Azerbaijani Armed Forces
The Armed Forces of Azerbaijan (Azerbaijani: Azərbaycan Silahlı Qüvvələri) were re-established according to the Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan on the Armed Forces from 9 October 1991. The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR) had originally formed its own armed forces from 26 June 1918. However these were dissolved after Azerbaijan was absorbed into the Soviet Union as the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic from 28 April 1920. After the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991–92 the armed forces were reformed based on Soviet bases and equipment left on Azeri soil.
The armed forces have three branches: the Azerbaijani Land Forces, the Azerbaijani Air and Air Defence Force, and the Azerbaijani Navy. Associated forces include the Azerbaijani National Guard, the Internal Troops of Azerbaijan, and the State Border Service, which can be involved in state defense under certain circumstances.
According to the Azerbaijani media sources the military expenditures of Azerbaijan for 2009 were set at $2.46 billion USD, however according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, only $1.473 billion was spent in that year. IISS also suggests that the defence budget in 2009 was $1.5 billion. The Ministry of Defence Industry of Azerbaijan supervises the design, manufacturing, regulation and maintenance of military equipment. In the future, Azerbaijan hopes to start building tanks, armored vehicles, military planes and military helicopters.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan has been trying to further develop its armed forces into a professional, well trained, and mobile military. Azerbaijan has been undergoing extensive modernization and capacity expanding programs, with the military budget increasing from around $300 million in 2005 to $2.46 billion in 2009. The total armed forces number 56,840 men in the land forces, 7,900 men in the air force and air defence force, and 2,200 men in the navy. There are also 19,500 personnel in the National Guard, State Border Service, and Internal Troops. In addition, there are 300,000 former service personnel who have had military service in the last 15 years. The military hardware of Azerbaijan consists of 220 main battle tanks, an additional 162 T-80's were acquired between 2005 and 2010, 595 armored combat vehicles and 270 artillery systems. The air force has about 106 aircraft and 35 helicopters.
Azerbaijan has acceded to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear weapons state. Azerbaijan participates in NATO's Partnership for Peace. Azerbaijan joined the multi-national force in 2003. It sent 150 troops to Iraq, and later troops to Kosovo. Azeri troops are still serving in Afghanistan.
However, in 2017 Global Firepower ranked Azerbaijan 59th among 127 countries for its military strength. It was the best performance among the countries of South Caucasus.
Today 'National Hero of Azerbaijan' is the highest national title in the country, awarded for outstanding services of national importance to Azerbaijan in defense, as well as other deeds in other spheres.
History of the Azerbaijani military
Azerbaijan Democratic Republic
The history of the modern Azerbaijan army dates back to Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in 1918, when the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan Republic were created on 26 June 1918. First de facto Minister of Defense of ADR was Dr. Khosrov bey Sultanov. When the Ministry was formally established Gen. Samedbey Mehmandarov became the minister, and then Lt-Gen. Ali-Agha Shikhlinski his deputy. Chiefs of Staff of ADR Army were Lt-Gen. Maciej Sulkiewicz (March 1919 – 10 December 1919) and Maj-Gen. Abdulhamid bey Gaitabashi (10 December 1919 – April 1920).
The Red Army invaded Azerbaijan on 28 April 1920. Although the bulk of the newly formed Azerbaijani army was engaged in putting down an Armenian revolt that had just broken out in Karabakh, the Azeris did not surrender their brief independence of 1918–20 quickly or easily. As many as 20,000 of the total 30,000 soldiers died resisting what was effectively a Russian reconquest. The national Army of Azerbaijan was abolished by the Bolshevik government, 15 of the 21 army generals were executed by the Bolsheviks.
