As important as the air force (air force) and the opposing air defense (air defense) forces are, the seizure of territory in any case is carried out by ground forces. A territory is not considered captured until an infantryman steps on it. So in the conflict between Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) with Azerbaijan and Turkey, the main goal is the capture / retention of disputed territories by ground forces.
Land forces of Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic
The ground forces of Armenia and NKR include about four hundred main combat tanks... Basically, these are unmodernized T-72 tanks, only thirty of them had to be upgraded to the T-72B4 level, some of the above are even older T-55 tanks.
Tank T-72 Defense Army of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic
There are also about three hundred BMP-2, about one and a half hundred BMP-1 and a number of armored personnel carriers. Self-propelled anti-tank weapons are represented by three dozen SPTRK 9P149 "Shturm-S" and 9P148 "Konkurs". There is an unspecified number of transportable anti-tank missile systems (RTPK) 9K129 Kornet.
SPTRK "Shturm-S" (left) and "Konkurs" (right)
The most powerful and long-range offensive weapons in Armenia and the NKR are Iskander operational-tactical missile systems (OTRK), in the amount of four combat vehicles, there are still eight Tochka-U OTRK and 12 outdated Elbrus OTRK, presumably modernized to increase hitting accuracy.
Iskander OTRK (left) and Tochka-U OTRK (right)
The powerful MLRS "Smerch" of 300 mm caliber in the amount of four units and eight Chinese MLRS WM-80 of 273 mm caliber have similar characteristics to the OTRK. There is also, according to various sources, about 50-80 MLRS "Grad" caliber 122 mm.
MLRS "Smerch" (left) and MLRS WM-80 (right)
Barrel artillery is represented by self-propelled guns of caliber 122 mm and 152 mm 2S3 "Akatsiya" and 2S1 "Gvozdika" with a total number of about sixty units, as well as towed guns 2A36 "Hyacinth-B", D-20, D-1, ML-20, D -30 and M-120 mortars with a total number of about three hundred units.
The number of the ground forces of Armenia is about forty thousand people, the number of the NKR defense army is estimated at twenty thousand people.
The effectiveness of one type or another of weapons and military equipment varies greatly depending on the nature of the terrain on which it is operated and the type of enemy with whom it is necessary to fight. No less important is the planned nature of combat operations: offensive or defensive.
Armored vehicles and countermeasures
In the XX century, there were two world wars, the tactics of warfare in which differed radically. Simply put, if you subtract the First World War from the Second World War, then the tanks will remain. It was the massive use of tanks (in combination with the motorization of infantry, artillery and supply forces) that gave the armed forces the ability to quickly concentrate forces, ensuring a breakthrough of the enemy's defenses in the chosen direction.
Of course, don't forget about the role aviation, but if we exclude tanks, then the Second World War would also most likely be reduced to positional battles. Aviation, like artillery, by itself is not capable of breaking through the front, as well as inflicting unacceptable damage to the enemy, and the infantry and cavalry are either too slow or too vulnerable to organize breakthroughs.
What does this mean in practical terms for the conflict between Armenia / NKR and Azerbaijan / Turkey?
The fact that tanks, as the main force of the ground forces, are necessary for Azerbaijan to conduct offensive operations and are much less important for Armenia / NKR, since they do not have such a task.
It can be assumed that tanks are needed by Armenia / NKR to resist the tanks of Azerbaijan, but this statement can be called into question, since in current military conflicts, tanks almost do not fight with tanks, but act as highly protected mobile firing points. In turn, the destruction of tanks is carried out by other means, most often by ground and air complexes of guided weapons.
For Armenia, increased vulnerability of tanks and other armored vehicles from high-precision weapons is the most important factor: unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) of Azerbaijan methodically carry out the detection and destruction of armored vehicles in Armenia. Presumably, some of the destroyed armored vehicles are inflatable mock-ups, but many photographs clearly show that the goal was real, and the Armenian side does not always take measures to camouflage positions.
NKR servicemen often move freely enough, as if they were not in a combat zone
In practical terms, this means that there is no need for both Armenia and NKR to buy new tanks. Of those that are available, it is advisable to select the most modern and in good condition, carry out their modernization and form several shock reserve groups. Their task may be to counteract deep penetrations of the enemy into the rear in the event that such are carried out. At the same time, it is inexpedient to send them to conduct regular hostilities at the front line.
The remaining armored vehicles can be used as means of fire support or put into reserve to save money. In the case of using obsolete vehicles on the front line as some kind of mobile pillboxes, camouflaged firing positions should be equipped for them, 3-4 inflatable mock-ups and other camouflage means should be used for one real combat vehicle, which we considered in the article The choice of weapons in the confrontation between Armenia and Azerbaijan: disguise as a "way of deception".
