At the crossroads of Eastern Europe, Western Asia and the Middle-East, Azerbaijan provides an interesting mix of Islamic culture and Russian habits. The country first proclaimed its independence in 1918, although it became part of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics (USSR) only two years later. In August 1991, independence was gained again, but the next month, the Armenian majority in the province of Nagorno-Karabach seceded from Azerbaijan, which led to the Nagorno-Karabach War with neighbouring Armenia. By the end of the war in 1994, not only Nagorno-Karabach, but seven adjacent districts formed a de-facto independent republic, not recognized by any other country. Despite international support for Azerbaijani claims, the conflict remains unsolved and has dominated Azerbaijan’s foreign policy and military development ever since.
As a republic of the USSR with great strategic value and rich oil reserves, Soviet armed forces could be found in abundance in Azerbaijan. By the time the USSR was dissolved, important aviation units were based at Nasosnaya (MiG-25, 82 IAP), as well as 882 ORAP at Dəllər (Dallyar, Su-24MR, MiG-25RB), 286 OVE at Dəllər (Mi-8), 976 BAP at Kürdəmir (Kyurdamir, Su-17M), 80 OShAP at Sitalçay (Sitalchay, Su-25), 300 OSAE at Qala (Kala, Be-12, Ka-27, Mi-8) and an airborne regiment at Gəncə (Ganca) with Il-76s. Additionally, an Air Repair Centre at Nasosnaya performed overhaul on Soviet MiG-25s.
Photo: Yigit Cicekci
After independence, the newly founded Azerbaijani armed forces were ill-prepared to go to war over Nagorno-Karbach. The army could not prevent that most Soviet aircraft were flown to Russia and other CIS-states. Apart from a few dozen MiG-25s and twelve Su-24MRs, only a handful of Su-25s and a relative small number of helicopters remained for offensive missions. This lack of a significant Close-Air Support (CAS) capability contributed to the disastrous outcome of the conflict for Azerbaijan.
Photo: Yigit Cicekci
Fuelled by its huge oil-reserves, from the early 2000s, the Azerbaijani government however started to invest huge sums in the armed forces and modern capabilities. In particular Ukraine (which provided upgraded variants of MiG-29s, and Mi-24s) and Israel (UAVs and technology) became important suppliers. More recently, and even ambiguously, Russia, which holds a considerable military presence in Armenia, delivered large numbers of Mi-17 and Mi-35 helicopters. The source of many individual aircraft however remains unknown, in particular no less than 100(!) An-2s in use by the army - border guard.
The Azərbaycan Hərbi Hava Qüvvələri (HHQ) operates from three main bases, being Qala (helicopters), Kyurdamir (offensive), Nasosnaya (defensive, training). UAVs are based at Lokbatan, just west of Baku. The air force was officially founded in 1919, so next year will see the 100th anniversary of the HHQ, let’s hope this will be celebrated in the same fashion as the 100th anniversary of the armed force in 2018. Close ties are kept with Turkey and bilateral training exercises have benefited the combat readiness of the HHQ.
Photo: Erwin van Dijkman
The Dövlet Serhed Xidmeti (DSX) is literally the state border service, but can be regarded as the army, tasked with guarding the border, or re-instate the pre-conflict border with Armeniai if you wish. The DSX was founded on 31 July 2002 and has since seen massive aircraft purchases. Dozens of Mi-17s, two dozens of Mi-35s and huge fleet of An-2s used as drones, partly to confuse and lure enemy air defence into a response at a low cost target. Main bases of the DSX are Qala (Mi-17, Mi-35), Səngəçal (Sangachal, An-2, Mi-17) and Yevlax (An-2). The coast guard is also part of the DSX.
The Daxili Qosunlar (DQ) is one of many forms of police in Azerbaijan, tasked with internal security, and are the descended of the Soviet-era MVD. They are expected to deal with maintaining public order, solving internal armed conflicts and safeguard Azerbaijan’s oil facilities. In wartime, they will be commanded by the army to safeguard vital infrastructure. The main aviation base of the DQ is situated in the Biləcəri (Bilacari) suburb of Baku.
The Xüsusi Dövlet Mühafize Xidmeti (XDMX) is the special state protection service, tasked with the organization and protection of the President and government institutions, like the parliament, cabinet ministers etc. The XDMX has a brand-new heliport in the Badamdar district of Baku.
The state emergency services (Fövqəladə Hallar Nazirliyinin) are modelled on its Russian counterpart MChS and are equipped to deal with natural disasters. The FHN operates the sole Beriev 200 fire fighting aircraft exported so far, alongside a number of Ka-32s and Mi-17s from bases in and near Baku.