World War II
During World War II, Azerbaijan played a crucial role in the strategic energy policy of Soviet Union. Much of the Soviet Union's oil on the Eastern Front was supplied by Baku. By a decree of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR in February 1942, the commitment of more than 500 workers and employees of the oil industry of Azerbaijan was recognised with orders and medals. Operation Edelweiss carried out by the German Wehrmacht targeted Baku because of the importance of its oil fields to the USSR. Some 800,000 Azerbaijanis fought within the ranks of the Soviet Army of which 400,000 died. Azeri national formations of the Red Army included the 223rd, 227th, 396th, 402nd, and 416th Rifle Divisions. Azeri Major-General Hazi Aslanov was awarded a second Hero of the Soviet Union after a long post-war fight for recognition of his accomplishments.
Dissolution of the Soviet armed forces
During the Cold War, Azerbaijan had been the deployment area of units of the Soviet 4th Army whose principle formations in 1988 included four motor rifle divisions (23rd Guards, 60th, 75th, and 295th). The 75th Motor Rifle Division was isolated in Nakhichevan. The 4th Army also included missile and air defense brigades and artillery and rocket regiments. The 75th Division's stores and equipment were apparently transferred to the Nakhichevan authorities. Azerbaijan also hosted the 49th Arsenal of the Soviet Main Agency of Missiles and Artillery, which contained over 7,000 train-car loads of ammunition to the excess of one billion units.
The first president of Azerbaijan, Ayaz Mutallibov, did not wish to build an independent army, wanting to rely instead largely on Soviet troops. Even when the Parliament decided that an army should be formed in September 1991, disagreements between the government and the opposition Azerbaijani Popular Front Party impeded creation of a unified force. Around this time, the first unit of the new army was formed on the basis of the 18–110 military unit of mechanized infantry of the Soviet Ground Forces (probably part of the 4th Army) located in Shikhov, south of Baku. At the time of the parliamentary decision, Lieutenant-General Valeh Barshadli became the first Minister of Defense of Azerbaijan, from 5 September to 11 December 1991. Later from May to 4 September 1992 he served as Chief of General Staff of Azerbaijani Armed Forces.
In summer 1992, the nascent Defense Ministry received a resolution by the Azerbaijani president on the takeover of units and formations in Azerbaijani territory. It then forwarded an ultimatum to Moscow demanding control over vehicles and armaments of the 135th and 139th Motor Rifle Regiments of the 295th Motor Rifle Division. In July 1992, Azerbaijan ratified the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), which establishes comprehensive limits on key categories of conventional military equipment. Azerbaijan approved the CFE flank agreement in May 1997.
The transfer of the property of the 4th Army (except for part of the property of the 366th Motor Rifle Regiment of the 23rd Guards Motor Rifle Division captured by Armenian armed formations in 1992 during the regiment's withdrawal from Stepanakert) and the 49th arsenal was completed in 1992. Thus, by the end of 1992, Azerbaijan received arms and military hardware sufficient for approximately four motor rifle divisions with prescribed army units. It also inherited naval ships. There are also reports that 50 combat aircraft from the disbanded 19th Army of the Soviet Air Defence Forces came under Azeri control.
The Azeri armed forces took a series of devastating defeats by Armenian forces during the 1992–1994 Nagorno-Karabakh War, which resulted in the loss of control of Nagorno-Karabakh proper and seven surrounding rayons, comprising roughly 20% of the territory of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani sources insist that Armenian victory was largely due to military help from Russia and the wealthy Armenian diaspora. Armenians partially deny the allegation, claiming that Russian side was equally supplying Armenian and Azerbaijani sides with weapons and mercenaries. During the war, the Azeri armed forces were also aided by Turkish military advisers, and Russian, Ukrainian, Chechen and Afghan mercenaries.
A number of Azerbaijani human rights groups have been tracking non-combat deaths and have noted an upward trend. Based on Defense Ministry statistics that had not been released to the public, the Group of Monitoring Compliance with Human Rights in the Army (GMCHRA) has recorded the deaths of 76 soldiers to date in non-combat incidents for 2011, and the injury of 91 others. In comparison, there were 62 non-combat deaths and 71 cases of injury in 2010. The string of non-combat deaths raises questions about the reform progress of the military. Factors behind the deaths include bullying, hazing, and the systemic corruption within the Azeri military.