High-quality camouflage significantly increases the chances of armored vehicles for survival in the conditions of enemy air domination
The main means of countering enemy armored vehicles should not be tanks or aircraft, but a large number of portable and transportable anti-tank missile systems (ATGM).
From the point of view of the criterion "cost - effectiveness" the optimal solution would be the purchase of several hundred launchers of ATGM "Kornet" and ATGM "Metis" developed by the Tula JSC KBP. Their exact cost is unknown and may vary depending on the volume of purchase, but the approximate cost of the Kornet ATGM launcher (PU) is about $ 50, and the Metis ATGM launcher - $ 000. The cost of the anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) of the Kornet complex is about $ 25, the ATGM of the Metis complex - about $ 000.
If the order of the indicated prices is correct, then the cost of purchasing 100 Kornet ATGM launchers and 2000 ATGMs for them, as well as 200 Metis ATGM launchers and 4000 ATGMs for them may amount to about $ 50 million. Equipping the purchased launchers with thermal imagers will double this amount, but still the cost of the purchase remains more than realistic for the military budget of Armenia.
Portable ATGM "Metis"
Transportable ATGM "Kornet"
The highest mobility of portable and portable ATGMs allows them to be quickly concentrated in a threatened area. And the small size, lack of heat radiation and long firing range make it difficult for UAVs to detect them.
Massive use of ATGMs will disrupt any offensive based on the use of armored vehicles, and the ability to effectively camouflage portable and portable ATGMs will not allow the enemy to suppress them using air superiority.
The lack of support for armored vehicles and the presence of equipped and camouflaged firing positions at the defender will largely reduce the situation to the conditions of the First World War, during which, as you know, hostilities often turned into positional ones, and a large amount of manpower was required to break through the defense lines, often sent " for slaughter. "
Resistance to manpower
It is believed that the main damage to enemy manpower in our time is caused by artillery. At the same time, as we discussed in the article Battle suit. Wound statistics, bullets and splinters, since the Second World War, despite the increase in the share of high-precision weapons, an increasing number of losses occur due to the defeat of manpower with small arms.
The ratio of losses of manpower from bullets, fragments and mines in various military conflicts
Perhaps this is due to the fact that there was no longer such a massive use of artillery as during the Second World War. In the current situation, neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan can afford the use of artillery on such a scale.
Based on this, it can be assumed that small arms will become the main means of engaging enemy personnel in the Armenia / NKR-Azerbaijan / Turkey conflict, and artillery and armored vehicles will play a supporting role.
Accordingly, in order to carry out effective defense, it is necessary to ensure maximum superiority over the enemy in this type of weapons.
For a long time, there have been disputes about the insufficient effectiveness of small-caliber cartridges for small arms: the Russian cartridge 5,45x39 and the western 5,56x45 mm. Cartridges of 7,62x39 mm caliber also cannot be called an ideal solution due to their less flat trajectory, which complicates aiming.
Now the US Army is conducting a program for the development of advanced small arms NGSW, which, if successful, can significantly affect the situation on the battlefield. The cartridges used in weapons developed under the NGSW program are closer in characteristics to rifle cartridges of the 7,62x54R and 7,62x51 caliber than to the existing small-caliber ammunition.
Weapons and cartridges created by the NGSW program (scale of images may vary)
One of the tasks solved by promising weapon-cartridge complexes is to defeat targets in existing and prospective personal body armor (NIB)... The second task, more applicable to the Armenian-Azerbaijani theater of military operations (TMD), is to increase the effective firing range.
Despite the fact that weapons under the NGSW program and Russian analogues have not yet been created, the opportunity to improve the effectiveness of ground units exists already now.
First of all, this is an increase in the number of machine guns in ground units, relative to the number of other automatic weapons. As such, a single Pecheneg machine gun of 7,62x54R caliber and a large-caliber Kord machine gun of 12,7x108 mm caliber can be used.
7,62-mm single machine gun "Pecheneg" (above) and 12,7-mm heavy machine gun "Kord" (below)
Another area of increasing the efficiency of the ground forces is to increase the share of high-precision small arms of 7,62 mm and 12,7 mm caliber. The 7,62 caliber can use the classic Russian Dragunov sniper rifle (SVD) or the Chukanov sniper rifle (SHCh) planned to replace it, as well as the AK-308 Kalashnikov assault rifle chambered for the NATO cartridge 7,62x51 mm (even though this will add a variety of assortments to the ammunition supply ).
