Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict: Lessons Never Learned

Azeri TB-2 UAVs were allowed to roam effectively unopposed

The Armini military performed poorly by allowing uncontested airspace to Azeri TB-2 UAVs - who rained hellfire on Armini ground forces. Propellor UAVs are not magic. They simply fly so slowly that they operate inside the Doppler-envelope of some global air-defense systems, as the Yemini Sept-2019 attacks on two Saudi oil installations protected by US-designed air defenses - attests. The stall speed of a TB-2 UAV is perhaps 20-30 knots. If it flies into a headwind, you could see very organic-object-like behavior and airspeeds.

Far too many drones have been downed by manned fixed-wing fast-jets - to assign any kind of magical status to what are effectively just radio-controlled propellor-driven remotely-piloted toys. The Azeris also employed a locally-made version of an Israeli Orbiter-1K small kamikaze drone and employed the Israeli Harop loitering munition from mobile launchers.

The effectiveness of the Armini Russian-made ECMS Repellent-1 system remains unclear. At least one was knocked out by Azeri air activity, the other appeared to already be dead or was a scrapyard-truck decoy. Armini 'S-300PT -1a' effectiveness against low-speed drones also remains unclear. 

Azeri TB-2 basing locations were never established by international observers. The Armenians were either unwilling or unable to attack TB-2 base(s) with their ballistic missiles. Turkish F-16s were based at airports and airbases in Azerbaijan throughout the conflict - underscoring the heavy Turkish technical and political support behind the scene. It is a near certainty that Azeris TB-2 operations were conducted by or closely supervised by Turkish military personnel.

Early in the war one Armini Su-25K appears to have flown into a mountainside - but this is not uncommon for airplanes. No hard evidence of hostile action to date is linked to this crash.

The Azeri shootdown of a Russian Mi-24P helicopter in Arminain airspace strongly suggests the Azeri did not possess robust IFF air defense capacity. Once the Azeri began using their Su-25s over NK, the Arminians could have employed their own Su-25 as well, leveraging these IFF difficulties to counter Azeri-Turk TB-2 activity. The TB-2s would not have been hard to find visually in daylight - they would have been at very low-speed, and at medium altitudes, over Armini heald areas. The TB-2 would have made good target practice for Armini Su-25 cannon fire. Again, this action would have forced the Azeri (and the Turks) to try and stop it - this under almost impossible IFF conditions.

Equipping Armini troops with simple Laser Warning Receivers could have been useful to warn of Azeri TB-2 laser designation. Laser dazzlers appear to have been in short supply as well. Nonetheless, Azeri-Turkish drone strike/target designation activity - was withering when left uncontested.

Misinformation and disinformation were heavily leveraged by both belligerents. 

War crimes were perpetrated by both sides so the ceasefire is a relief - as the only good war - is a short war. 

The conflict simply reinforced what we already know - you cannot capitulate your airspace over your own ground forces - otherwise, you lose the war. 

Lessons the Arminians never learned.

11-Nov 2020: Russian peacekeepers have deployed into NK. The war appears over for now.

10-Nov 2020: There is now talk of a negotiated settlement/ceasefire and orderly withdraw of Armini forces from Nagorno-Karabakh together with the deployment of Russian peacekeepers. Rumors that the Russian 15th motor-rifle brigade will deploy to Nagorno-Karabakh. 

Complete chaos erupts in the Arminian parliament after protesters storm the building denouncing the ceasefire and the current Armini government.

09-Nov 2020: Azeri forces shoot down a Russian Mi-24 (Mi-24P Reg RF-91855) with a MANPAD near the Armini village of Yeraskh, while the helicopter was on patrol with the 102nd Russian Army. The incident occurred in Armini territory some 60 km away from the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh. 2 KIA, 1 injured.

Mi-24P Reg RF-91855

08-Nov 2020: Heavy fighting in and around Shusha, reportedly territory changing hands back and forth. Heavy Azeri shelling of Shusha and Khankendi/Stepanakert. Civilians fleeing both cities. [Below] Dramatic footage of the fighting around Shusha. Azeri T-80 MBT in action down the street - is then hit by Armini ATGM/heavy fire. No damage?


[Below] Azeri/Turk UAV shot down. Both Shusha and Khankendi/Stepanakert will certainly fall shortly.

