This is where the drones came in

Monday, November 30th, 2020

Before the war, on a tactical level the Armenian army was superior to the Azeri army:

It had better officers, more motivated soldiers, and a more agile leadership. In all previous wars with Azerbaijan, this proved to be decisive. But Azerbaijan found a way to work around it. This is where the drones came in: they allowed the Azeris to reconnoitre first the Armenian position and then the placement of reserves. Armenian positions then could be extensively shelled with conventional artillery, weakening their defences. Drones then guided the onslaught towards the Armenian reserves, bringing in artillery, multiple-rocket systems with cluster munitions, their own missiles, or using Israeli-made LORA ballistic missiles to destroy bridges or roads linking the reserves with the front. Once the Armenian side was incapable of sending reserves into battle, the Azeri army could move in any number it wished to overwhelm the isolated Armenian positions. This procedure was repeated day after day, chipping one Armenian position away each day and resupplying artillery during the night.

This tactic also worked well in mountainous territory the Armenians thought would be easy to defend. In the mountains, there is only one road connecting the front to the rear, which made it even easier for drones to spot targets. When the battle over Shusha demonstrated that the Armenians would not stand a chance even in this territory, the Armenian army started to disintegrate and Yerevan had no choice than to agree a ceasefire on adverse terms.


  1. A Wild Goose says:

    Thanks for finding and posting this. The original Wapo article is surprisingly well-written.

    The scariest, true point they made was the ineffectiveness of the Russian Pantsir S1 vs Turkish drones in Libya. The Pantsir is supposedly intended for close-in defense versus smaller targets. The fact it appears to have failed its primary mission in Libya shows how effective drones are.

    I disagree with the analysts saying tanks are not obsolete. Tanks have been obsolete since Hezbollah used man-portable anti-tank weapons to shut down IDF Merkavas in 2006. Modern aerial drones have simply made tanks more obsolete.

  2. Bob Sykes says:

    Whether or not the Armenian army was any good is an open question. There had been a purge of its senior officers just prior to the war that was part of a plan to de-Russify the military.

  3. Altitude Zero says:

    In the Cold War, the USSR had a reputation for selling cheap knockoffs of their weapon systems to their satellite countries, and keeping the good stuff for themselves, just in case anyone got any ideas. The better equipment was only deployed by actual Soviet troops and technicians, as in North Vietnam and Korea. You wonder how good the stuff the Russians gave the Armenians actually was. Old habits die hard.

  4. Kirk says:

    The old “monkey-model” sobriquet has a lengthy history, going back to the Spanish Civil War. The Soviets classically engaged it to explain why their shit didn’t work, and to try to keep the reputation of the stuff they actually had in inventory up as a deterrent.

    Reality? The story-line is mostly specious bullshit. I’ve had long discussions with the US Army’s technical intelligence people, on this very subject, and they were universally contemptuous of the entire idea. Sure, the Soviets left off some of the niceties like the lead-foam spall liners, but those were hardly necessary off a battlefield expected to go nuclear. Most of the crap they sold the rest of the world was exactly what they issued. It wouldn’t exactly make sense to do otherwise, considering–Sell cut-rate slob-spec T72 tanks to the Iraqis, who then get clobbered? WTF would the point of that exercise be, when the fact is that clobbering is going to be on international news in short order?

    Reality is that most of what you see getting destroyed in job lots by the Israelis and everyone else is exactly what’s on issue with the Soviet Union or the Russians. Some things may get left off, out of a desire to economize, but the base performance layers are still there, and are still what’s shown as lacking.

    I’ve no doubt that the Turks are laughing their asses off, having found out in Syria that the Emperor ain’t wearing any clothes. Which is why they felt very safe in going after Armenia–They know the Russians can’t do shit to them, short of nuking Ankara.

    Which may well not be too far outside the realm of possibility, now that I think about it. With Erdogan having alienated everyone in NATO, who would really care if the Russians “donated” a few high-yield weapons to the nascent Sultanate? I’m pretty sure that most of NATO would look the other way, and that everyone would probably sigh in relief as that particular issue evaporated in the canned sunlight.

    Not sure Erdogan has quite properly worked out his math on this one; sure, the potential for sticking a huge thumb into the eye of the Russians exists, but what’re the likely responses going to be from them, when they’ve got no real conventional-force threat to dissuade the Turks with? It’s gonna go from “Yeah, Turkey is going after Armenia and other Caucasian republics…” to nuking the shit out of Turkey. Russia really doesn’t have anything in between “1″ and “11″ on the dial; Erdogan is playing with fire.

    Hell, Putin would probably benefit hugely from doing that, TBH. Who would fuck with the Russians, witnessing the evaporation of Ankara and Istanbul…?

  5. Altitude Zero says:

    That’s really interesting, Kirk. The reason that I suspected that it might be true, is that their air defense stuff seemed to work pretty well in Vietnam, and up to a point in Korea. Were the actual Soviets just better at using it? I mean I remember one of our guys saying that, yeah, our stuff was better than the Iraqis, but if the armies had swapped equipment, we still would have won.

    As for Putin nuking Erdogan, I certainly wouldn’t complain…

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