Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has confirmed the use of Turkish unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or drones) against Armenian targets while praising the contribution of Turkey’s armed drones to the Azerbaijan army.
Speaking to Turkish public broadcaster TRT, Aliyev underlined that Turkish drones had increased the capacity of the Azerbaijani army. “Having Turkey’s armed UAVs has strengthened the Azerbaijani army, and [drones] have provided us significant opportunities and helped us to reduce our losses. … We are very happy to have an ally and brotherly country like Turkey,” said Aliyev.
Aliyev also stressed that the Turkish Armed Forces is the second largest military force in NATO and that Azerbaijan intends to transform its military in line with the structure of the Turkish army.
In June Azerbaijani Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov announced that Baku was ready to purchase armed drones from Turkey. Speaking to a local TV broadcaster about Azerbaijan’s new purchases for its armed forces, Hasanov also confirmed that the Turkish government would provide financial support for the purchase in accordance with a military financial cooperation protocol signed by Hasanov and his Turkish counterpart, Hulusi Akar, during President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s official visit to Baku on February 25, 2020. Middle East Eye claimed, citing sources, that the order was for six units.
Contacts between Turkish and Azerbaijani defense officials intensified after July clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and joint military exercises followed. President Aliyev’s remarks revealed Turkish military drones were sent to Azerbaijan in the August-September period.
In August Baku and Ankara carried out a two-week round of joint military exercises in Azerbaijan. The land and air forces of the two neighboring countries were involved in the Live Fire Joint Large-Scale Tactical and Flight-Tactical Exercises. Some 11,000 military personnel of the Turkish army arrived in Azerbaijan to participate in the drills, according to the Azerbaijani media. The Middle East Eye claimed that Turkey has also left some of its military staff there to continue to bolster Azerbaijan’s military.
Armenia and Azerbaijan, two former Soviet republics in the Caucasus, have been locked in a decades-long territorial dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, with deadly fighting erupting on September 27.
Since then, both sides have shared footage from the clashes in the area. Armenian military sources have released extensive footage depicting damage and destruction of Azerbaijani tanks and armored vehicles by ground forces. Azerbaijan, in contrast, has revealed videos of drone strikes picking off air defense as well as armored vehicles.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu paid a visit to Azerbaijan on Monday and was received by President Aliyev in Baku. The visit came a day after Russia, the US and France called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to agree to an “unconditional ceasefire.” In Baku, he criticized international efforts to tackle the conflict.
France previously accused Turkey of sending Syrian mercenaries to fight in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Turkey, however, has denied transferring Syrian fighters to take part in the clashes.
According to the deal, which was approved by Azerbaijan’s parliament on May 31, Turkey is expected to provide a total of 200 million Turkish lira, equivalent to around $30 million, to its Caspian ally for purchasing goods and services for military purposes from Turkish defense industry companies.
Two weeks after Hassanov’s statement, İsmail Demir, the head of Turkey’s defense industries presidency, which is subordinated to the Turkish presidency, stated that “aerial vehicles, ammunition and missiles with our experience, technology and capabilities are at Azerbaijan’s service.”
“We need to show the world that the two brother countries are in full unity. One nation, two states,” Demir tweeted after a meeting with Azerbaijani Deputy Defense Minister Ramiz Tahirov and Army Commander of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic Kerem Mustafayev.
According to Defence Turkey, Turkish defense industry company Harp Arge had earlier exported its electromagnetic anti-drone system (Drone Killer) to Azerbaijan. The Drone Killer completed Azerbaijani army tests and has started to perform tasks for the Azerbaijani presidency, Defence Turkey reported.
Neighboring partners Turkey and Azerbaijan have signed several military cooperation agreements to strengthen their already close military ties and boost Turkey’s defense exports to Azerbaijan.
Nordic Monitor had previously reported on the Turkey-Azerbaijan defense industry cooperation agreement that was signed in 2017. The latest financial accord has broadened the framework of the defense industry cooperation mechanism.
According to the text of the agreement, the mechanism focuses on improving defense industry capabilities through more effective cooperation in the fields of development, production and procurement, and the maintenance of military and defense materiel as well as technical and logistical support, information sharing and research in the field.
Since 2015 Turkey has been a key market for purchases of armed drones such as Bayraktar and the TAI Anka, which have proven their capabilities in Syria and Libya. Bayraktar TB2 successfully test-fired a rocket for the first time in December 2015.
During Turkey’s military offensive in Syria’s Idlib province in February and March 2020, Turkish drones shooting MAM-L missiles proved adept at destroying Syrian government targets. Moreover, the Libyan National Army’s (LNA) goal of seizing Tripoli abruptly ended after Turkey’s intervention with its supply of multi-purpose Bayraktar TB2 drones, which were manufactured by Turkish company Baykar Makina. Baykar is led by Erdoğan son-in-law Selçuk Bayraktar.