Ministers of Defense of Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan Democratic Republic
- General Khosrov bey Sultanov (May 27, 1918 – June 11, 1918)
- Fatali Khan Khoyski (November 18, 1918 – December 25, 1918)
- Samad bey Mehmandarov (December 25, 1918 – April 1, 1920)
Republic of Azerbaijan
After Lt Gen Barshadli became Chief of General Staff, subsequent defense ministers from 1992 have included:
- Lieutenant General Valeh Barshadly (September 5, 1991 – December 11, 1991
- Major General Tajaddin Mehdiyev (December 11, 1991 – February 17, 1992)
- Shahin Musayev (Acting) (February 17, 1992 – February 24, 1992)
- Interior Troops Colonel Tahir Aliyev (February 24, 1992 – March 16, 1992)
- Rahim Gaziyev (March 17, 1992 – February 20, 1993)
- Major General Dadash Rzayev (February 21, 1993 – June 17, 1993)
- Colonel General Safar Abiyev (Acting) (June 17, 1993 – 20 August 1993)
- Major General Vahid Musayev (Acting) (August 1993 – August 25, 1993)
- Lieutenant General Mammadrafi Mammadov (September 2, 1993 – February 6, 1995)
- Colonel General Safar Abiyev (February 6, 1995 – October 28, 2013)
- Colonel General Zakir Hasanov (since October 22, 2013)
The Azerbaijani Land Forces number 85,000 strong, according to UK Advanced Research and Assessment Group estimates. The 2,500 men of the National Guard are also part of the ground forces. In addition, there are 300,000 former service personnel who have had military service in the last 15 years. Other paramilitary agencies consist of Interior Ministry Internal Troops of Azerbaijan, 12,000 strong, and the land component of the State Border Service, 5,000 strong.
Azerbaijan has signed numerous contracts to strengthen its armed forces and to train its military with Turkey's assistance. Over the last 15 years, Azerbaijan has been preparing its military for possible action against Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh.
The Land Forces consist of five army corps:
- 1st Army Corps also known as Evlax Army Corps (concentrated near Ganja)
- 2nd Army Corps also known as Pirekeshkul Army Corps (concentrated against Armenian controlled territories and part is deployed on the Azerbaijan-Iranian border)
- 3rd Army Corps also known as Shamkir Army Corps (concentrated against Armenian controlled territories)
- 4th Army Corps also known as Baku Army Corps (covers Absheron Peninsula and the coast)
- 5th Army Corps also known as Nakhchivan Army Corps (deployed in Nakhichevan)
The Land Forces include 23 motor rifle brigades, an artillery brigade, a multiple rocket launcher brigade, and an anti-tank regiment. The IISS Military Balance reported in 2007 that the Land Forces had an estimated 40 SA-13 Gopher, SA-4 Ganef, and SA-8 Gecko air defence missile systems, with '80–240 eff.' to support the army in the battlefield. (IISS 2007, p. 157)
The Peacekeeping forces of Azerbaijan are mostly supplied from the Land Forces, though the Internal Troops of Azerbaijan do also supply some. As of March 2011, 94 peacekeepers were deployed with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. In the past, it also actively supported the peacekeeping operation in Kosovo and Iraq.
The Azeri peacekeeping unit deployed in Iraq consisted of 14 officers, 16 sergeants and 120 privates, a total of 150 troops. The unit secured the hydroelectric power station and reservoir in Al Haditha from August 2003. In December 2008, Azerbaijan withdrew the unit from Iraq.
Reportedly in December 2014 Azerbaijan created the 6th Army Corps in Nakhchivan. Karam Mustafayev became commander of the Special 6th Army Corps. The Special 6th Army Corps has been created based on the Nakhchivan 5th Army Corps to strengthen defense capability of Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, increase of combat capability of military units and formations of the Armed Forces, improve central control, reports quoting the Defence Ministry said.
