Showing posts with label Armenia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Armenia. Show all posts

Thursday, 13 January 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer
 
The Su-30 was a notable absentee from the air war over Nagorno-Karabakh during the latest escalation of the unresolved conflict over the region. Hailed by Armenia's Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan as "our most important acquisition this year" in 2019, many expected to see the Su-30's participation in the conflict sooner or later, combatting Bayraktar TB2 drones and deterring Azerbaijani aircraft from releasing their deadly ordnance on Armenian soldiers below. [1] But as days turned into weeks, it became increasingly clear that the Su-30s were deliberately kept out of the fighting, earning the Su-30 the status of 'White Elephant' for some. This article will attempt to provide a rationale for why the Su-30s didn't participate in the conflict and look into Armenia's decision to acquire the aircraft.

Sunday, 19 December 2021

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
In the 2010s, Armenia embarked on an expansive modernisation programme of its air defences to keep up with Azerbaijan's expanding drone arsenal and to address the obsolescence of its existing surface-to-air missile (SAM) and radar systems. Although acquisitions like the Tor-M2KM and Buk-M1-2, and Russian jamming equipment such as the Repellent-1 and Avtobaza-M would attract the most attention, overhauls and upgrades performed to its older systems occurred as well. This included SAM systems like the 2K11 Krug, 2K12 Kub and the S-125, all of which dated from the 1960s.

Tuesday, 16 November 2021

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Armenia and Azerbaijan on Tuesday the 16th of November 2021 clashed along their border a year after the war over Nagorno-Karabakh came to an uneasy peace, trading accusations regarding which side initiating the clashes. Armenia admitted that thirteen of its soldiers had been captured by Azerbaijan, that 18 were still missing and that six Armenian soldiers were killed in action during the latest clashes, adding that its army had also lost control of two military positions. [1] [2] [3] [4] On its part, Armenia claimed the destruction of five Azerbaijani AFVs and five vehicles. [5] According to Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan, Azeri forces succeeded in taking control of a total of 41 square kilometers of Armenian territory since May 2021. [6]

Saturday, 13 November 2021

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans 
 
Relatively little is known about Armenia's weapon industry since its inception in the mid-1990s. Despite the unveiling of several promising projects in the decades since, most of its designs were destined to never leave the drawing board or progress beyond prototype status due to a lack of funding and interest from the Armenian Army. Nonetheless, a number of designs that did ultimately see the light of day serve as a reminder that such an industry survives to some degree.

Wednesday, 3 November 2021

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Throughout its modern history Armenia has frequently come up with ingenious weapons designs in an attempt to provide its military with new combat capabilities at relatively little cost. One such project, a remote weapon system designed for use in trenches, has already been covered in an earlier article on this website. Another relatively little-known project entailed the design of a short-range thermobaric multiple rocket launcher (MRL) that utilises twelve RPG-7 launchers installed on a towed-trailer or truck.

Much like the remote weapon station, this contraption too was likely designed with trench warfare against Azerbaijani forces around Nagorno-Karabakh in mind. Known as the N-2, the MRL was designed and produced by the Garni-ler arms company likely somewhere during the 1990s or 2000s. [1] The launcher uses twelve TBG-7V thermobaric rockets (or its Armenian copy the TB-1), although any warhead that can be fired from a regular RPG-7 can be used in theory. The twelve rockets are fired remotely either in single shots or several rockets at a time.

Saturday, 2 October 2021

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Amidst the smoldering wreckages of destroyed surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems littering the battlefields of Nagorno-Karabakh there was one notable absentee that appeared to have escaped certain destruction at the hands of drones during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War: The Buk-M1-2. Indeed, although it constitutes one of the most modern and capable SAM systems in the inventory of the Armenian Armed Forces, the Buk-M1-2 (NATO designation: SA-11 'Gadfly') SAM system appears to have played no role during the fierce 44-day conflict whatsoever.

Monday, 27 September 2021

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans in collaboration with Jakub Janovsky, Dan, and COIN
 
Şimşek gibi atıldık bir semte yedi koldan - Like thunderbolts we struck from seven directions (Akıncılar, by Yahya Kemal Beyatlı)
 
A year has passed since the vicious conflict now known as the Forty-Four Day War was brought to its conclusion. The result of this Caucasian engagement was a stunning upset of the status quo, marking a watershed moment in the history of warfare that has rightfully garnered the attention of analysts and history buffs worldwide. In the course of this short but intense conflict, a handful of Azerbaijani Bayraktar TB2 UCAVs essentially broke the back of the Armenian military, destroying a confirmed total of 549 ground targets including 126 armoured fighting vehicles (including 90 T-72 tanks), 147 artillery pieces, 60 multiple rocket launchers, 22 surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems, six radar systems and 186 vehicles. While a combination of factors was ultimately responsible for the Azerbijani military's overwhelming success, there is no denying the centerpiece of its campaign was this one piece of newly acquired technology. 