Bayraktar TB2 UAV downed 13:40 local time, southeastern front (Martuni/Khojavend or Aghdam). ACIG

07-Nov 2020: "Heavy bombardment on the outskirts of Stepanakert/Xankendi in Karabakh. Civilians and reporters are asked to evacuate the city as the battles are getting closer to the heart of Karabakh." Source 

01-Nov 2020: Azeri Su-25s are now hitting Armini positions. They have been doing this for some period of time. This would explain the higher yield munitions in some Azeri videos. The Azeri and their Turkish handlers enjoy complete freedom of movement in the airspace over Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia should negotiate a peaceful withdraw from the territory rather than more senseless butchery and exposure to additional Azeri war crimes.

31-Oct 2020: [Below] Incendiary munitions being used. It is unclear who is employing them. Also today "Russian Foreign Ministry: Moscow will provide the necessary support to Yerevan in the event that the war moves into Armenian territory" 

The Russian statement is a positive development as someone needs to keep a lid on this thing - and the Turks certainly aren't going to do it. The Russians have stopped US regime change in Syria and are slowly rolling back the Turkish (a NATO member) incursion in Syria as well. Frankly, we welcome a return to a bipolar world order where Moscow is the counterbalance to the US. The world has already seen what happens when the US is the sole remaining superpower. Washington's invasion of Iraq in 2003 plunges Iraqi into chaos, kills hundreds of thousands - and also creates the Daesh (ISIS).

30-Oct 2020: Armini forces blow their own ammo dump just outside of Shusha. Also more Azeri war crimes here. Azeri troops are executing POWs [Below] More endless video of Azeri drone strikes. Keep in mind TB-2 drones can also act as laser designators for Azeri laser-guided artillery. Unless Armini forces can contest the airspace over Nagorno-Karabakh - the Armenians will (will) lose this war to low-speed prop-driven radio-controlled toys; popularly known as drones/UCAVs.

The biggest question in this war? Arminian and global observers cant answer this simple question: From where are Azeri-Turkish TB-2 drone sorties over Nagorno-Karabakh coming from? If the Arminians could answer that question they could target these sites with their tactical ballistic missiles. 

Allowing your forces to be wiped out by a bunch of whiny propeller-driven toys is simply beyond belief. Drone proponents will say they are a sophisticated new paradigm in warfare. Nonsense, these propeller-driven toys just fly so slow that older air-defense radars think the drone is an organic object and ignores it. Fixed landing gear and whirling propellers are not stealth. This Doppler-envelope hole in global air defense radars should be plugged shortly.

This war will be one for the textbooks on ceding your airspace to the enemy. 

29-Oct 2020: Azerbaijan claims they shot down two (2) Armini Su-25 attack jets sometime after 1pm in the afternoon. There is no confirmation of this claim. In all these post-Soviet era regional conflicts, own-goal/IFF issues are massive and ever-present.

Armini Su-25 Frogfoot

27-Oct 2020: As the ground fighting goes into the mountains of Nagorno-Karabakh, formal air defenses will have limited fields of view and military aviation close air support can be employed more easily. Indeed this link purports to show an Armini Mil Mi-8 helicopter providing close air support. From a purely military perspective, Arminian military aviation needs to move quickly to create contested airspace and force the Azeri to try and stop it. The appearance of Armini rotary-wing CAS would be a move in that direction.

26-Oct 2020: Heavy fighting reported that includes Armini and Azeri rocket/artillery bombardment of each other cities. Lots of things happening, but Azeri forces have the upper hand presently. There are even unconfirmed reports of Turkish F-16 involved in the fighting. This is not confirmed, however. 

25-Oct 2020: [Above] "American satellite company Maxar Technologies has identified [six additional] Turkish F-16 fighter jets in Gabala airbase, Azerbaijan" around 20th October. Heavy Turkish involvement on the side of Azerbaijan in this war - in our view - is no longer in dispute. While the Turkish Air Force (THK) F-16 are not flying combat missions (we are told); we assess the myriad and abundance of Turkish personnel in-country, are in a position to assist and direct operations against Nagorno-Karabakh. This includes TB-2 drone ops. 

Ankara needs to be careful here. Heavy Turkish involvement in this conflict is going to call up the specter of Ottoman-Armenian history between 1914 and 1923.

24-Oct 2020: Azeri-Turkish forces have now employed Azeri Su-25 Frogfoots attack jets equipped with 'Paveway GBU-12" kits from Aselsan of Turkey [ACIG]. The kit(s) are jointly developed between Azerbaijan and Turkey to be fitted to Azeri Russian supplies standard gravity munitions. The base Su-25 already uses a Klyon PS laser ranger and target designator. It is unclear if the new Azeri munition requires supplemental designation from the Su-25 platform. To date, Armenia has still been unable to establish contested airspace over Nagorno-Karabakh. 

