On the first day of hostilities Azerbaijani drone strikes focused heavily on short range air defense vehicles in Nagorno-Karabakh

Tuesday, November 10th, 2020

Sebastien Roblin looks at what open-source evidence tells us about the Nagorno-Karabakh War — that is, the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia:

Video after video depict drone strikes setting military vehicles ablaze and unsuspecting troop formations abruptly vanishing in spasms of artillery fire. Photos reveal urban apartment buildings torn apart by massive rockets, and corpses piled up like cordwood after deadly ambushes in narrow valleys.


Azerbaijan’s primary aerial combat system in the conflict are an unknown number of Turkish-built Bayraktar TB2 drones, which can deliver precision strikes from a relatively safe altitude using small laser-guided micro-missiles, or help guide deadly artillery barrages.

However, Azerbaijan is also using its fleet of Israeli Harop and smaller Orbiter-1K loitering munitions, which can both surveil targets and kamikaze into choice targets like a missile.

Azerbaijan is also operating domestic drones, including antiquated An-2 Colt “biplane” transports fitted with remote-control systems. Ostensibly used to draw fire from Armenian air defenses, at least some of these Colts appear to have been carrying FAB 250-kilogram bombs. Armenian videos document the destruction of 7 of the pokey drone biplanes, often using man-portable surface-to-air missiles.


On the first day of hostilities Azerbaijani drone strikes focused heavily on short range air defense vehicles in Nagorno-Karabakh. These 1970 and 1980-era Soviet systems designed for use against airplanes may have lacked resolution to consistently detect and engage drones at long range and higher altitude. Later, more powerful S-300 and 2K12 air missile batteries and long-range air defense radars were also struck.


  1. A Wild Goose says:

    Sounds like smart strategy on the Azeri side.

  2. Bob Sykes says:

    One should discount the age of the Armenian air defenses. The Houthis did the same thing to Saudi Arabia, which relied on Patriot missile batteries.

    Drones appear to be a breakthrough in air warfare. They are cheap, fly low and slow, can loiter, and have precision bombing capability.

    The Russians, like the Soviets before them, rely on air defense in depth, with multiple layers of SAM’s and local, close-in AAA. Evidently, they need to rethink what they are doing.

    US Army and Marines have much fewer air defense systems, and they rely on US air supremacy to defend the troops. All of a sudden, they are naked to air attack.

  3. Redan says:

    …antiquated An-2 Colt “biplane” transports…

    Why the quotation marks? It is a biplane.

  4. Kirk says:

    Likely, the writers or editors from the source document are stone-ignorant millenials who’ve no more idea about aviation nomenclature than a monkey has.

    The number of “just plain wrong” points these idiots make in everything they do is enough to induce existential despair, when contemplating the future of the race.

  5. Kirk says:

    And, to the point of the post…

    I’ve been predicting this, for years. What you’re witnessing is the weaponization of the cheap-ass drone, and this is early stages. Consider this “conflict”, if we may dignify it with such terminology, as being the equivalent for drone technology that the Russo-Japanese war was for the machine gun and barbed wire.

    Likely, the idiots of the world will ignore the lessons and the implications. Said idiots include most of the major powers, and it’s going to be the nations like Estonia and Singapore that eyeball this, and recast their military affairs to take advantage of it all.

    Consider the implications of it all: A Russian client state has just been jimmied out of the status-quo by use of this technology.

    And, the f**king Russians couldn’t do a damn thing about it, just like they can’t in Syria or Libya. The Turks, who’ve been the weakling of Europe since the 18th Century, are now able to push around and bully the Russians… Who can’t really respond, short of nuking the Islamic bastards.

    Look for increasing Turkish arrogance and provocation against the Russians, who’re now the actual “weak man” of Europe, and for the Turks to start probing elsewhere on their frontiers. Greece had better get their shit together, and start making nice with the Jews in Israel, because about the only people who’re likely to be able to compete on the same battlefields in the region around Turkey are the Israelis.

    I look for the US to lose its ass in the next war, due to things like this. We’ve had too long without significant aviation threat against our ground troops, and I don’t see the Pentagon being able to react in a timely or realistic manner. Like as not, the next war is going to see a repeat of the same dynamics as WWI, just translated into a different arena. Call it a revolution in military affairs, or whatever else you like, just face the fact that there are gonna be a lot of body bags getting filled.

