Kiev, Ukraine – Unmanned Combat Armed Vehicles (UCAVs) or simply armed drones can be a nuisance for the great powers, just ask Russia. Armenia relied on Russian air defense systems and lost this gamble.
After Turkish – made armed drones (UCAVs) blew like hurricanes in Syria and Libya and brought Armenia to its knees in the Nagorno-Karabakh war, eyes were turned on a possible Ukrainian-Russian conflict. This Ukrainian – Russian war aims to liberate the regions of Donbass and Crimea from Russian occupation.
Bayraktar TB2s destroyed the Russian Pantsir air defense systems used by Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkey’s military actions outside its borders are powered by self-produced armed drones.
In Nagorno-Karabakh this autumn September 27 – November 10, 2020, the same unmanned aerial vehicle was very effective on Armenian tanks, cannons and again some Russian-made anti-aircraft equipment.
The great hero of two recent conflicts – in Libya and Nagorno – Karabakh-is not even human. Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or armed unmanned aerial vehicle (UCAV), called Bayraktar TB2 and made by a Turkish company Baykar.
Last year in Libya, TB2 had success against the Russian anti-aircraft system Pantsir, helping the United Nations-recognized Libyan government hold Tripoli against an attack by putchist General Khalifa Haftar’s massacring forces – backed by France, UAE, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Italy and Russia- which were critically armed with Pantsirs .
This helped Azerbaijan to a decisive victory and reclaim most of the territory it had lost in a previous war in the 1990s through a peace deal brokered by Russia.
But an even bigger advantage comes from the fact that Turkey and its allies use drones to disrupt the balance of Attack – Defense-Libya and Azerbaijan.
In both the Libyan and Karabakh Wars, drone operators took many risks to understand the vulnerabilities of the opposing side, and did not worry about losing one or two UAV/UCAV along the way.
But drones can be a nuisance for the great powers, just ask Russia. Armenia relied on Russian air defense systems and lost this gamble.
After Pantsir was ineffective in Libya, the Russian army’s official weekly newspaper, Zvezda, was forced to admit that the system had a ‘blind spot’ where an enemy could learn to enter, although it still denied the humiliating inability of the air defense system to Turkish drones.
Ukraine, which officially announced last week that it will buy five more armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UCAVs) Bayraktar TB2 from Turkey, is testing Turkish-made drones in its exercises.
The first signs of where and how Ukraine, which previously received six Bayraktar TB2 from Turkey, will use Turkish UCAVs are also given.
The chief of staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Ruslan Homchak, signaled that they could drive the Bayraktar TB2s into the field against Russian separatists in the Donbass region.
But the real surprise is Crimea. Local media, again citing General Homchak, wrote that the Ukrainian military, which is slowly gaining a swarm of drones, could use the Bayraktar TB2 directly against Russia for the first time.
The newly acquired Bayraktar TB2s will fly over the Black Sea and the Azov Sea, spying on Crimea, which Russia invaded and annexed in 2014.
Local media reported that the drones, which can fly up to 300 kilometers, will identify Russian targets in Ukraine, and Chief of Staff Homchak made the statement during the exercise at the Shiroky Lan training area.
Ukrainian media write that the picture in the Donbas could change with the use of TB2s, as well as monitoring Russian targets in Crimea.
The UCAVs, who changed the fate of the Nagorno-Karabakh War and almost never fell, will face a serious test against the Russians in Donbas.
Ukraine and Russia last faced off in the Kerch Strait in 2018. Two small boats belonging to the Ukrainian army trying to cross the Strait were seized by the Russian Navy, and Ukrainian soldiers were detained.
Russia, which also wants to block Ukraine’s access to the Azov Sea, which it accuses of violating its territorial waters, has deployed a tanker at the entrance to the Kerch Strait, flying its warplanes in the area.
While the Ukrainian military was on alert, Russia had deployed an S-400 missile defense system to Crimea to intimidate Ukraine.
Gustav Gressel, Senior Policy Fellow and analyst at the Council of Europe’s Foreign Relations (ECFR), said earlier in the week that Europe should undoubtedly learn from what Turkish UCAVs are doing in Nagorno-Karabakh. “The success of the Turkish UCAVs should worry Europe,” Gressel warned EU countries, recalling that the Nagorno-Karabakh War ended in only 44 days: “Armenia lost thousands of soldiers, likewise tanks and armored vehicles. Turkish drones played a key role in the victory of the Azerbaijani army.
Turkey has dramatically improved its drone technology in the past 10 years, despite some US restrictions and embargoes. These limitations led Turkey to produce its own technology.
Bayraktar TB2 and Anka-s drones have previously performed successful tests in Syria and Libya, while the Nagorno-Karabakh War was full of lessons Europe must learn to defend itself.
The first is the importance of strategy and policy. Armenia has not even been able to use the eight Su-30 fighter jets it bought from Russia this summer because Russia does not allow them. However, many Turkish F-16s waited at the base in Azerbaijan, while Bayraktar TB2s were in the sky.
Second lesson the importance of computers and networks. Just as in Syria and Libya, Russian air defense systems have been defeated by UCAVs.
Armenia’s systems from the 1980s failed to capture small and slow drones. Azerbaijan’s Bayraktar TB2s and drones purchased from Israel flew over Nagorno-Karabakh without encountering almost any obstacles.
Therefore, among the armies likely to fight in the future – not only the United States, China, Russia, but also regional powers such as Turkey, Israel and South Africa – this experience will certainly encourage further research on artificial intelligence and autonomous deadly weapons systems.
The third lesson is to fight ‘around’ the enemy’s power. Before the clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenian army looked better tactically. They had better and more motivated soldiers, but when the UCAVs stepped in, everything changed.
The UCAVs determined the positions of the Armenian troops, and they were destroyed by artillery fire. The drones also destroyed air defense systems, blew up bridges and roads that the Armenian army would use.
Armenia believed that it could easily defend the region with steep terrain, and when the roads with connecting points were cut off, the shipment to the front could not be made. The battle in Shusha that killed thousands of soldiers left Yerevan with no choice but to seek a ceasefire.
Western countries have so far focused more on the technical side of drone warfare, but in Nagorno-Karabakh this angle was less exciting. The real exciting side was the tactical use of the UCAVs by Azeri Turks.
Their deployment of drones in traditional combat operations was impressive. This intellectual creativity should be devoted to the Turkish military advisers who developed Azerbaijan’s fighting style and brought victory.
Europe should look carefully at the lessons of the Nagorno-Karabakh War. Since the Cold War, most European countries have phased out their air defense systems.
Apart from Germany and France, there are no European countries with an air defense system capable of capturing the UCAVs. What Germany and France have is also short-range.
In a modern mobile war with drones on, many European armies could end up in a more miserable situation than Armenia. It should make them think and worry. Tactical Turkish armed drones are fierce game changers in battlefields.