let’s get serious, just for a minute

Voluminous material by the military historian Ilya Topchey about the war in Karabakh.
Colonel Cassad, Nov 25, 13:03

50 theses on the war in Karabakh
Ilya Topchey, Expert ONline, Nov 23 2020

1. The fierce battles in Nagorno-Karabakh from September 27 to November 10, 2020 became one of the largest military clashes in the post-Soviet space in terms of the number of losses incurred by the parties (about 10 thousand killed, including civilians, over 44 days of fighting) and in terms of the intensity of losses – the average daily number of killed and alongside the forces involved: up to 200 thousand bayonets in total by the end of the conflict.

2. In Karabakh, we saw a new type of war, in which robotic, remotely controlled equipment and high-precision weapons played an important role. This conflict should become the object of close study of thinkers in specialized military institutions, primarily in terms of comprehending the balance of the forces and means used. This military campaign had the character of an asymmetric conflict, during which the opponents were at different levels of technical development and, accordingly, were looking for different methods of fighting each other.

3. It was another war of opponents with a fundamentally different level of technical development, for example, as the Americans had with the Iraqis in 2003. The Armenians, technically and tactically, remained in the 70s-80s of the XX century with tanks without reactive armor and without unmanned aircraft. The Azerbaijanis surpassed them by a generation or two; they had been preparing for revenge for a quarter of a century. The short border war of 2016 did not become the first alarm bell for the Armenians: they made only private, limited conclusions that did not correspond to the situation and the degree of danger.

4. By the time the war began, the Armenian side increased the number of armed forces of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR Armed Forces) from 18.5 thousand to 21.4 thousand people. Including 13 thousand military personnel were conscripts from Armenia and about 8,500 fighters – local natives. At the expense of the population of Karabakh, the Armenian side could summon approximately another 7-8 thousand people; the rest of the shortage would have to be replenished through mobilization from Armenia. The estimated limit for the deployment and supply of Armenian troops in the NKR was in the range of 80-100 thousand bayonets. This figure could be achieved in three weeks of intensive transfer of reinforcements along the roads leading from Armenia (with equipment; about an alternative to such transfer without equipment – below).

5. Organizationally, the Armenian troops in the NKR were brought together into two divisions and a separate command of the air defense. The first line division is the deployed 10th Mountain Rifle Division (GDM) in the front line, which included at least nine motorized rifle regiments (MRR), an artillery regiment, a tank brigade and other divisional subordination units. The second-line division, cropped, is the 18th Motorized Rifle Division, deployed as a second echelon, and at the end of the 2020 campaign had at least five mountain rifle regiments in the south. As a result, in fact, by the end of the war, the Armenians deployed a kind of mini-corps on the basis of each of the divisions, that is, the divisions, rather, had the character of administrative formations and operational commands. Given the fact that, taking into account the geography of the NKR, the Armenian side needed at least three such divisions: for operations in the north, in the center and in the south. It was also possible to form a fourth division in the rear, capable of acting as an operational reserve. That is, in organizational terms, the structure of the NKR Armed Forces was imperfect.

6. Azerbaijani troops included five army corps, four of which were located on the territory of Azerbaijan proper (1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th), and one, reinforced 5th corps, on the lands of Nakhichevan enclave. Of these, three corps and 15-16 motorized rifle brigades (MSBR), as well as other units, including tank and artillery brigades, Azerbaijan could throw into the attack on the NKR. That is, one building per direction – north, central and south. This is a more perfect and appropriate organization in comparison with the Armenian one.

In fact, with the start of the war, Azerbaijan deployed six additional second line MRBMs, transferred troops to the organizational and staffing schedules of wartime by calling in reservists and deployed reserves from the 4th reserve corps stationed in the Baku region. As a result, the Azerbaijani side threw over 20 MSBRs into the offensive (peacetime brigades – about 3,500 bayonets, military – even more), two tank brigades, artillery, mountain and special units – up to 100 thousand people at the initial stage, which grew by the final war in an army of 150,000. Thus, Azerbaijan had a threefold advantage throughout the war.

