The recent clash between Azerbaijan and Armenia clearly indicates that the future war games will be dominated by machines and artificial intelligence with minimum human involvement. In the present face-off between the two nations (part of former Soviet Union), Azerbaijan’s advanced warfare technology (especially the armoured drones purchased from Turkey and Israel) has turned the tables around for them to counter Armenian armed forces deployed in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Azerbaijan used drones and loitering systems such as Turkish made Bayraktar which they bought this year in June, and Israeli Harpy 2, to target Armenian and Karabakh soldiers, tanks, artillery and air defence systems. In this 44 day war, it was clearly visible how battlefields are being transformed by unmanned attack drones rolling off assembly lines around the world.
The first war over the territory started in 1991 and lasted for almost three years, resulting in the death of more than 30,000 people and the displacement of a million, the majority of them Azeris. A ceasefire was declared in 1994, brokered by Russia, the United States and France. The Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh have named the enclave the Republic of Artsakh, but no state, including Armenia, recognises it. In fact, UN Security Council resolutions have categorically supported Azerbaijani claims that Nagorno-Karabakh is an integral part of their country.
The recent clash appears to be driven by the agenda to recapture swathes of territories occupied by Armenian forces in the Karabakh war after the Soviet Union collapsed.
Out foxing the Armenian ground defences
Adopting a very clever war tactic, Azerbaijan’s forces converted a very old AN-2 aircraft with a single propeller engine designed by Antonov Designed Bureau in 1947 into a single use drone. These slow moving aircraft with big radar were flown over the Armenian defence systems deployed in the battle ground. Seeking an aerial threat coming in from the enemy side, Armenian forces activated their radars and electronic warfare systems, hence giving clear signals to Azerbaijan’s armed drones and loitering ammunitions (Bayraktar TB2 and Harpy 2) deployed in that region to neutralise these targets.
Finally, the war that lasted for 44 days got over on 10 November 2020 with Armenia accepted a cease-fire on punishing terms to possibly end the latest round of battle over Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave controlled by ethnic Armenian factions but inside the internationally recognised borders of Azerbaijan.
Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia signed an agreement to end the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh in a deal described as “unspeakably painful” by Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in an emotional post on one of the social media platforms. In Azerbaijan, meanwhile, Aliyev said the agreement was “historic” and that Armenia had been forced to negotiate because of Azerbaijan’s military successes.