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Assessing Azerbaijan’s S300 Systems

October 20, 2015

By Masis Ingilizian

az1

Photo Courtesy Sean O’Connor

Confirmed Operational Status

Since the installation of two S300PMU2 in Azerbaijan, photos and imagery have confirmed reports of the operational capability and combat readiness of the S300PMU-2 systems. Sean O’Connor spotted the systems in late 2012. Detailed ongoing coverage by IMINT Analysis of the increasing possibility of the resumption of conflict in Nagorno Karabagh has included updates on these systems, including the above imagery and its location. Bellingcat has continued with the Caucasus updates, drawing on the contribution of experts from IMINT Analysis.

The geopolitical and tactical capabilities of the S300PMU-2 have a negative impact on the current balance in the region. Armenia’s Scud B ballistic missile inventory, which was kept secret with its transfer to Armenia in 1996 through to 2011, was Armenia’s only leverage in the arms race between the two countries. Scud B ballistic missiles were capable of bringing the war to a possible early end, due to their 300km range that gave them the ability to strike Azerbaijan’s oilfields. Experts have argued that such a strike would only impact Azerbaijan psychologically, as 24 missiles would need to their hit target for there to be any substantial military and strategic impact. While this is still enough to warrant intervention by major powers in a war, with oil profits going up in smoke, the new S300PMU2 systems currently stationed in Azerbaijan neutralize any ballistic capabilities Armenia has acquired in its attempt to keep up with Azerbaijan’s larger military budget.

Open Source confirms the existence of Armenian Scud Bs, with reports of up to 24 missiles with 8 launchers. However, eight simultaneously launched missiles are not sufficient to overwhelm Azerbaijan’s two S300PMU-2 batteries, which are able to simultaneously launch 12 missiles to counter any Armenian ballistic threat. Azerbaijan has pushed for another order of batteries to fully secure the safety of its oilfields.

Azerbaijan has effectively secured sophisticated air defence capacity against Armenia and its southern neighbour Iran, and against any other potential threat that may arise – even a major power intervention. Oil interests in the region are a priority and, by acquiring the capacity to strike Azerbaijan’s oilfields, Armenia played a card that gave it momentary advantage against Azerbaijan’s much larger military threat. However, Azerbaijan has now firmly secured itself as a major player in the region, not only militarily but also geopolitically, with its current enhanced operational capability and the ability to shoot down various highly sophisticated air targets.

Masis Ingilizian

Masis Ingilizian is a researcher at the Australian Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. He was previously a regular contributor for the publication IMINT Analysis edited by Sean O’Connor. His research focuses on the Caucasus, Iran and Russia, spanning the fields of strategic warfare, geopolitics and geostrategy. Masis tracks developments in the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict and provides ongoing insight into the geopolitics and growing tensions in the region, using imagery and photos for analysis. He also writes on the foreign policies of both Russia and the West.

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18 Comments

  1. Artsakh Will Win

    So just because Azerbaijan has a couple missile systems it “has now firmly secured itself as a major player in the region, not only militarily but also geopolitically”?? LOL

    If that was true, they would have invaded Armenia already. Azerbaijan is not a “major player” in the region, it is the parasite of the west, and nothing more. Sooner or later it needs to be put out of its own misery.

    Reply
    • Andrea

      Artsakh Will Win => openly support armenia

      What is a “major player” supposed to be ? (you missed REGIONAL)
      Does it imply to attack attack attack ?
      The are now capable of protecting their interests and therfore can now change foreign/war policy without fear of aggression (protect petrodollars = stay alive)

      Reply
      • tripletroll

        Given the attrition rates for a surprise attack. Nope they can’t. That’s why Bellingcat should stick to tautology, not military analysis.

        Reply
    • Timo

      You armenians are so sick minded that you think if someone is stronger ,then must invade the neighbours teritorry.Azerbaijan never wants to invade Armenia or any other country around.The only thing Azerbaijan wants is to take back its internationally recognized teritorries(Karabakh) that have been invaded by armenian invaders.

      Reply
  2. Mark Thomason

    There are some very strange things about this report.

    Russia supplied the Scuds to Armenia. Russia has sided with Armenia, while Azerbaijan has sided with the West, especially against Iran, but also for spying bases looking into Russia. The Russians have recently harassed the Azeri oil shipments, even seized a tanker.

    Both Iran and Russia are suspected to have designs on Azerbaijan.

