Even before the collapse of the Soviet Union, an ethno-political conflict began between Armenia and Azerbaijan. He had a long cultural, political and historical roots and flared up during the years of "perestroika". In 1991-1994, this confrontation led to large-scale hostilities for control of Nagorno-Karabakh and some adjacent territories.
Azerbaijan, when dividing the property of the Soviet Army, received much more equipment, weapons and ammunition than Armenia, which gave this country serious advantages in the war. In 1992, the Azerbaijani military managed to capture several combat helicopters and the Su-25 attack aircraft, which were immediately used in hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh. Originally azerbaijani aviation confronted a very weak air defense of the Armenians, with six 23-mm twin anti-aircraft guns ZU-23, four ZSU-23-4 "Shilka", four 57-mm anti-aircraft guns S-60 and several MANPADS "Strela-2M". The first success of the Armenian air defense forces was achieved on January 28, 1992, when the Azerbaijani Mi-8 was shot down with the help of MANPADS in the conflict zone. During the hostilities during the summer campaign, the qualifications of Armenian anti-aircraft gunners increased. On June 13, a Su-25 was shot down, before which it had bombed Armenian positions with impunity for 3 months. Armenian television showed wreckage, among which was seen a keel of an airplane with the Azerbaijani flag. Pilot Vagif Kurbanov, who had previously hijacked an attack aircraft from Sitalchay airdrome, where the 80th separate assault regiment of the Russian Air Force was based, was killed. Later, the pilot was posthumously awarded the title "Hero of Azerbaijan". On July 18, one of the 23 Azerbaijani Su-2s, which tried to deliver a bombing attack on the position of the Armenian D-24 howitzer battery, was shot down by ZU-30 anti-aircraft installation fire.
In August, the defense forces of Nagorno-Karabakh were reinforced by several dozen MANPADS and a battery of 57-mm C-60 anti-aircraft guns, which almost immediately affected the course of hostilities. Now, Azerbaijani aviation could no longer iron Armenian fortifications with impunity. In August, the Azerbaijani Air Force lost a combat helicopter Mi-24 and an interceptor MiG-25PD, which was adapted for bomb suspension. It must be said that the heavy supersonic MiG-25PD was very unsuitable for use as a bomber. The aiming bomber equipment was absent, and it was relatively effective to strike only at residential areas.
In the cockpit of the plane was a former fighter pilot 82 th iap air defense Yuri Belichenko, he was shot down during the execution of his 16 th departure. The pilot ejected and was captured, after which he was taken to the Ministry of Security of Nagorno-Karabakh, where he was shown at a press conference for foreign journalists as an example of Azerbaijan’s use of mercenaries. In September and October 1992, the Azerbaijani Air Force lost three more aircraft, with the fire from the ground shot down: Mi-24, MiG-21 and Su-25. In December, Azeris lost Mi-24 and Su-25 from anti-aircraft fire in the Martuni region. Around the same time there was a decisive change in the war in favor of the Armenians. Attempts by Azerbaijan to rectify the situation with the help of aviation were unsuccessful and resulted only in new losses. In 1993, the Karabakh air defense forces managed to shoot down the MiG-21 fighter and the Mi-24 combat helicopter. A few more Azerbaijani aircraft were damaged and needed to be repaired for a long time. In February, while escorting Su-1994MR reconnaissance aircraft over the Vedenissi region of Armenia, the Azerbaijani MiG-24 was shot down in February, the pilot was captured. On March 21, in the Stepanakert region, Armenian forces mistakenly shot down the Iranian Air Force C-17 military transport aircraft, carrying Iranian families of diplomats from Tehran. 130 passengers were killed (all women and children) and 19 crew members. On April 13, a group of Azerbaijani aircraft launched a massive missile and bomb attack on Stepanakert, while one Su-23 was shot down.
Large-scale hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh ceased in May 1994, after an armistice was concluded by the warring parties, which, despite isolated incidents and gunfights, is observed to this day.
The defense army of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic can be considered a part of the Armenian armed forces. The NKR air defense forces also have Osa-AK and Strela-10 air defense systems, MANPADS and anti-aircraft artillery. The data on the number and combat composition of the NKR air defense forces in different sources are contradictory. So, there is information about the presence of the C-75, C-125 and C-300PS SAM systems on combat duty in Nagorno-Karabakh, but this raises reasonable doubts. At the same time, in the immediate vicinity of the border with Nagorno-Karabakh, in the vicinity of the Armenian settlements of Goris and Kakhnut, in the positions where the Krug air defense system had previously been located, there were air defense systems that can be identified on satellite images as C-300PM, which, according to official data in Armenia, no.