7. At the same time, the main blow was delivered in the south, where in the chain of the surrounding NKR along the perimeter of the mountains along the river Araks there was a narrow passage 10–12 kilometers wide, known as the Horadiz corridor. This passage led the bursting forces of Azerbaijanis into a wide funnel and a flat valley between the mountains, the Geyan steppe, a vast area for deployment and strike to the north, towards the main communication supplying the NKR from Armenia: the two-lane highway M-12 Goris – Lachin – Stepanakert. This is an opportunity to enter from the “back door,” reach messages and put the Armenian side in a difficult situation.

8. Strikes in the north and in the center had no prospect. The strike in the north is an action in a narrow, cramped and dead-end for large-scale deployment of the Tartar River gorge. In addition, the Armenians mined the Sarsang reservoir, and the columns advancing here would inevitably be trapped. In the center were the main forces of the NKR Armed Forces and the 10th Guards Rifle Division, located by echelon. The main warehouses of the Armenian forces and a large part of the NKR population were also located here. The assault on the central position turned into a cross-fire attack, since the terrain here is a stepped climb up the valley in the shape of a horseshoe, with the enemy riding the slopes. In addition, the main road that feeds the NKR defenses, the mentioned M-12 highway, led here, to the center. It turns out that the Azerbaijanis’ offensive on the NKR could look either as coverage with the help of flank attacks in the north and south, or as a major breakthrough in the south.

9. As a result, the blow was delivered in the south. In a narrow section of the Horadiz corridor, only 10 km to 12 km wide, the Armenians had only one 9th MRP against the main forces of the 2nd Azerbaijan Army Corps, that is, one regiment against three brigades of the first echelon only. However, despite this and the technical advantage, the Azerbaijanis rather slowly gnawed through the defense of the Armenians on the so-called Ohanyan line, encircling the NKR along the perimeter. By Oct 4, on the eighth day of the attack, they had advanced only 7 km to 8 km. However, soon the “Ohanian line” was broken through, and the attackers went out into the operational space.

10. Further, the Azerbaijanis deployed in the south on the basis of the 2nd corps a whole combined-arms army, which included at least seven to eight MCBMs, a T-90S tank brigade brought in from the 4th reserve corps, artillery and other units. Acting as a combined arms army, the 2nd corps deployed two corps groups, advancing on Hadrut-Fizuli and further on Martuni and Red Bazaar, as well as towards the Armenian border with a further turn to the north, to Lachin and Shusha, respectively. In total, up to 60k to 70k officers and soldiers by the end of the conflict (40–50% of all forces). It was this group that “made” the entire conflict as a result of the maneuver “from the back door.”

11. Azerbaijan possessed markedly better logistics, which consisted in a greater capacity of the routes that approached the contact line. The Armenians had only highways, and only the M-12 provided the lion’s share of the cargo traffic, and the rest of the routes through the passes had extremely low throughput. The Azerbaijanis, in addition to highways on the plain, had two dead-end railway tracks leading to the front. True, their throughput was also rated low. Nevertheless, Azerbaijan was deploying at least ten times more troops to the front line per day compared to the Armenians. At the same time, “behind their backs,” a few tens of kilometers from the front, the Azerbaijanis had a general railway that served as a rokada.

12. Thus, Azerbaijan received the opportunity to quickly raise its troops on alarm, quickly move to the front line, not allowing the enemy to recover, concentrate its forces and undertake a general assault on positions. This was exactly what the Azerbaijanis practiced in the “experimental” campaign of April 2016. True, then the decisive assault did not follow.

13. The Armenians did not take into account or misjudge the situation in 2016, so they were not ready for the 2020 campaign. In the north, where Azerbaijan did not have railways, they concentrated three SMEs (6th, 7th and one more, with an unknown number) against the 1st Azerbaijani army corps. And as if they did not take into account the possibility of a quick march-throw of Azerbaijanis in the south, the probability of a ramming strike “from the wheels” in the Horadiz corridor, taking into account the railway passing through the Azerbaijani territory along the Araks.

14. As a result, the Armenians lost primarily strategically and already at the initial stage of the war. Due to the better condition of the transport network, the Azerbaijanis simply outplayed them in deployment, gaining the necessary advantage in numbers and in initiative. Further measures by the Armenian side to counter the breakthrough here in the south resembled helpless attempts to extinguish a forest fire with buckets of water.

