicles and air defense systems of the Armenian side. To date, only according to the videos of combat use widespread by the Azerbaijani side, as well as other photo and video materials, these weapons have reliably hit on the Armenian side more than 60 T-72 tanks, about 20 other armored vehicles, 11 self-propelled howitzers, up to 15 artillery pieces, up to 30 MLRS, up to 20 SAM combat vehicles, five radars, up to 60 vehicles, separate launchers for the S-300PS air defense missile system and the Elbrus missile system, as well as a significant number of other targets, up to individual groups of military personnel.
Of course, the combat effectiveness of UAVs should not be overestimated: with air supremacy, even the limited forces of real combat aviation and combat helicopters would apparently inflict no less, and probably even greater losses and make it generally impossible for the Armenian forces to move along the roads in Karabakh. However, in view of the fact that the Armenian side has a very significant, albeit outdated, network of air defense systems, the loss of manned combat aircraft and helicopters in this case would be inevitable.
In this case, it was clearly demonstrated that the detection and defeat of such inconspicuous targets as loitering ammunition and small UAVs is a very nontrivial task for a modern air defense system, which is currently difficult to solve. Medium-altitude reconnaissance and strike UAVs (including the Bayraktar TB2) are capable of operating, including with high-precision weapons, outside the effective engagement zones of short-range and short-range anti-aircraft weapons (that is, beyond the reach of the bulk of military air defense systems). In most cases, this makes it possible with the help of UAVs to wage a real contactless war, often resulting in the uniform shooting of enemy ground targets. And all this without loss of personnel and at relatively reasonable costs.Modern loitering ammunition and UAVs are an outright expendable material - in full counterbalance to super-expensive modern manned combat aircraft systems, even single losses of which cause great material and moral damage.
Thus, the hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh clearly demonstrated that the modern armed forces face two large-scale tasks: the creation, on the one hand, of a wide range of unmanned weapons and UAVs, including with the maximum increase in their numbers, the introduction of swarm application algorithms and integration , with various other complexes and means of armed struggle, and on the other hand - the creation of effective means of combating these unmanned vehicles, including bearing in mind the continuing miniaturization of unmanned systems and the possibility of their increasingly massive use.