Also, more Azeri war crimes have appeared too graphic to embed. We hope the links provided are documented-recorded by the appropriate international bodies (which should include NATO and the ICC) before the links go dead (as they often do).

[Above] The Azeris and Turks have developed a host of Paveway kits for Azeri Soviet-style munitions 

Azeri Su-25 with Russian OFAB bombs

The Bayraktar TB2 is a Turkish built UCAV. 

23-Oct 2020: Arminia claims it used its new Su-30 fighters in some capacity. Exactly how is unclear presently.

20-Oct 2020: Armini ground forces attrition at the hands of Azeri unchallenged air space control over Nagorno-Karabakh continues at an alarming rate. Armenia's decision to ground its air force and capitulate the airspace over Nagorno-Karabakh to propeller-powered radio-controlled toy drones - is difficult to contemplate. Until the Arminians decide to contest the airspace above their own forces, Armenian loss of the Nagorno-Karabakh territory appears a certainty. 

The large role Turkey is playing in the conflict on the side of Azerbaijan now appears increasingly event. 

18-Oct 2020: A seemingly endless supply of Azeri video of TB-2 'Turkey-Shoot' strikes on Armini positions continues. Reportedly what appears to be an Armini S-300 is stuck. Some of the footage is graphic so we did not embed it. Also, Azeri video of Israeli-made 'Spike' NLOS anti-tank missiles have appeared.

Tactical Analysis: Armenia's inability to put up or muster much of an air-defense against Azeri TB-2 propeller-driven drones (even in broad daylight) is revealing. The Arminians are either unable or unwilling to commit their traditional airforce of Su-25 or Su-30 to counter the medium-altitude drone threat. 

These $5 million per copy drones have been allowed to play havoc on Armini forces.

The S-300 series in possession of the Armini (and Azeri) forces has been a known entity to NATO members since at least 1999 with the sale of an S-300 PMU1 system to the Greeks. The Azeri TB-2 drone is built in Turkey. A NATO member. With Russias recent sale of S-400 to the Turks, we surmise that system is now too designated as 'compromised' by Russia. 

Global observers are beginning to assert that there is no defense against these types of drone technology. This of course is complete nonsense as countless drones have been shot down by manned fixed-wing aircraft. Over Syria in 2017 alone in a span of just over a week: 

  • 8 June:  USAF F-15E shoots down an Iranian IRGC Shahed-129 drone.
  • 15 June: SyAAF MiG-23MLD shoots down a Jordanian RJAF Selex ES Falco drone.
  • 16 June: SyAAF MiG-23MLD shoots down a Jordanian RJAF Selex ES Falco drone.
  • 19 June: USAF F-15E shoots down an Iranian IRGC Shahed-129 drone.

The issue may be these older pre-drone designed SAM systems don't see a slow-moving medium-altitude propeller-driven drone as a threat because they are automatically masked out and categorized as organic objects (like birds) by the system. These fancy toy drones fly so slow that many global SAM systems effectively don't see them. Video released by the Azeri always shows the munition approaching from another direction, so we are probably seeing designator imagery.

Unless the Arminian military finds a way to get a few of their manned fixed-wing combat aircraft over the Nagorno-Karabakh front or find some other way to establish contested airspace to counter free-roaming 100 hp propellor driven toy drones, the odds are slim that Armini forces prevail.

[Above] This Turkish-operated TB-2 was downed over Tripoli in Dec 2019. There is nothing mysterious about drones and UCAVs. You just have to make a concerted effort to knock them down, deny their basing, or cut off their radio link to their remote operator(s). They are just fancy RC hobby toys with a sensor suite attached. Nothing more. Their low-speed and simple propellor powerplants allow them to loiter for extended periods while their human remote operators hunt for targets.

And indeed this Azeri TB-2 [below] was knocked down over Nagorno-Karabakh by Armini air defenses on 20-Oct 2020. The Turkish-built UCAV munitions appear unspent.

[Below] We would remind global military observers that Russian-designed air defenses had no problem detecting and vectoring aircraft to down this Gearogain UAV back in 2008. Russian air defenses have also repelled many drone attacks on Khmeimim/Hmeimim Air Base in Syria. So we are not sure what the issue is currently over Nagorno-Karabakh. We predict increasing line-of-sight radio-comm drone-control issues as the fighting goes into the mountains

15-Oct 2020: First documented war crimes by the Azeri. See here

11-Oct 2020: The Azeri report that Ganja city was hit by Armini OTR-21 'Tochka' tactical ballistic missile(s) during the night. Armenian counter-attack recaptures Hadrut today. Verified

We think it might be far more constructive perhaps from a tactical perspective for the Arminians to focus their missile and rocket forces on likely Azeri TB-2 drone basing. 