15. Meanwhile, even taking into account the available resources, the Armenian side could outplay the Azerbaijanis and survive the war, creating a dense echeloned defense. This required literally within two or three days to transfer and put into operation several tens of thousands of people in the theater of operations. According to the standards of defense, 40 km to 50 km per division, the NKR needed only four to five divisions in the first line (40k to 50k people). Despite the fact that three calculated divisions (30 thousand people) were already in a theater of operations by the beginning of the war. The transfer of additional 40k to 50k people remained impeded by the weak transport links between the NKR and Armenia. Here the option, actively used today by the same American Armed Forces, came into play: troops were transferred lightly to the storage sites of weapons and military equipment, which were already directly in the theater of operations, and received everything they needed right on the spot.

16. In the case of Karabakh, it would take about a thousand buses and covered trucks to transfer 40k to 50k Armenian conscripts “lightly” in the NKR to their places of deployment, quite a feasible task, the solution of which would fit within two or three days of the threatened period. True, with the beginning of the war, had these reinforcements not had time to enter the troops, they would have become easy targets on the march, with a high level of losses. This deployment model required the appropriate organization, infrastructure and training, which the Armenian side did not have (apparently, they did not even prepare for it).

17. The Armenian side did not deploy the maximum possible forces in the NKR. After the signing of the armistice and the end of hostilities, Pashinyan noted that a group of 20k to 30k Armenian soldiers could be surrounded to the east and southeast of Shushi. Together with the divisional grouping of the Armenian side in the north, as well as with the troops to the west of Shushi in the Lachin, Kubatly and, possibly, Zangelan directions, the Armenian side had a force of about 50 thousand people by the end of the war. Meanwhile, two deployed corps in Armenia, the 1st and 2nd army corps in Goris and Khachakhbyur, came out to the aid of compatriots who fought in the NKR only partially. And this is up to 40-50 thousand soldiers. Apparently, this was the political decision of the Armenian leadership.

18. In addition, the direct entry of the 1st and 2nd army corps from Armenia after Oct 20, when the Azerbaijani side reached the border, was hampered by their presence in the zone of destruction of UAVs and Azerbaijani artillery. Despite the fact that the timing of the movement of 40k to 50k Armenian military personnel: four deployed motorized rifle divisions based on a cropped motorized rifle regiment each, two army corps of the Armenian armed forces, along the existing mountain roads through the passes left much to be desired: about two weeks, taking into account the known the rate of movement along the indicated roads (3k to 4k people and several hundred pieces of equipment per day). During these two weeks, the Azerbaijanis could inflict serious damage on the entering Armenian units,therefore, they should have been introduced either in advance (before the Azerbaijanis reached the border in the south of the NKR), or along the safe routes of the M-12 (in the center) and M-11 (in the north) highways, or dosed, in compliance with many camouflage measures.

19. Even with the fall of Shushi and the cutting off of the main transport communication of the M-12 Goris – Lachin – Stepanakert motorway connecting the NKR with Armenia, the resources of NKR resistance were far from exhausted. With their dash across the mountains, bypassing the main roads to Shusha, the Azerbaijanis were at the stage of exhaustion and found themselves in a threatened position. The Armenians still controlled the road to the Red Bazaar and shot through the gorge of the headwaters of the Akery on the way to Lachin. In addition, if there were sufficient reserves on the territory of the NKR under the control of the Armenians, the latter could continue to wage the war in isolation, as in a vast fortified area besieged (for example, Port Arthur in 1904). Consequently, as already mentioned, the hasty winding down of the conflict became an exclusively political decision.

20. The situation was complemented by the incomprehensible position of Iran, which in forty days of conflict had transferred a 100k army to the Araks and had opposite Azerbaijan and Karabakh by the beginning of Nov 2020 at least four divisions, eight separate brigades, air defense units and a number of other formations (up to 120k to 140k bayonets in two echelons). Most of these forces were concentrated on a narrow 100 km section of the Iranian – NKR border, just in the rear and on the flank of the advancing strike group of the Azerbaijani 2nd corps. In the event that these forces entered into a conflict against Azerbaijani troops and given the potential of two Armenian army corps on the border of NKR with Armenia, which could also try to cross the mountains, the situation for the Azerbaijani 2nd corps was catastrophic on the southern face of the front. Strategically 60k or 70k. Here, Azerbaijani soldiers found themselves surrounded from three sides, under concentric attacks from the north, west and south of enemy forces, two and a half or three times superior to them.