Satellite image of Google earth: the position of an unknown anti-aircraft missile system in the vicinity of the village of Kahnut
The basis for the creation of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Armenia was the armament and equipment of the 7 army of the Transcaucasian Military District and the 96 air defense missile brigade of the 19 air defense army stationed in the republic. In 1994, Russia began to provide official military assistance to Armenia. In the air defense units of the land forces of Armenia, the Krug medium-range air defense systems, the Strela-1, Strela-10 and Osa-AK mobile systems, the Strela-2M and Igla-1 MANPADS were transferred to the medium-range air defense systems. and also ZSU-23-4 “Shilka”, anti-aircraft installations ZU-23 and С-60. Some of this technology is still in service. As of the end of 2015, military air defense had the following: 9 Attack Systems Osa-AK, about 70 Strela-1 and Strela-10, about 40 ZSU-23-4 Shilka and approximately 100 of Igla MANPADS . There are about a hundred 23-mm and 57-mm anti-aircraft guns and 14,5-mm ZPU.
Until recently, in the western part of Armenia, in the regions bordering on Azerbaijan, three Krug air defense systems were on combat duty. But at the moment, all the complexes of this type are derived to the storage bases and, apparently, are not operational. To replace obsolete and exhausted mobile complexes on the Krug tracked chassis, the Buk-М2 air defense system was delivered to Armenia, but the exact number is unknown.
Organizationally, the air defense forces are part of the Armenian Air Force. They include one anti-aircraft missile brigade and two anti-aircraft missile regiments. In 90, the republic received C-75М3, С-125М and СРС-300ПТ from Russia. According to foreign reference data, taking into account anti-aircraft complexes “in storage”, there can be up to 100 launchers of air defense systems in Armenia. At the moment, the first-generation anti-aircraft systems C-75 have already been decommissioned due to the development of a resource for hardware and rockets. At the same time, two divisions of low-altitude C-125M air defense systems are still in combat duty in the outskirts of Yerevan and on the southern and eastern shores of Lake Sevan, in the regions bordering Azerbaijan. There is information that the Armenian C-125 was upgraded in Russia to the C-125-2М “Pechora-2М” level. With a very low price, the capabilities of the upgraded C-125-2М “Pechora-2M” air defense system increased several times, which made the complex attractive for poor customers from the Third World countries and the CIS republics.
Layout of stationary positions of ZRK and RLS in Armenia
In the environs of Yerevan, four missions are in combat duty, which are armed with towed ZRS X-NUMXPT. In 300, information appeared about the planned gratuitous transfer of five more C-2015PT divisions to the Armenian armed forces. It is envisaged that C-300PT, previously operated in Russia, will be restored and modernized. Apparently, we are talking about the modification of the C-300PT-300 with the 1В5Р ЗР, which in its combat characteristics is similar to the С-55ПС, but inferior in mobility and deployment time.
Satellite image of Google earth: C-300PT ground position in the vicinity of Yerevan
Additional supply of anti-aircraft systems from Russia should occur within the framework of an agreement on the creation of a unified regional air defense system in the CSTO Caucasus region. In this case, the Armenian air defense system will be seriously strengthened.
PU-ZRS-300PT during military exercises in Armenia in October 2013
Apart from anti-aircraft systems, the air defense forces of the USSR of the USSR received radars: П-12, П-14, П-18, П-19, П-35, П-37, П-40 radio altimeter PRV-9, PRV-11, PRV -13. Most of this technology on the lamp element base has already been written off. To compensate for the loss of the radar fleet, Armenia received several modern radars 36Д6, which along with the remaining stations P-18 and P-37 provide the formation of a radar field over the republic.
In addition to receiving air defense equipment from Russia, certain efforts are being made in Armenia to repair and modernize the air defense systems and radar systems in service. Armenian military-industrial enterprises complete or partially modernize air defense systems, individual units and components of the P-18, P-19 and P-37 radars, Shilka self-propelled anti-aircraft systems, the Strela-10 and Osa-AK systems. Thus, for the “Osa-AK” air defense system, with the help of Russian specialists, a digital radar signal processing system was created and manufactured using modern radio-electronic and computer technologies.
Fighter MiG-29, taking off from the airbase "Erebuni"
There are no workable combat aircraft in the RA Air Force that could be effectively used to protect the airspace. Budget constraints do not allow to purchase and maintain even the minimum fleet of fighters. The air borders of the republic are protected by Russian MiG-29 fighters from the 3624 air base near Yerevan.
Satellite image of Google earth: a technique of the Russian air group in Armenia at the Erebuni airbase.
The air group of 18 fighters MiG-29 (including 2 MiG-29UB) is located at the Erebuni airbase. The first Russian MiGs arrived in Armenia in December 1998 of the year. Here, stocks of fuel and aviation weapons have been prepared and there is an appropriate infrastructure for building up an aviation group, if necessary. In the past, the media repeatedly voiced information about the intention of the Russian MO to replace light MiG-29 with modernized Su-27 or Su-30 fighters with a longer flight duration and better capabilities as an interceptor fighter.
