Skip to content

Azerbaijan In Still Adding To Its War Machine

June 9, 2018

President Ilham Aliyev. Via Wikimedia Commons.

With its once overflowing energy export revenues now dried up, fresh evidence has emerged of the oil-rich Caspian state’s military spending. A photo gallery released on President Ilham Aliyev’s website on June 5 revealed several types of equipment used by the armed forces.

Azerbaijan is still locked in a territorial dispute with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave that’s been under a state of siege since a 1994 ceasefire. This was used to justify a decades long arms race that has cost the rival countries untold billions of dollars. A brief war in April 2016 did little to resolve the conflict and Azerbaijan’s new weapons–imported at great cost from Israel and Russia–proved ineffective against the Armenian defenders.

Since gaining power in 2003, President Aliyev made a broad modernization of the armed forces a longstanding priority. What the defense ministry couldn’t acquire from surplus stocks in Eastern Europe resulted in deliveries from Israel, Turkey, and Russia, with each country also helping Baku establish factories to build and maintain its ever growing arsenal.


Earlier this week Aliyev paid a visit to an army base at an undisclosed location. He was accompanied by his deputy defense minister for a tour of the facilities. The terse press release described the base as a “military campus” built from 2015 until 2017. It had 28 buildings that included a headquarters, a spacious canteen, and a large parking lot.

Just like past occasions when he visited military facilities, Aliyev was taken to a large courtyard for a personal inspection curated just for himself. This time he was shown the new 2S31 Vena self-propelled 120mm mortar that utilizes the hull of a BMP-3. Readers should notice the front of an MT-LBu APC to the left of Aliyev–the vehicle is probably a “modernized” leftover from the 1990s.



The assembly of vehicles arrayed for Aliyev’s viewing pleasure included a BTR-82A. These are heavily upgraded BTR-80’s that are made in Russia. Azerbaijan ordered a large batch of these IFVs, which are armed with a 30mm cannon and a machine gun on an unmanned turret, between 2015 and 2016 with deliveries completed this year. Baku’s choice for a new wheeled APC suggests the army wanted a familiar model rather than experiment with building one locally. Improving relations with Moscow was a probable influence too since it’s such a trusted supplier of T-90S tanks and BMP-3’s.


Azerbaijan is actually one of the most loyal customers for Israeli weapons today. During the short 2016 war, for example, Baku’s forces deployed kamikaze drones against the Armenians and may have used flyover anti-tank missiles. Earlier this year Azerbaijan didn’t bother to hide its possession of Hermes 900 MALE UAVs for battlefield surveillance.

Azerbaijan’s army is also quite fond of SandCat trucks. Seen in the photo are three variants of the armored car manufactured by Plasan that’s based on a Ford F pickup. At the far end is a SandCat mounting a lightweight 120mm mortar made by Elbit Systems. In the middle is a SandCat armed with a single Spike-ER missile launcher on the roof. Last is a SandCat with a remote weapon station for an NSV machine gun and tandem Spike missiles.


A surprise appearance during Aliyev’s visit was an unidentified radar jammer for electronic warfare. The control station mounted on a 6×6 truck represents a significant leap for Azerbaijan’s air defenses and border security. There aren’t any open sources that reveal when Baku acquired jamming equipment but it isn’t much of a stretch if Russia delivered these in an undisclosed transaction.


No detail was spared during the tour and the Azeri leader even observed living quarters and the catering services, though the four-term dictator didn’t sit down for a meal in the new base his government paid for.

The frequency of Aliyev’s staged visits to government projects is far from peculiar. Just like his counterpart in Turkmenistan the whole point of these appearances is to convey his omnipresence and show how much he cares for the public good. This is useful when the economy has contracted because of plummeting oil prices. As wages and jobs stagnated in Azerbaijan, Aliyev is building infrastructure and industrial parks to attract foreign investment and diversify the economy. But this doesn’t mean he’s scrimping on the stuff he wants for the armed forces.

Comments are closed.