21. However, in the end, success in the new Karabakh war was achieved not only thanks to the technical superiority and non-standard decisions of the Azerbaijani General Staff. As in the 1991 Gulf War (the example is given due to the similarity of a number of conditions), success also came with a numerical advantage. If at the end of the war in the NKR the Armenians had approximately up to 50 thousand bayonets, then the Azerbaijanis by that time had concentrated about 150 thousand servicemen against them – three times more. In the same way as against 300 thousand soldiers of Saddam Hussein in 1991, more than a million-strong coalition of countries led by the United States acted.

22. During the 44 days of the war, the Armenians transferred only 50 thousand people to the NKR (which were required for two or three days at the start of the campaign). Of these, 10k to 15k were servicemen of the regular army of Armenia, the rest were volunteers and reservists. At the same time, the limiting possibilities of highways, minus the load on supply, made it possible to transfer 130k or 170k people during this period (3k to 4k per day). Naturally, the NKR defense, which was not properly supported from Armenia, fell.

23. Examples at the strategic and operational levels of the Karabakh theater of operations illustrate the concept of “Boyd cycles” as well as “Boyd’s loop,” (OODA loop – RB) the position of the American military theorist of our time. This concept is expressed in a looped sequence: observation – orientation – decision – action. Within this sequence, Azerbaijan was ahead of the Armenian side due to its technical superiority.

24. Accordingly, the attempts of the Armenians to lure Azerbaijanis into traps at the operational level (to withdraw and flank, encircle and defeat, as in the Jebrail battle on Oct 10-11, the Zangelan battle on October 20-21, 2020), led only to defeats, high losses , loss of territory and combat capability of units, but did not knock down the pace of the enemy’s offensive. On the contrary, they only grew. On the flat terrain of the Gayan steppe, the Armenians should have completely abandoned such a course of action. In the battle of Jebrail alone, the Armenians suffered high and largely unnecessary losses, which turned out to be critical in the scale of the forces involved, an estimated 2k or 3k killed and wounded in two days of fighting.

25. Attention is drawn to the activities of the Azerbaijani General Staff, which, it is possible, was carried out with the direct supervision and consultation of Turkish colleagues. In contrast to the rather stereotyped and predictable actions of the Armenian opponents, the Azerbaijanis acted flexibly and outside the box. For example, in the case of the breakthrough through the Horadiz corridor: it was not an advance into the depths of the Gayan steppe that followed, but, first of all, actions to expand the “neck” of the breakthrough towards Hadrut and Fizuli in order to avoid Armenian counterattacks from the flank, under the base of the breakthrough. In order to combat the enemy’s fortified areas, not a direct assault on them was carried out, but first the squeezing of mobile groups of light mountain infantry and only then decisive actions. Shusha is the apotheosis of such mental activity. Passing through difficult terrain to the central fortified object of the attack without proper air support, with a series of distracting attacks on the M-12 highway between Lachin and Shusha, followed by a general assault and the occupation of Shushi itself, a strongly fortified and hard-to-reach position.

26. The losses were enormous, primarily for the Armenian side. In a day, the sides lost over a hundred people only killed. Armenian politician Mikael Minasyan said that the Armenian side lost 4,750 people as a result of the war. This could mean 20-25 thousand wounded, plus several dozen Armenians were captured. That is, the Armenians gathered up to 80 thousand armed soldiers in the NKR, and of them 25-30 thousand were lost (30-40%, a very high proportion; after deducting losses, there were about 50 thousand soldiers mentioned above). First of all, this happened due to the huge qualitative and quantitative superiority of the enemy and a series of lost battles. Azerbaijani losses were, apparently, comparable- in the range of 4k to 4.5k people only killed. Since at the beginning of the conflict Azerbaijan suffered great damage storming the “Ohanyan line,” and later Azerbaijani troops were repeatedly ambushed and suffered losses storming fortified positions.