    Yet the Russians have also made some moves to help the Azeris. The Russians are concerned about border security there for Muslim terrorists, and the Azeris help with that.

    The Russians are very much on both sides with Azerbaijan, but mostly against. So now they provide a missile system to protect against the missiles they supplied? Perhaps it is just to get the oil money for defense products.

    If I were in charge of Azeri defenses, I wouldn’t trust those anti-aircraft/anti-missile missiles to work against anyone they were meant to work against.

    Reply
    • Эмиль

      Mark Thomason,абсолютно верно.Коды этих российских С-300 находятся у русских.И именно они решат можно запускать ракеты или нет,а не турки.Израильтяне грузин так подставили с беспилотниками,когда в 2008 году русские разгромили Грузию.Евреи попросту изменили коды и беспилотники не удалось запустить,хотя они были куплены грузинами у Израиля. Перевод моего поста ищи в Google

      Reply
  3. Syava

    Peace to all! The missiles of which you write, older readers of this article. If you remember correctly rocket Scud 1970-1975 model year.

    Reply
  4. James

    Azerbaijan is clearly in the right here.
    Internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan has been violated by Armenia and has been occupied for decades. Hard to argue the facts. Azerbaijan will take its territory back, it’s just a matter of time.

    Reply
    • Эмиль

      James-Мамед,эту сказку вам уже 25 лет долдонят.Когда рак свистнет на горе,тогда турки закавказские и победят армян.

      Reply
  5. Someone who knows better

    Lets get a few things straight for both Azeri’s and Armenian’s If anyone wants to argue or reply to this comment, try cause I probably wont reply. But specifically for the comment made above I really would like to provide my opinion and I will do that at the end.

    1. There will be no WAR! This is in the imagination of patriotic peasants who have no reality of war, and this goes especially goes for Azeri’s, but both sides are culprits.
    2. At the very least 5 of the districts outside of the autonomous region of Karabagh sooner or later in some way or fashion will be returned(I’m not saying how, maybe war maybe through negotiation I DONT KNOW)
    3.The autonomous region of Karabagh will always remain under the jurisdiction of Karabagtsi Armenian’s and will join Armenia through various corridors and will be a part of Armenia.
    4. And thats it. It really is that simple. If anyone thinks otherwise, I really feel sorry for them, its obvious people don’t understand international law, nor codes in politics or even basic principles of what is going on in the negotiations. Negotiations can bring out interesting results but this is the base of it.

    But if you want to talk about Azerbaijan’s military power, and its geopolitical power, I’m just curious if you have been reading the articles posted or the general advances that Azerbaijan has made. OR you just woke up one morning and felt patriotic and just felt like saying something for the sake of it. These articles have provided you in detail, with imagery and evidence of its upgrades and advances and you know better?. And if somehow Azeri’s think that this is a good thing, well your just as stupid wasting money although it does provide and create jobs, I agree with that. But refer to number 1 and more importantly I’m not getting into a conversation regarding that. My reply is aimed at how the first comment is so offended in Azerbaijani advances…Lol! I think Armenians who write comments as such need to fatham that maybe they falling behind in the arms race…

    Reply
  6. Robert

    Considering this article has been written by an ethnic Armenian, it’s bias is not surprising. Would look for serious objective reporting elsewhere.

    Reply
    • David Davidian

      “Robert”, note that this article was re-posted on News.az as “Azerbaijan firmly secured itself as major player in South Caucasus – Bellingcat”. Given the level of state-control on the press and journalism in Azerbaijan, a pro-Armenian biased article would not be re-published in News.az.

      Yerevan, Armenia

      Reply
  7. David Davidian

    An interesting but inconclusive report. I note that Ingilizian uses Open Source confirmation of 24 Armenian Scud Bs. What we don’t know is the total number of Scuds that exist nor the numbers at specific modification levels to compare with Azerbaijani S300s. We also don’t know about other Armenian weaponry that can cause damage especially if launched from the high mountains of eastern Nagorno-Karabakh at the same time as the “scant 24 Scuds” as reported, to ascertain any S300 reactive capabilities. While the arithmetic presented looks challenging for Armenia, this may be an analysis from the top of an iceberg and not nearly accurate enough to conclude any kind of dynamic missile balance.