[Below] Drones not immune to air defense by any means once you know what to look for and make adjustments. Video purports to show Azeri 'Pechora-2M' SAM system (based on the S-125 of F-117 shootdown fame) hitting an Armini drone. However, it could just as easily actually be an own-goal kill  Azeri drone.  

10-Oct 2020 Ceasefire announced via Moscow - however, will likely be ignored. Here is a video of Azeri TB-2 drones striking real non-decoy targets during good weather:

09-Oct 2020: Video has appeared of Armenian forces firing a Scud-B tactical ballistic missile.

The Azeri have returned to publishing a flurry of TB-2 drone strikes footage on Armeni targets. The question is from where are TB-2 drone sorties being conducted? We are currently trying to locate any satellite imagery of any history of TB-2 basing in Azerbaijan - either now or in the recent past. Surely the Armenians would target these sites with artillery rockets? Ganja International Airport might be a good place to look for evidence of Azeri TB-2 basing? Where are TB-2 drones on the ground in Azerbaijan? [Below] The TB-2 appears to require traditional basing facilities.

08-Oct 2020: Weather clearing and Azeri drones aloft again. New information has appeared about possible THK F-16 involvement in Armenian Su-25 downing. And indeed we get this the next day.  

06-Oct 2020 Indeed there now reports of  Armenian targeting with cluster munition of Azeri energy and gas infrastructure in the form of the BTC (Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan) pipeline to Turkey. This has not been confirmed.

06-Oct 2020: Fighting has quieted down and drone activity stopped as foul weather has moved in. According to TASS, Jabhat Al Nusra fighters and other jihadists groups from Syria are finding their way via Turkey into Nagorny-Karabakh to fight for the Azeris. Another source here.

We find it interesting that the unstoppable drone onslaught has been unceremoniously sidelined due to weather. So fancy radio-controlled RC toy drones are no magic technology wand after all. And also no all-weather capability. If customers want that - that's going to cost more.

04-Oct 2020: Heavy escalation today to civilian targets. Azeri Ganja International Airport as well as the city of Ganja has been struck by at least one Armenian 9K720 Iskander mobile ballistic missile. Multiple stikes by Armeni 'Smerch' artillery rockets also. Ganja International Airport was reportable destroyed. Also, theater ballistic missiles with cluster warheads used on the Azeri city of Mingachevir near city power and water supplies.

If escalation continues, we expect Armenian targeting of Azeri energy and gas infrastructure shortly.

9K720 Iskander 

"The Azerbaijani government is playing videos of their drone strikes against Armenian positions on public advertising boards in Baku" Source

BM-30 Smerch

[Below] Nagorno-Karabakh's main city Stepanakert is attacked by Azeri artillery or artillery rockets.

[Below] Note the background of what sounds like jet-powered aircraft overhead from playback points 0:18 to 0:42.

03-Oct 2020: More footage of the fighting has appeared. 

02-Oct 2020: Armenia appears to be taking a shellacking in this latest conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. [Below] An Israeli-supplied Azeri LORA missile hit a bridge connecting Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh near the town of Asagi Sus, likely on the Goris-Berdzor-Stepanakert Highway.

Below: Turkish supplied 'Bayraktar TB2' armed UAVs are playing havoc on Armenian ground forces. The drones appear to be able to operate when air defenses or compromised or fly so slow they are masked out as organic objects (look like birds) to air defense radars. Slow flying drones (effectively fancy radio-controlled RC toys) are a curious development in the cat-mouse game of aircraft vs air defenses radar design. Also, hilly terrain doesn't help air defense see aircraft approach corridors. Stealth has no role here as whirling propellers are not stealthy. There is nothing magical going on here, air defense design before the advent of slow-flying drones don't see these low-speed drones easily due to own-doppler-masking for organic aerial objects.

Let us remember that on 15 Apr 2015 a retired postal worker pilots his civilian low-flight-speed gyrocopter through the most sophisticated and heavily defended airspace in the world - and lands on the Capitol Lawn in Washington DC. He goes undetected by American air defenses.

Bayraktar TB2 UAV built in Turkey is being used heavily by the Azeris.