27. In the conditions of the mountain war, heavy equipment inevitably found itself tied to road communications and various mountain passes, gorges and valleys. Under these conditions, the maneuver of the sides by “heavy” units in the theater of operations was limited and predictable, and the throughput of these communications was limited. In such a situation, the ability of “heavy” units to deliver surprise strikes and counterstrikes inevitably ran into these limitations. This became especially important for the side, which was technically in a losing position and had to seek out asymmetric methods of counteraction. In particular, the Armenian columns often arrived at the deployment lines for a long time, as a result of which the intention to launch a counter-strike was revealed, often long before the moment of readiness, and was parried. Besides,the troops as a result of this became vulnerable in narrow mountain passages and fell under fire damage, as well as were ambushed.

28. With the impossibility of using large masses of troops with heavy weapons, the tactics of light mountain infantry with portable weapons, special training and equipment became relevant. Troops capable of moving and taking positions in difficult terrain. This is a tactic of infiltrating mobile groups in complex rugged terrain, not relying on the deployed transport system used by the Chinese of the 14th Army and the PLA Special Forces during the Kokang war in Burma (Myanmar) in 2015, illegal armed groups (IAG) Chechnya in 1994-1996 and 1999-2005, as well as militants in Syria.

29. Apparently, it was for this purpose that several thousand appropriately trained Syrian fighters were brought in and used in Karabakh by the Turks, while the Azerbaijanis themselves used all their possible special forces and all available mountain infantry. Even from the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic (NAR) a special-purpose battalion was taken out.

30. Mountain infantry, armed with light small arms, light mortars, ATGM and MANPADS, as well as recoilless guns, could occupy the slopes and tops of mountains and, moving along the ridges, break through enemy defenses in hard-to-reach places, get out of the way of communication, make rounds and to set up ambushes, adjusting the fire of artillery, UAVs, MLRS and OTRK, to advance to important targets behind enemy lines (which, in fact, happened on Nov 6-10, 2020 near Shusha).

31. The tactics of the Armenian side relied on the old cumbersome system of fortified areas and massive marching columns, was unable to allocate a sufficient number of mobile rapid reaction groups and was almost powerless against enemy actions. It was, in fact, a tactic of passive defense and reaction to the actions of the enemy who owns the initiative, when much more resources were spent on counteraction than on the action itself. Even the knowledge of the terrain was not very helpful: the Azerbaijanis and the Syrians under their control often set up ambushes themselves, caught Armenian detachments, as, according to some sources, happened near Shusha in early November, when more than a hundred Armenian servicemen and militias were destroyed in one such battle.

32. However, the prospect of using light mountain infantry was limited by the difficult terrain, as well as the need to supply these units. Accordingly, decisive strikes were delivered at a shallow depth, after which the groups stopped and waited for resupply. This was the reason for the low rates of advance of the Azerbaijani side in the mountainous and foothill areas, near Hadrut on Oct 10-18, and near Shusha in late October – early November. Under the Red Bazaar, Martuni and Lachin, there was a stall at all.

33. In fact, the algorithm for the advancement of Azerbaijani troops in the mountains looked like this: the occupation of mountain peaks and ridges of mountain ranges, ensuring when interacting with artillery and UAVs, positions and mountain roads, pulling up columns with heavy equipment and artillery, occupying the target of attack, rest and stockpiling, again moving forward along the same lines. Thus, each such stage took place at a shallow depth, literally several kilometers, after which there was inevitably a stop.

34. At the tactical level, the success of the actions of the Azerbaijani side, in addition to the use of light mountain infantry, was also conditioned by the use of a combination of UAVs & self-propelled artillery. Interaction was provided by satellite navigation (Azerbaijanis created a space center in Baku and launched their first space satellite in 2013 with the support of the French). At the same time, the scale of the use of attack drones remained relatively small: some Bayraktar UAVs were in the sky, according to various estimates, 8-15 units (this is not much), not counting the “loitering ammunition” drones and others. Correction and target designation was supported by both satellite navigation and sabotage and reconnaissance groups that had gone into a breakthrough.