On the territory of Armenia, in accordance with the Treaty on the Legal Status of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation located in Armenia on 21 August 1992, and the Treaty on the Russian military base on the territory of the Republic of Armenia on March 16, 1995 was created in Gyumri. During 102 — 2006, the headquarters of the Group of Russian Forces in the South Caucasus (GRVZ), as well as some of the personnel and weapons previously deployed in Georgia, were transferred here from the territory of Georgia. The base operation agreement was originally concluded for 2007 years, and was extended for another 25 years (until 49 year) in 2044 year, while rent is not charged from Russia. As Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov explained, the questions for which Russian servicemen will be responsible relate to the territory of Armenia, that is, in the event of any military aggression against Armenia, this will be considered as an external threat to Russia. The basis of the base was the 2010-i motorized rifle division of the Transcaucasian Military District. The number of personnel of the base is about 127 people.
ZRS-300B in the vicinity of Gyumri
The direct anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense of the Russian base in Gyumri is carried out by two batteries of the S-300V air defense missile system (988th Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment). The choice of this system for the defense of a Russian military facility in Armenia is due to the fact that the S-300V has greater capabilities to combat ballistic missiles of operational-tactical complexes compared to the S-300P. At the same time, the fire performance of the S-300V air defense system and the time for replenishing the ammunition load is worse than that of the S-300P modifications, which are mainly designed to combat aerodynamic targets. In addition to the long-range air defense systems of the Russian motorized rifle and tank units are provided by an anti-aircraft battalion, which includes 6 "Strela-10" air defense systems, 6 "ZSU-23-4" Shilka air defense systems.
Since 90-ies of the last century, throughout the entire period of Armenia’s existence as an independent state, public and political discussion in this country has not ceased whether the country needs a Russian base, and whether it is better to look for security guarantees from the United States. However, it should be understood that relations with Turkey, which is a regional military superpower, are much more important for Americans. Refusal to provide the territory of Armenia for the deployment of the Russian military base, of course, will be a nuisance for Russia, but for Armenia this may turn into a national catastrophe. It is unlikely that the Russian military will intervene in the conflict on the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, but there is no doubt that they will fight on the side of Yerevan in the event of an attack by Azerbaijan or Turkey on Armenia itself.
On the whole, the overall combat potential of the 102-th Russian military base, Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh air defense systems, taking into account the available anti-aircraft weapons, fighters and well-trained personnel, so far provides a reflection of a possible attack from the Azerbaijani air force. This is the reason for the low activity of the Azerbaijani military aviation in April 2016 of the year during clashes on the contact line in Nagorno-Karabakh (also known as the “Four-Day War”). In the course of hostilities, Azerbaijan used armed drones and fire support helicopters on a limited scale. At the same time, the NKR air defense was able to bring down the Azerbaijani Mi-24. With a great deal of confidence, it can be argued that the Azerbaijani side is refraining from the widespread use of military aviation, fearing serious losses that the air defense forces of Armenia are capable of inflicting.
However, the trends are unfavorable, Azerbaijan has much more opportunities to increase the quantitative and qualitative composition of the Air Force. If you do not take into account the Russian air group at the Erebuni airbase, it already now has overwhelming superiority in the air, which so far is compensated by strong ground defense of Armenia and Karabakh, as well as by the fact that the G-300V air defense system in Gyumri is on combat duty within the Joint System CIS air defense. But in the event of an aggravation of the situation and the start of a full-scale conflict, the Russian MiG-29 and the few Armenian Su-25 in the region will not be enough to suppress the well-equipped air defense system of Azerbaijan. It should also be understood that Azerbaijan has close ties with Turkey, which has the strongest air forces in the region.
In addition, it should be noted that, in general, the air defense forces of Armenia are equipped with outdated equipment and weapons. Most of the combat control systems, radars and anti-aircraft systems were launched in Soviet times. Of course, the repair and modernization, carried out with Russian technical support, can increase the combat potential and extend the service life, but it cannot last forever. In the best case, the C-300PT air defense systems, which form the basis of the Armenian air defense, will be able to operate for another 7-10 years. It should be understood that the equipment, whose age has exceeded the 30 summer threshold, every year becomes less reliable. The problem of replenishing ammunition of anti-aircraft missiles is also very acute, the production of missiles of the 5В55Р family (В-500Р) for “internal use” was discontinued in the second half of 90-s.
In this regard, in the next few years, the Armenian leadership will have to solve the problem of updating the arsenals of air defense systems. Today, Yerevan almost does not have its own finances for the purchase of modern armaments; therefore, the equipment obtained from Russia is mainly transferred on credit or within the framework of the CSTO cooperation. In particular, in February 2016 of the year Moscow allocated to Yerevan a tied loan of 200 million dollars for the purchase of weapons. In the current situation without Russian military assistance, despite the high morale of military personnel, Armenia is inevitably doomed to lose in a serious confrontation with Azerbaijan, on the side of which Turkey is able to stand. It can be stated that the deployment of the Russian military contingent in Armenia is a stabilizing factor in the region. Moscow provides Yerevan with an “anti-aircraft umbrella”, from which it has no reason to refuse. Russia is not going to encroach on the sovereignty of the Republic of Armenia, no one questions its independence, but ensuring its own security based on internal forces is inextricably linked with the need to expand and deepen the military alliance with Russia.
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