  6. Gavin Longmuir says:

    Kirk: “Like as not, the next war is going to see a repeat of the same dynamics as WWI, just translated into a different arena.”

    The difference from WWI will be the enhanced ability in the modern world to take the fight to the enemy’s seat of power. It will evolve into something conceptually more like Medieval Europe, where the king had to lead his troops into battle. In this Brave New World, the belligerents’ leaders’ asses are on the line, just as much as the front line troops.

    With the huge modern flows of trade, Armenian “terrorists/freedom fighters” could smuggle weapons into Baku and Ankara and do a lot of damage to the enemy leadership. The leaders of any nation with something worth defending would have to ask themselves before getting into a shooting war with the US — How far can we push this without triggering a nuclear response? Or even just non-nuclear missiles dropping on the presidential palace?

    Of course, that is not a concern for the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party, who have just bought themselves a subservient US President.

  7. vxxc says:


    Never mind overseas, how about domestic drone threats?

    Drone swarms-swarms mind you-buzzing Palo Atlo nuclear power plant.


    This by the way is the equivalent of ignoring the Japanese doing flyover rehearsals on Dec 6, 1941 [which they did not, for public school victims].

    BTW the US has no tactical quad copter drones at the unit or higher level, we like fixed wing only.
    It’s supposed to get fixed by…2022.

    It can of course get fixed today.

  8. Kirk says:


    Naah… I don’t think so. The Boni aren’t likely to let things get to that point, and before you do start to see things like that, you’re going to have to see a lot more dislocation and dismantling of the current “international system”.

    The Russians are possibly likely to green-light something like that, but let us remember which international idiot set off WWI by having their intelligence agency play games in the Balkans. Russia would do well to remember the law of unintended consequences, and refrain from any “good ideas” being brought to fruition with the potential for “unexpected fallout”.

    Likewise, Erdogan. He’s gonna want to watch his ass, because poking at the Bear ain’t what I’d call smart. He’s not a nuclear power, no matter what that crap in Izmir may imply to his fantasies. Russia can’t afford to look weak, so… Yeah. Can you say “Flash point…?”.

    My guess is that the Greeks are getting some interesting intel from their Russian military attaches, right about now. Israel? LOL… Lay you long odds that they’ve been given the keys to the S-400 castle, already. The Turkish version, at least.

    I don’t get what the hell Erdogan is thinking; he’s thrashing about like a spastic, in terms of strategy. If he was planning on going out of NATO, then buying the S-400 makes sense, but then… He’s pissing in the Russian Wheaties everywhere, to include right on their border. Does this even begin to make sense to anyone not named Erdogan or drinking Turkish Kool-Aid?

    Turkey is not capable of taking on the world, and that’s precisely what they’re edging towards under Erdogan. Greece, Israel, Russia, Iraq… Where does the strategy come into play, again? I’m just not seeing it. You don’t, if you are at all sane, try taking on all your neighbors at once.

    Well, unless you’re as desperate and unhinged as Hitler was… Erdogan may be in that situation before long.

  9. Gavin Longmuir says:

    Kirk, I think we are in complete agreement that Erdogan’s games make no sense; he is messing around in Libya too. But that is not really the issue I was trying to get at — which is that the leaders of a country are now personally exposed to violence in the event of a real war.

    In WWI, the politicians in Berlin, London, Washington could send other men off to die with no fear for their own hides. That was not the case for the occupants of Berlin & London in WWII — and it won’t be the case for the occupants of Washington, Bejing, Moscow, Brussels, or any of the mini-capitals in Europe in any future wide-spread war. Those leaders now have their own skins in the game.

    So the question for any leader of any nation considering military action against someone like the US, Russia, China is — Do I feel lucky? You put your finger on it with your observation:
    “Russia can’t afford to look weak, so… Yeah. Can you say “Flash point…?”.”</i.

    Personal view — the nature of large-scale war has changed; it is no longer military, it is now economic. The problem is that the bought & sold politicians in the West don't realize they have been losing an economic war to China for the last two decades. When the West found out during this CovidScam that we cannot even manufacture medications any more, that is pretty close to a Stalingrad moment.