The Azerbaijani Air and Air Defence Force has around 106 aircraft and 35 helicopters. The country has four major airbases. Nasosnaya (air base) has fighters, Kyurdamir Air Base a bomber regiment, Ganja Air Base transports, and Baku Kala Air Base the helicopter unit. There are also four other airbases which do not appear to have aircraft based there. These are Dollyar Air Base, Nakhichevan Airport, Sanqacal Air Base, and Sitalcay Air Base.
The Azeri Air Force uses MiG-21, MiG-23, Su-24 and Su-25 aircraft, as well as the MiG-29 purchased from Ukraine in 2006 and Il-76 transport aircraft. The MiG-29 have been designated as the standard aircraft for the AzAF. Azerbaijan is holding talks with either the People's Republic of China or Pakistan to purchase JF-17 Thunder aircraft. MiG-25s previously in service have been retired seemingly in the 2007–09 period.
Azerbaijan's helicopter force is concentrated at Baku Kala Air Base and according to the IISS consists of a single regiment with around 14–15 Mi-24, 12–13 Mi-8 and 7 Mi-2. Jane's Information Group and the IISS give figures which agree with only a single aircraft's difference. Recently, end of 2010 Russian Rosvertol announced that Azerbaijan armed forces signed a deal for 24 pieces of Mi-35M (Hind-E) gunships what would further enhance the Azeri ground attack formations.
Azerbaijan has missile and radar systems intended to defend Azeri airspace. There are at least 2 divisions of S-300PMU2. Thereby the country has one of the most capable SAM surface-to-air missile system in the region. Azerbaijan also operates two S-200 (SA-5 GAMMON) batteries near Baku and Mingachevir; the S-300PMU-2 represents a logical replacement for these systems offering coverage of the majority of the nation. The country also has about 100 NATO designated SA-2 Guideline (original name S-75), SA-3 Goa (S-125 Pechora-2M), and the SA-5 Gammon (S-200) are in static installations. These may be around Baku and the central part to cover the whole Azeri aerospace.
Also in Azerbaijan there was a former Soviet early warning radar. The Gabala Radar Station was a bistatic phased-array installation, operated by the Russian Space Forces. The contract was signed in 2002 and was due to expire in 2012 where it was to be given back to the Azerbaijani government. The contract costed Russia $7 million per year. The radar station had a range of up to 6,000 kilometres (3,700 miles), and was designed to detect intercontinental ballistic missile launches as far as from the Indian Ocean. In December 2012 Russia announced that negotiations had been unsuccessful and that they had stopped using the radar station. The site was given back to Azerbaijan and all the equipment dismantled and transported to Russia. Nowadays, Russia covers the area from the Armavir Radar Station.
Training and education
Azerbaijani pilots are trained in the Azerbaijan Air Force School and then develop their skills in operational units. Azerbaijan has an experience exchange with Turkey, Ukraine, the United States and a number of NATO countries. The Turkish Air Force School has a great role in the training of Azeri military pilots. Azerbaijani pilots are also trained in Ukraine's Pilot Training School.
The main naval base of the Soviet Union in the Caspian Sea was based in Baku. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Azerbaijan inherited the naval base and parts of the Caspian Fleet. The Azerbaijan Navy has about 2,200 personnel. The navy has a Petya class light frigate, Qusar (G 121), and a number of patrol craft, including one Turk class, Araz, P 223, one Brya (Project 722) class, P 218, one Shelon (Project 1388M) class, P 212, one Poluchat class (Project 368), P 219, one Luga class (Project 888), T 710, and four Petrushka (Polish UK-3 class), P 213, P 214, P 215, and P 216. There are four minesweepers consisting of 2 Sonya class minesweeper and 2 Yevgenya class minesweepers. (Jane's Fighting Ships 2010)
The Navy is also attributed with 5 landing craft, 3 Polnochny and 2 Vydra,(IISS 2007) plus three research ships, 1 Project 10470, A 671, ex Svyaga, 1 Balerian Uryvayev class survey vessel (AG) and one Vadim Popov class survey vessel (AG).