35. The neglect of modern and massive unmanned aircraft was the most significant failure of the Armenian side during the war. In fact, the enemy dominated the air and had a picture of the battlefield in real time, while the Armenian side found itself in the “fog of war.” Associated with this were the failures of the defenders at the tactical, operational and strategic levels, all levels of military art. Unmanned aircraft began to appear among Armenians only closer to the end of the conflict, while using outdated samples.

36. The reason for the domination of Azerbaijani UAVs in the air was also the defeat of the air defense: Armenian air defense systems became a priority target at the beginning of the war. In the future, the resulting imbalance was not evened out. In addition, the Armenian air defense system was not located and used in the best way and, as a result, had a low efficiency. The unmanned aviation of Azerbaijan, in fact, dominated the skies for most of the conflict, while official Baku used almost no or limited use of its manned aviation (planes and helicopters).

37. The Armenians used army aviation, apparently, also as interceptors, the same Su-25, but due to the lack of funds, it did not become a way out of the situation. In addition, electronic warfare, bad weather, and smoke from forest fires were used as camouflage (the parties blamed each other for setting them on fire). However, the success of countering the air threat could be ensured only with the integrated, systematic and massive use of these means, as well as with their own unmanned aircraft.

38. The weak and limited use of manned aircraft by Azerbaijan is explained by the desire to minimize the risks of losing expensive samples and pilots in the conditions of a small number of its air group. The choice was made in favor of robotic, remotely controlled equipment (the losses of which were much less critical).

39. It is noteworthy that in the work of self-propelled artillery the Azerbaijanis allocated the Czech self-propelled guns “Dana” (although Russian “Msta-S,” “Pions” and others were also used). In fact, 36 self-propelled howitzers were brought together into a separate artillery brigade, which, moving from sector to sector on the southern front, provided the appropriate results. The Azerbaijani side itself, according to her, purchased the specified self-propelled guns “for the rate of fire and other outstanding tactical and technical characteristics.” It should be noted that the Azerbaijanis did not purchase the 155-mm Firtina self-propelled guns from their main ally, Turkey. Either in Baku they avoided disunification in artillery calibers, which would be a big problem for the suppliers, or the Turks themselves decided not to transfer this model of weapons.

40. The issue of using artillery in armed conflicts of the future as a key means of achieving victory, capable of inflicting up to 80–90% of all losses in battles, is key. Taking the Karabakh war in 2020 as an example, it may mean a gradual departure from towed artillery in favor of self-propelled, large caliber (150-210 mm), used from a long distance and often changing its positions, that is, operating as much as possible outside the radius of the enemy’s weapons.

41. The Armenians were unable to start long battles in urban conditions. It should be noted, however, that there are no large cities in the NKR, the largest settlement is Stepanakert (55 thousand inhabitants before the war). The basis everywhere is low-rise buildings, without large high-rise buildings and complexes that can serve as defense centers in urbanized areas. Nevertheless, the Armenians surrendered a number of their large settlements without significant resistance (Hadrut, Zangelan), which raises some doubts about the ability to organize an adequate defense in the development. Theoretically, with the proper organization of defense, the Armenians could hold out in Stepanakert for a considerable time. An example is the successful and long-term defense of the Kurds against the Turkish army in the village of Manbij in Syria.

42. The Armenians also neglected the appropriate fortifications on the ground. Despite the fact that there was a wealth of experience to analyze actions against American mountain shelters in Iraq and Afghanistan, Israel against Hezbollah in Lebanon and so on, this experience was never taken into account. The forward positions were poorly and carelessly equipped, there were many vulnerable open positions, and the mining of the approaches was also not carried out properly.

43. Taking into account the recent war in Karabakh, as well as Israel’s campaigns in Lebanon, the following development of fortification, capable of slowing down or stalling the movement of troops on the ground, became relevant. The fortifications should look like a system of interconnecting underground tunnels, with the possibility of reaching the surface and organizing fire damage from camouflaged closed positions. Mining is still relevant. Reserve lines of defense were required: the Armenians in the rear in the Gayan steppe, despite a number of loud statements and illustrations, as if they did not exist at all.