Top-down: SVD, microwave oven, AK-308
As large-caliber sniper rifles can be used OSV-96 "Cracker" and ASVK caliber 12,7x18 mm.
Large-caliber sniper rifles OSV-96 "Cracker" (above) and ASVK (below)
All of the above does not mean that it is necessary to completely abandon the existing machine guns, but that the ratio of the number of machine guns and sniper rifles of 7,62x54R mm, 7,62x51 mm and 12,7x108 mm in comparison with weapons of 5,45x39 mm and 7,62x39 mm should be significantly adjusted in favor of the former.
The assault rifles will remain in mobile units and among the least qualified fighters, the militia. At the same time, more powerful weapons should be received by the most qualified fighters, whose training should initially be aimed at using the appropriate weapon.
What will it give in practical terms? First of all, this is a significant increase in the firing range. The negative aspects of small-caliber weapons were clearly felt by the American military in Afghanistan, when the Taliban used 7,62x51 mm rifles, and the US Army soldiers opposing them were armed with M-16 / M-4 rifles and M-249 machine guns of 5,56x45 mm caliber. It is believed that this is one of the reasons for the emergence of the NGSW program, as well as the purchases of the US Armed Forces of 7,62x51 mm rifles.
Following the results of armed clashes, the special operations forces (MTR) of the US Armed Forces purchased a significant number of FN SCAR-H rifles of 7,62x51 mm caliber
An important condition that increases the efficiency of using small arms is to equip them with modern optical and thermal imaging sights. And this applies not only to sniper rifles, but also to machine guns.
The Russian thermal imaging sight "Shahin" can be used on almost all types of Russian small arms, including large-caliber
Another way to increase the effectiveness of small arms is to equip them with silencers used when firing with standard supersonic cartridges. The use of silencers for weapons developed under the NGSW program is provided initially.
In Russia, closed-type muzzle brakes (DTC) are produced, which significantly reduce the sound and flash of a shot both for sniper rifles and machine guns, including large-caliber ones.
DTK closed type for rifles and machine guns of 12,7 mm caliber (left) and for machine gun "Pecheneg" (right) of the company "Rotor-43"
Shooting from a machine gun "Pecheneg" with a closed-type vehicle during the day
Shooting from a machine gun "Pecheneg" with a closed type vehicle at night
The increased range and the likelihood of destruction in combination with increased secrecy of the use of small arms will ensure effective defeat of enemy personnel beyond the effective range of the enemy's small-caliber weapons.
The massive use of ATGMs, which ensures the suppression of armored vehicles, and powerful long-range small arms, which ensure the destruction of manpower, are capable of effectively disrupting the enemy's offensive, even under the condition of his air superiority.
At the same time, all of the above-mentioned types of weapons will be more effective in conducting defensive actions than offensive ones; therefore, symmetrical measures taken by the enemy will not give him comparable advantages.
Artillery and MLRS
With the exception of tanks, cannon and rocket artillery will remain the only means potentially capable of breaking through firing positions. But, firstly, as we said earlier, it is doubtful that they will be able to create sufficient fire density to ensure the destruction of well-equipped positions (if, of course, the defender creates them). No state has enough funds to destroy scattered UAV firing points.
Secondly, enemy artillery can be suppressed by counter-battery fire, primarily with wheeled MLRS, capable of quickly moving out of the covert base to a firing position, providing a high intensity and density of fire and leaving the position before the UAV retaliates.
Barrel artillery can also be used to suppress enemy artillery positions, but it will be effective only when using high-precision missiles such as "Kitolov" and "Krasnopol" with a semi-active laser homing head, in combination with the use of small UAVs, since in the time required to suppress enemy firing positions with unguided ammunition, their own artillery positions can be detected and destroyed by UAVs.
Guided artillery shells (UAS) "Krasnopol", "Kitolov" and the complex of automated control systems "Malakhit"
There are still OTRKs, but their application to the context of the current conflict is justified only for the purpose of destroying similar enemy systems, MLRS or aviation and medium-sized UAVs at airfields, provided that their exact location is known.
In conclusion, I would like to note that the only way for a weaker adversary to resist a stronger adversary is to conduct irregular high-intensity combat operations. The key requirement for weapons required for effective use in such wars is their high mobility and maximum stealth, which determines the choice of weapons discussed in this article and in previous materials.
At the same time, in reality, the leadership of the armed forces is often overly addicted to "shiny toys", attributes of the armies of major powers: tanks, heavy fighters, long-range air defense systems, which, being purchased in limited quantities and not used systematically, are guaranteed to be destroyed by a stronger enemy.