Friday, 30 July 2021

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Certainly no branch of Armenia's military suffered as severe materiel losses during the 2020 Nagorno-Karbakh War as its artillery and rocket forces. With the air defence umbrella that was supposed to protect them proving incapable of neutralising the drone threat overhead, howitzers and multiple rocket launchers (MRLs) situated in open revetments were left to the mercy of Bayraktar TB2s flying overhead, resulting in the visually confirmed destruction of 152 artillery pieces and 71 MRLs. [1] Combined with the loss of a further 105 artillery pieces that were left behind by Armenian forces and subsequently captured by Azerbaijan, Armenia lost most of its artillery assets during the conflict, amounting to roughly two-thirds of its inventory of MRLs alone. [1]

Friday, 28 May 2021

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans 

The casual reader may be forgiven for thinking that Armenia's armed forces operate solely Soviet-legacy weaponry inherited from the USSR, or armament received from Russia in recent years. In reality, operating alongside familiar types such as the T-72 MBT, BM-21 MRL and 9K33 Osa SAM are several types of equipment acquired from more surprising sources. This includes Sako TRG-42 sniper rifles bought from Finland, Swathi artillery-locating radars acquired from India and also 273mm WM-80 multiple rocket launchers (MRLs) sourced from China.

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
If any lessons can be drawn from the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, they are bound to revolve around the stunning effiency of cheap but highly effective unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) and the failure of a wide array of air defence systems, both modern and old, to stop the onslaught brought about by them. For Armenia, the failure to acknowledge its impending defeat led it to fight a costly 44-day war of attrition, suffering severe losses that included some 250 tanks and more tragically, some 5.000 soldiers and reservists, many of which still in their late teens and early twenties. [1]

Nevertheless, the Armenian military could only be expected to be acutely aware of its shortcomings in an era of drone-powered warfare, and it certainly attempted to remedy them with the limited funds it had available. This mainly manifested itself in the acquisition of Russian electronic warfare (EW) systems meant to disrupt the operations of UAVs in one way or another, Tor-M2KM SAM systems that could operate as hunter-killer systems, and 35 9K33 Osa-AKs acquired from Jordan that despite their old age enabled the Armenian military to cover large swaths of Nagorno-Karabakh. As Armenia found out the hard way however, the aforementioned systems could do little but wait in agony as Bayraktar TB2s and loitering munitions began picking them off one by one.
 
Another method utilised by Armenia entailed the placing of decoy SAM systems nearby real SAM systems in order to lure attacking drones into targeting the decoys, thus saving the real systems from certain destruction. Although this act of 'maskirovka' was highly effective during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, the numbers deployed by Armenia during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh were far too sparse to distract Azerbaijani forces from targeting operational SAM systems and thus have any actual impact on the course of the war. Still, the examples utilised stood out for their realistic depiction of the SAM system they were meant to replicate, even donning detailed camouflage patterns.
 
 
As the 9K33 Osa (NATO designation: SA-8 Gecko) was the most numerous SAM system within the Armenian Armed Forces (and by extension the Artsakh Defence Force, itself a de-facto part of the Armenian Army), it should come as no surprise that most of Armenia's decoys were based on this system. The 9K33 decoys are also the only decoy types confirmed to have successfully tricked Azerbaijani drone operators into striking them, which happened on the 30th of September 2020 at a 9K33 garrison near the small village of Papravənd (known as Nor Karmiravan by Armenia), in what was then still Armenian-controlled Nagorno-Karabakh. [2]

Being almost indiscernible from real 9K33s, two decoys parked in revetments (to mimic the deployment of an operational system) were struck by Israeli IAI Harop loitering munitions, resulting in their complete destruction. Unfortunately for Armenia, the operational systems located throughout the vicinity of the base fared little better, and together with the associated 9T217 transloaders were quickly annihilated by a combination of Bayraktar TB2s and IAI Harops. In total, Armenia lost at least 18 9K33 systems (16 destroyed, 2 captured) in addition to three 9T217 transloaders (two destroyed, one captured) during the course of the war. [1]

 
Interestingly, in the case of the few Tor-M2KM decoys known to have been produced, the eleborate camouflage pattern was actually indicative of their nature as decoys, as Armenian Tor SAM systems never received any kind of camouflage pattern after their arrival to the country in 2019. Furthermore, the decoys merely comprised the container-based launch system rather than also including the truck supposed to be carrying it. That said, it is unknown to what degree Azerbaijani drone operators were made familiar with the size and shapes of the SAM systems they were meant to track down and neutralise, and an overzealous drone operator could easily have mistaken a Tor-M2KM decoy for a real system. Only a single Tor-M2KM is confirmed to have been destroyed during the 44-day war, although this was likely because of the small numbers deployed by Armenia rather than the decoys that were meant to protect them. [1]