The U.S. Navy has helped train the Azeri Navy. There is also an agreement to provide US support to refurbish Azeri warships in the Caspian Sea. In 2006, the US Government donated 3 motorboats to the Azerbaijani navy. In 2007 an agreement between Azeri Navy and a US military company was concluded, which stated that a part of the Azeri Navy would be equipped with advanced laser marksmanship systems. The US company specialists were also to give training on the use of the new equipment. A number of separate U.S. programmes are underway under the Caspian Guard Initiative, focused mostly on enhancing Azerbaijani and Kazakh maritime border security.
The Naval Intelligence of Azerbaijan maintains the 641st Special Warfare Naval Unit. The special forces were trained by the U.S. Navy SEALs Unit 641 has several midget submarines such as Triton-1M and Triton 2 at their disposal as well as underwater tool motion for individual divers. The special unit is composed of 3 reconnaissance groups, 2 groups for mountainous warfare and one diving group. Obligatory training includes parachute jumping day and night, on land and on water.
The Ministry of Defence Industry of Azerbaijan directs domestic military supplies for Azerbaijan. It was established in 2005. The Defence Industries Ministry subsumed the State Department for Military Industry and for Armaments and the Military Science Center, each of which was formerly a separate agency within the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry.
The defense industry has emerged as an autonomous entity with a growing defense production capability. The ministry is cooperating with the defense sectors of Ukraine, Belarus and Pakistan. Along with other contracts, Azerbaijani defence industries and Turkish companies, Azerbaijan will produce 40mm revolver grenade launchers, 107mm and 122mm MLRS systems, Cobra 4×4 vehicles and joint modernization of BTR vehicles in Baku.
The major military companies of Azerbaijan are:
- RPE Iglim, aviation and shipbuilding
- Radiogurashdirma, communication means and radio-electronic
- RPE Neftgazavtomat, devices and automation systems for monitoring technological processes
- RPE Automatic Lines, non-standard equipment and products for application in electrotechnical and machine engineering
- Avia-Agregat, multi-purpose aviation equipment, various airdrome conditioners, universal container of board conductor, air-to-air radiators, fuel-oil, air-to-air heat exchangers and ventilators 
In early 2008, reports indicated that an agreement with Turkey had been signed which would lead to Azerbaijan producing armoured personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles, and small calibre artillery pieces.
The military education system in Azerbaijan contributes to the strength of the armed forces by ensuring the loyalty of cadets to security and defense of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The purpose of these military institutions is to train soldiers, officers, and non-commissioned officers to have independent and creative thinking and commitment to the Azerbaijani people and the government. military education in the Azerbaijani Armed Forces have been described as either being Secondary education, Further education, or Higher education.
List of military institutions
- War College of the Armed Forces
- Training and Education Center of the Armed Forces
- Azerbaijan Higher Military Academy
- Azerbaijan Higher Naval Academy
- Azerbaijan Higher Air Force College
Azerbaijan cooperates with about 60 countries in the military-technical sphere and has an agreement on military-technical cooperation with more than 30 countries.
In December 2009 an agreement on military assistance was signed by Turkey and Azerbaijan. The agreement envisions Ankara's supplying Azerbaijan with weapons, military equipment and, if necessary, soldiers in case war with Armenia over Karabakh resumes.
Turkey has provided Azerbaijan with infantry weapons, tactical vehicles (jeeps, trucks, etc.) professional training, military organization, technology transfer, licensed military hardware production and other services. Due to help from Turkish specialists and instructors, thousands of Azerbaijani officers have been trained to western standards.
The military position as international importance of Azerbaijan increased with agreement between Azerbaijan and Turkey on the participation an Azerbaijani peacekeeping platoon in the staff of Turkish battalion in Kosovo.
Since 1992 Azerbaijan and Turkey have signed more than 100 military protocols, some of the major protocols include:
- Cooperation of staff members
- National security cooperation in the topographical area
- Forming and training of profession school of forces kind of Baku
- Carrying out of the material and technical purchasing
- Military industry cooperation
- Development of the 5th Army Corps also known as Nakhchivan Army Corps in Nakhchivan
- Cooperation in the area of military history, military archives and museum work and military publication
- Assistance on training, material and technical between the Azerbaijan Border Guard and the Turkish Armed Forces.
