Defense analysts believe that Turkish and Israeli drones have helped Azerbaijan achieve decisive victory against Armenia. "Azerbaijan’s drones owned the battlefield in Nagorno-Karabakh — and showed future of warfare" says the Washington Post headline as tweeted by drone warfare expert Franz-Stefan Gady. Low-cost Azeri drones killed thousands of Armenian soldiers in Nagorno-Karabakh and destroyed hundreds of Armenian tanks and artillery pieces, giving a huge advantage to Azerbaijan and forcing the Armenian surrender. Armenian Prime Minister accused Pakistan of sending troops to help Azerbaijan in the conflict. Pakistan rejected Armenian allegations and congratulated Azerbaijan on its victory.
Azeris deployed a variety of drones in their war against Armenia to wrest control of Nagorno-Karabakh, a region that is legally part of Azerbaijan but controlled by Armenians. Azeris used Turkish Bayraktar drones which are large and reusable drones. They also Kamikaze drones made by Israel which are small and designed for one-time use in destroying targets. The small Israeli-made suicide drones are sometimes also referred to as "loitering munitions". Azeris used big old WW2 Antonov AN-2 biplanes as decoys to fool Armenian air defense systems.
Michael Kofman, military analyst and director of Russia studies at CNA, a defense think tank in Arlington, Va. is quoted by the Washington Post as saying, “Drones offer small countries very cheap access to tactical aviation and precision guided weapons, enabling them to destroy an opponent’s much-costlier equipment such as tanks and air defense systems.” “An air force is a very expensive thing,” he added. “And they permit the utility of air power to smaller, much poorer nations.”
In 2019, dozens of cheap drones were deployed against Abqaiq and Khurais oil fields to cut Saudi Aramco's production by half, according to multiple media reports. Saudi and US officials have blamed Iran for the destructive hit. This was the first time that cheap drone swarms loaded with explosives dodged sophisticated air defense systems to hit critical infrastructure targets in the history of warfare.
Small drones are hard to detect even by the most sophisticated radars. It's even harder to shoot down a drone swarm because of their small size and large numbers. After Abqaiq and Khurais attacks last year, Saudi sources revealed that 25 drones and missiles were used to hit the two sites that produced 5.7 million barrels of oil per day. The incoming low-flying small drones and missiles successfully evaded US-supplied sophisticated air defense system. Multi-billion dollar cutting edge American military hardware mainly designed to deter high altitude attacks has proved no match for low-cost drones and cruise missiles used in a strike that crippled its giant oil industry.
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