Left: An Armenian Tor-M2KM SAM system as it operated during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Right: An elaborate Tor-M2KM decoy featuring the standard camouflage pattern applied by Armenia on its military vehicles

Rather than placing the decoys throughout strategic locations in Nagorno-Karabakh, each posing as an operational 9K33 or Tor-M2KM system, the few decoys deployed by Armenia were positioned inside existing SAM garrisons. While this might ultimately have helped to prolong the career of a few other real 9K33 Osas by several minutes, it is almost certain that Armenia would have been better off by deploying the fake systems as standalone decoys throughout the entirety of occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, forcing Azerbaijan to spend valuable time and resources tracking and hunting those systems down while flying in the engagement envelope of a real SAM system nearby.
 
Of course, did not help that Bayraktar TB2s could fly circles above 9K33 garrisons (or any other Armenian SAM site for that matter), each containing some seven to eight launch vehicles with their radars turned on, all the while remaining unnoticed to the SAM systems below. This meant that the operators of the TB2s could keep hitting the SAM systems (and the decoys) until all systems were destroyed with no threat of being shot down, once more making painfully clear the obsolescence of the 9K33 in an era of drone-powered warfare.


Armenia's decoys may have been deployed in far too small numbers to affect the course of the war, both sides will surely study their effectiveness and use the lessons learned in potential future wars. Modern optics may have changed the way (aerial) warfare is conducted, decoys have and will continue to change alongside, and a renewed conflict could well see greater numbers deployed, equipped for instance with features such infrared heat signatures to make them even harder to discern from operational systems. Now made aware of the presence of decoys, Azerbaijan will look for ways to identify them beforehand, for example by studying satellite imagery of SAM garrisons and by training its drone operators to discern decoy systems from the real ones.

That said, with the price of MAM-L munitions for the Bayraktar TB2 being comparatively low, the question arises whether the deployment of large numbers of decoys can really have a significant impact on a future conflict. UCAVs like the Bayraktar Akinci and TAI Aksungur can carry 24 and 12 MAM-Ls each, which is sufficient to destroy several SAM sites together with their radars and any decoys. So long as Armenia, or any other nation in the world that faces a comparable threat, lacks the means to successfully counter drones like the TB2, mass deployment of decoys would yield little results but to force the opposing side to stock up on munitions. To a country like Azerbaijan, there is little to disincentivise from doing precisely so, and taking the cost of effective decoys in account and the disparity in assets available to the two parties any decoy destroyed may end up being a net positive. Of course, if they evaded destruction they would have failed their mission regardless; such is the life of a decoy.

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Armenia's small population and limited economic means force the country to come up with creative solutions to address the obsolescence of its military hardware and to introduce entirely new capabilties to its armed forces. Through the years this has led to a highly active R&D industry that has received little media attention outside of its own borders. While most of its projects never progressed beyond prototype status due to a lack of funding, those with a more limited scope (thus requiring less financial commitment) usually had more success. 

Saturday, 6 February 2021

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

The Republic of Armenia isn't particularly well known for its military industry, and its arms exports have hitherto remained undocumented. Despite being the host of a promising arms R&D scene throughout much of the 1990s, a lack of funding and orders halted further development before it ever had the chance to really take off. Although offshoots of its designs would later become popular in Chechnya and with criminals throughout the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), this is where the exploits of Armenia's small arms industry were thought to have ended. 

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
If Azerbaijan starts a war, Armenian tanks will go as far as Baku. (Artsrun Hovhannisyan, Press Secretary of the Ministry of Defence of Armenia, September 2020)
 
In a way surely different from what the Ministry of Defence of Armenia had envisaged, Armenian military equipment was on full display during Azerbaijan's Victory Parade on the 10th of December 2020. Marching through Baku's Freedom Square, the parade offered a glimpse of some of the equipment used by both sides during the 44-day long Nagorno-Karabakh war. 
 
While the parade segment with military trophies was sizeable, with row upon row fielding yet another type of weapon system ultimately overcome by drone warfare, the Armenian equipment on display was roughly one-tenth of the total amount of weaponry and vehicles captured by Azerbaijan. [1] In fact, even if we assume double the amount of losses confirmed to have been suffered by Azerbaijan, its military would still have captured more military equipment than it lost during the war.

Sunday, 27 September 2020

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By Stijn Mitzer and Dan in collaboration with Jakub Janovsky and COIN
 
Armed clashes which commenced early in the morning of the 27th of September 2020 over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh have so far caused considerable human and materiel losses on both sides. The renewed clashes are an extension of the three decades long Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and at present the short-term implications can only be guessed at. While solid information regarding materiel losses is scarce, rumours fly wildly – and unconfirmed and false reports are readily repeated for propaganda purposes. This article will attempt to break down all confirmed materiel losses by carefully studying the footage made available by both warring parties.