[Below] Israeli HAROP loitering munitions have also been heavily leveraged by the Azeri. It is an interesting tactical concept but as we've seen also it appears they been hitting decoys as well. However, presumably because of their lower cost, this may be an acceptable cost-to-asset usage model. The endurance/range, operations conditions (like weather) these munitions require, and recovery conditions if any - is unclear presently. 

30-Sept 2020: Remarkable footage has now appeared of the fighting from the Armenian side. 

30-Sept 2020: Judging from the video evidence it also appears the Armenians are suffering the brunt of losses presently. Below, the Armenian Ministry of Defense releases images of at least one of their downed Su-25s. There may be a second.

[Below] This Armenian Su-25 may have simply flown into the mountainside by accident. Planes flying into mountains is not uncommon. More evidence of foul play should emerge over time.

Azerbaijan is employing Israeli loitering munitions also in the anti-radiation role and there are now countless videos of other aerial munition employment using electro-optical targeting. It appears Armenia lost an S-300PM  battery yesterday in an Azrei UAV strike. Too many videos to publish all Azrei UAV strikes footage, however here is one:

30-Sept 2020: We can not emphasize enough the use of disinformation by both sides in this conflict. It makes reporting on events extremely difficult.  Below: This image was published today by the Azerbaijan Ministry of Defense stating "Direct hit on positions of the 4th Battalion, 5th Motor-Rifle Regiment, Armenian Army, Aghdara sector, early today."

Azeri MOD use of disinformation.

The above photo is in fact an old photo from Afganistan [thank you ACIG].

In the Azeri strike video, you can actually see Azeri munitions hitting Armenian decoys. Remarkable. We have written previously about the use of decoy and how effective than can be. Here you see them being attacked in footage released by Azeri MOD. It appears at no less than 5 decoys are struck.

  • Decoy struck at playback 0:33 
  • Decoy struck at playback 1:02 
  • Decoy struck at playback 1:11 
  • Decoy struck at playback 1:28 
  • Decoy struck at playback 1:42 
  • 29-Sept 2020: An active shooting war has broken out between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. We are watching this carefully. So far airpower has appeared to be been used in the form of drone strikes. YouTube videos that have appeared of the fighting and we a reviewing them. Armenia is backed by Russia while Azerbaijan is backed by Turkey. It appears that Ankara and Moscow may be locking horns yet again as they have in Syria and Libya. This area surely also has gas pipeline politics at work - as these pipeline projects supplying gas to Turkey and European markets. 

    Azerbaijan has become wealthier than Armenia over time due to energy sales. These sales are surely funding the current conflict. 

    Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan.

    Also are reports of an Armenian Su-25 shot down by Azerbaijan MiG-29. The pilot said to be KIA. No confirmation or images of wreckage have appeared as of yet. There are claims of Turkish F-16s involved as well. No confirmation of this either. 

    The two countries fought before in the Nagorno-Karabakh War from 1988-1994. There currently could be extensive minefields put in place since that conflict.

    Azerbaijan has two major gas pipelines flowing around Armenia and into Turkey. Azerbaijan's more recent gas wealth could be fueling this conflict. 

    Disinformation is a tool of war and is aggressively being employed by both sides. 

    A first pass initial overview of the Armenia and Azerbaijan air forces show both have been undergoing a modernization of their older Soviet machines. Both also operate Mi-25 attack helicopters or derivatives and appear to have additional older aircraft fixed-wing aircraft in storge that could bolster inventory numbers. Current Armenian Air Force fixed-wing combat jets appear to consist of a small number of Su-30 fighter and Su-25 attack aircraft. Armenia receiving a small number of new Su-30SMs in 2019. Armenia also operates roughly a half dozen L-39s
    Armenia recently took delivery of four Su-30SM

    Armenia operates roughly a dozen Su-25K (below).

    Azerbaijan Air Force fixed-wing combat jets consist of about a dozen ex-Ukrainian MiG-29 and also operate roughly a dozen Su-25 attack aircraft as well as a handful of L-39, and Aermacchi M-346 Master light attack/trainers (the M-346s may as of yet - not been delivered). 

    Azerbaijan MiG-29
    Azerbaijan Su-25

    Aermacchi M-346 (not yet delivered)

    Azerbaijan appears to have a large number of (perhaps 30) MiG-25PD/PDS aircraft in storage. 
    We will make appropriate updates to all this - as time permits and events unfold. 

    - All media found here is for scholarship and research purposes and protected under U.S. Internet ‘Fair Use’ Law -


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