44. By itself, such positioning is not a panacea. For example, the Americans actively used anti-bunker bombs from long-range strategic aircraft, which of course Azerbaijan did not have. In addition, it is possible to fight against the underground shelter system by detonating them with liquid explosives or by exposure to poisonous gases. Nevertheless, this defense format proved to be good, for example, in Lebanon in 2006, when the Lebanese Hezbollah was quite successful in opposing high-tech Israeli forces.

45. The disadvantage of using precision weapons is their rapid depletion. This was the case in Iraq and Libya during the campaigns of Western countries there. This raises the question of ensuring the appropriate production capacity of the military-industrial complex, export substitution, the ratio of price and mass. The same applies to appropriately trained personnel – special forces, UAV operators, and others – the loss of which as a consumable material, the inability to replace damage in a timely manner can lead to the deprivation of a number of technical advantages over the enemy and to sliding into war using conventional, standard means.

46. ​​The fall military campaign of 2020 in Karabakh showed the previous trend towards a decrease in the role of tanks and the growing importance of UAVs, ATGMs and artillery. Tanks, in fact, turned into a means of supporting the infantry, that is, they returned to the role that was assigned to them in most countries after the First World War. The use of tank subunits in the rank above a company (and often a platoon), their massive concentration turned out to be completely unjustified and only leads to an increase in losses.

47. The use of large mechanized and tank masses as a breakthrough means last proved effective in 2003, during the American invasion of Iraq. But there were quality six-lane highways, flat terrain, and no proper resistance. In addition, the Americans greatly outnumbered the Iraqis, in a number of technical parameters by two generations. And the Iraqis withdrew their troops into the field and dispersed them greatly, without creating defense centers and sufficient operational densities. Thus, the use of significant tank forces for deep operations is today possible, however, in an area appropriate for this, with a sufficiently developed transport network and subject to an overwhelming qualitative and quantitative superiority over the enemy, which, moreover, is devoid of the possibility of sufficient resistance.

48. The use of long-range and powerful missile weapons and MLRS was also not optimal. In particular, the “Smerch” MLRS from the 41st special artillery regiment of the NKR Armed Forces – Artsakh Defense Army – was stationed in the Shushi region before the war. The rocket attacks on the Azerbaijani cities of Ganja, Terter and others looked more like gestures of despair, as well as terrorist attacks and revenge for a similar fire on Stepanakert. This state of affairs is apparently caused by the lack of target designation among the Armenians, associated with the enemy’s superiority in the sky and the need to operate in the “fog of war”. The Armenians, apparently, simply did not know where to shoot, so they acted like Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War in 1991, striking the enemy’s civilian infrastructure. Besides,The Armenian side clearly lacked operational-tactical missile systems with high accuracy and low circular probable deviation (CEP), so they used, among other things, the old Elbrus missiles (according to the Western classification of the Scud) with a high CEP.

49. Attention should also be focused on the rather thorough approach of the Azerbaijani side to the information support of the operation. In fact, the deployment of troops went almost unnoticed by the media and the attack was carried out suddenly. This was significantly different even from the situation in 2016, when footage of the moving columns of the Azerbaijani army immediately got into the network, and on some resources the numbers of the units involved and their outfits were discussed. In the first days of the fighting, there was practically no leakage of information to the media from the Azeris, and then, when the conflict gained “information turnover,” the work of the Azeri side on the propaganda field was much more massive and effective than the Armenian. This indicated significant and lengthy preparatory work that preceded the immediate armed conflict.

50. The possibility of organizing a guerrilla war for the Armenian side in the event that the Azerbaijanis occupy the entire territory of the NKR seems doubtful. Firstly, during the war, practically no sabotage actions were carried out (the DRG of the Armenians almost did not operate), despite all the knowledge of the area and even in the conditions of the mountainous landscape near Hadrut and Fizuli. Secondly, the Armenians do not have its main resource for the partisan campaign, a large sympathetic population, primarily in rural areas. Already in the first three weeks of the war, most of the pre-war Armenian population of NKR, about 90k out of 150k citizens or 60%, fled to the territory of Armenia.

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