- Long-term economical and military cooperation and application of the financial aid
- Application of material and technical provision
In May 2011, Azerbaijan had discussed the purchase of long-range rockets from two Chinese companies, the minister of the defence industry has said. Other arms deals were signed with Turkey. Turkish Defence Minister Vecdi Gonul and Yaver Jamalov signed a protocol of intent on future joint production of two types of output – 107-mm rockets and the national rifle, possibly the Mehmetçik-1. A protocol of intent was signed the same day with the Mechanical and Chemical Industry Corporation MKEK on the joint production of 120-mm mortar launchers. This project will come into force in a few months time. Agreement has also been reached with Turkish company Aselsan on the production of some types of defence output in Azerbaijan, specifically the latest types of weapons' sights. These projects will probably happen in the near future too. Recently, Turkish defense industries secretariat told that an export version of the T-155 Firtina self-propelled howitser is almost done and could start production. T-155 has been powered by a German MTU power pack, which restricts the sale to some countries like Azerbaijan. The Turkish manufacturer MKEK, has announced that they have found an alternate supplier for the power pack where Azerbaijan showed interest to buy the high tech, more capable 155mm 52 caliber from Turkish authorities.
Section 907 of the United States Freedom Support Act bans any kind of direct United States aid to the Azerbaijani government. Since a waiver was made in 2001 there has been extensive U.S. military cooperation with Azerbaijan. This has included Special Forces and naval aid, consultations with United States European Command, and linkages through the U.S. National Guard State Partnership Program.
On 19 May 2006, Azerbaijani Defense Minister Safar Abiyev and the then commander of United States Air Forces in Europe General Tom Hobbins met in Baku to discuss military cooperation. He said the objective of his visit was to become familiar with the state of Azerbaijani armed forces. Hobbins pointed to the progress made in the NATO-Azerbaijan relations, saying that the successful implementation of the NATO Partnership for Peace program in Azerbaijan has brought the country even closer to the alliance. He said that the two countries' air forces will expand cooperation.
The U.S. state of Oklahoma is linked with Azerbaijan through the U.S. National Guard State Partnership Program (SPP). Oklahoma National Guard troops have been sent on training and humanitarian missions to Baku.
Russia is Azerbaijan's main arms supplier. "As of today, military and technical cooperation with Russia is measured at $4 billion and it tends to grow further," President Ilham Aliyev said after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Baku in 2013.
Azerbaijan and Israel cooperate on numerous areas of the defense industry. Azerbaijan has shown great interest in Israeli technology over the years. In particular, an agreement was reached over the construction of the factory of intelligence and combat drones in Azerbaijan.
The Israeli defense company Elta Systems Ltd has had cooperation from Azerbaijan in building the TecSAR reconnaissance satellite system, which can take high-definition photos of ground surfaces in all weather conditions. According to Azerbaijani military experts, the TecSAR system will be indispensable for military operations in the mountainous terrains of Azerbaijan.
As of June 2009, Israel and Azerbaijan had been negotiating on the production of Namer armoured infantry fighting vehicles in Azerbaijan. There is no further information as to whether any agreement has been made.
Both countries treat a nuclear I.R. Iran as security threat.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Azerbaijan actively cooperate on defence institutional reforms and have developed practical cooperation in many other areas. Azerbaijan's Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) and its Partnership for Peace (PfP) linkages lay out the programme of cooperation between Azerbaijan and NATO.
The Azerbaijani government has however delayed implementing IPAP-recommended reforms, however, in part at least because no decision had been taken to seek NATO membership. This is because Azerbaijan's foreign policy 'seeks to balance interests with the U.S., EU, Russia and Iran.'
According to a NATO diplomatic source some key officials at NATO headquarters in Brussels were pushing hard for engaging Azerbaijan on the membership question. "Turkey, Romania, Italy, Poland, the United Kingdom and the Baltic states," are among the member-states also backing a fast track for Azerbaijan's NATO membership.
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