  10. Kirk says:


    I disagree. The fact that they’ve got this newfound ability to precisely target battlefield assets is not something that’s going to translate to “Yeah, they’re gonna kill the politicians with those same tools…”.

    No matter what, the idea of leadership at the national level getting targeted is unlikely to come back, if only because those ass-clowns are going to offer each other professional courtesy so long as nobody gets really f**king stupid. Like the US did, going after Khadafy in Libya. That was a really, really bad idea, and if they’d kept up that same sort of thing by doing it to Assad, I suspect that other world leaders would have had a come-to-Jesus meeting with Obama and Hillary, telling them to knock it off or there would be consequences.

    So long as humans are stupid enough to keep playing this game of hierarchs, we’re going to have the people at the top playing by different rules for themselves vs. the ones in effect for the rest of us. About all this crap is going to do is make life a bit harder for the security apparatus, because if Erdogan can target some random air defense position and take out the guys cowering in a slit trench next to it, well… That also means that Erdogan can be targeted the same way in a coup. Question is, who controls all the hardware?

    I think the internal problems of this crap are going to be way worse, and it’s much more likely that Erdogan is going to go down because Mehmet down at the drone factory has a grudge than it is that Putin is going to take him out via the same tech. Internal issues are nowhere near as divisive and likely to escalate as someone from inside the Russian sphere of control doing unto Erdogan what his military did unto Armenia.

    I think you’re more-or-less right, in that it’s horribly destabilizing, but… The see-saw battle between measure and counter-measure is still going to be waged. The IED campaign in Iraq and Afghanistan largely neutered the threat via jamming and a bunch of other things, and you can expect similar counters to come into play in very short order. The Russian dominance in ELINT and electronic warfare is still a thing, and I am rather surprised that the Turks were able to steal a march on them. That ain’t likely to last, though…

    As to China? I think there are pretty good odds that the biggest problem China is going to present in the 21st Century is their coming collapse. Xi ain’t doing what he’s doing out of a sense of strength–He’s scared, because he knows what a demographic time bomb he’s sitting on, and he also knows how fragile China really is. I don’t think this is going to be China’s century any more than the 20th was Japan’s. The inherent numbers are against them, and while they’ve managed to capture markets, there isn’t anything to say they’re going to keep them.

    Japan has earned a solid reputation as a source of quality. China? LOL… They’re scam artists with no sense of craftsmanship or pride-in-product. The Chinese economy is filled with companies that will only produce quality when someone has a figurative gun to their head. As soon as you turn your back, they cut corners and begin counterfeiting everything going into the product. If you don’t stay on top of them, and constantly crack the figurative whip, they’ll screw you as soon as they sense you’re no longer paying attention.

    That’s no way to maintain dominance in a world economy where you can go get someone like the Vietnamese to actually produce what you ordered. It’s a cultural thing, and one I don’t see China overcoming. They can’t help themselves–Which is why you see all those collapsed construction projects across China.

    I actually pity the average Chinese citizen for what’s coming, because its not going to be pretty. There’s inevitably going to be some crisis, like that created by a potential collapse of the Three Gorges Dam, and then the whole house of cards is going to implode. Where that ends, I don’t know. Fallout will be massive, though, and I expect another era of local warlords and a very weak or nonexistent central government. They’ve got way too many eggs in the Communist Party basket, and when that regime inevitably discredits itself? Loss of the Mandate of Heaven will have regime-ending repercussions.

    The manufacture of medicines will move out of China, as will a lot of other crap, and the Chinese will be left with out-of-date factories and a reputation for untrustworthiness and unreliability. It will become profitable to tell people that your products are not sourced in China, and that won’t be something that changes unless there are massive changes in the culture. Pet supplies are already like that, especially food. You can’t sell a damn thing marked “Made in China” for pet food or anything else going into people’s cats and dogs among those who pay attention. Local pet store guy was telling me he had to throw out several pallets of dog treats that nobody would buy and that he was tired of keeping in storage–Packaging all marked “Made in China”.

    Enough of that, and the Chinese “miracle economy” will be dead and buried.

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