    The destruction of various strategic sections of the multiple hydrocarbon-carrying pipelines do not require Scud missiles, nor do Baku’s oil and gas fields need be destroyed. Baku knows this well which is why for many reasons, not the least is the survival of the sultanate and oligarchic structures in Azerbaijan, they don’t intend to start a hot war. IMINT shows some the chess board but none of the strategy. Azerbaijan pays dearly in lost soldiers and usually land when Armenia responds to their aggressive behavior. This has been seen at the Armenian-Nakhichevan border and a month ago in Armenia’s Tavish region at the Azerbaijani border.

    It is not clear why Bellingcat/Ingilizian is making conclusions based on incomplete information.

    Yerevan, Armenia

    Reply
    • Masis

      1. You said correctly I use open source reporting, so the above article is very conclusive regarding the information we have. Drawing parallels, or perhaps making strategic claims on information that has not been confirmed is something that this article does not address. Read the heading, “Assessing Azerbaijan’s S300 capability.” ???

      2. If we are talking about the number of Scud’s in Armenia’s inventory, firstly I don’t doubt that they are kept secret and that the Scud’s cannot be spotted in imagery due to there location and underground storage. More importantly if Armenia did have a a larger number of ballistic missiles it is just as easy for Azerbaijan to keep another battery of S300PMU2 underground in a possible bunker, set up time of new S300 are mere 5 minutes. The article addresses these issues in a succinct manner rather than a tit for tat analysis. Furthermore these articles are a series, which over time cover many aspects of the conflict. The series start from IMINT, and are ongoing, certain caps in the article will be covered. This article is reporting purely on the Scud missiles Vs S300PMU2. !!!

      3. We can argue back and forth regarding S300PMU2 capabilities against Scud missiles and their potential upgrades and jamming technology. But perhaps an analysis of these issues is due.

      4. I repeat this article does not address a full strategic analysis of possible resumption of hostility. It does not consider other possible armament such as Iskanders in Armenian inventory as they have not been spotted as yet, nor other weaponry, it is out of scope for this article.

      5. An article showing the strategy plus the chess board is due, though this website attempts to deal with facts rather than predictions. My final analysis regarding Azerbaijan geopolitical status proves to the world their aggressive stance in the region and unwillingness to compromise. But again this article does not address these issues.

      6. Firepower that can destruct various strategic locations in Azerbaijan again is out of scope for an article. This article is based on air defense, larger theater of war, ballistic capabilities…

      7. If where talking about more powerful arsenal, I really doubt that Armenia in particular will show of their inventory and that it will be kept secret.

      8. I agree there will be no hot war, this has more to do with the fact that there is nothing to gain for Azerbaijan and think tanks and government officials are totally aware of this, unfortunately not the people of Azerbaijan. Even if Armenia invited them to Karabagh, let alone breaking through 3 lines of defense what will Azerbaijan do? Start a genocide, wipe out the Armenians and resettle the territory, or live besides Armenians after starting a war with them and live happily ever after…

      9. And lastly for the comment above, for Robert, where do you think the bias is in this article…?

      Reply
  8. Grigor

    The article has laughable conclusions. The author assumes without basis that he knows everything about Armenian military capabilities and that his version is the only option available to harm Azerbaijani war machine if the war brakes out in the region. C’mon, let’s get serious ladies and gentlemen.

    There are more ways than one to defeat Azerbaijani war machine in time of war and no, Armenia has not fallen behind the Azerbaijani military capabilities. The balance of power in the region is and will be maintained until it no longer fits the interests of major powers outside of the region. Until then, the war is not on the horizon.

    Reply
  9. Objective Dude

    Having superior weapons doesn’t guarantee victory. Some arab nations in 1960’s had weapons much more superior to Israeli arsenal, but they got beat up pretty badly in the battlefields many times over. This past historical precedence is enough proof of that fact, that superior weapons don’t correspond to superior performance in the battlefield. Soldiers on the battlefield on the day of the battle eventually are the decisive factor. You can also go back to the 1940’s, when the Russians had many superior weapons but got defeated so spectacularly by the Germans for several years. OK, the most relevant example is 1990’s Karabakh war itself, when the Azeris had so much more superior weapons and in such huge quantities, and yet, they got defeated so badly. It (victory) all boils down to initiative, intelligence, organization, training, motivation, tactics, strategy, courage, preparations. These are things that historical precedence tells us don’t belong to the armies of muslim and/or oil wealthy countries in general. I hope peace will come to this region so that mothers on both sides won’t have to shed tears again.

    Reply
  10. Pronobis

    And when an article on Armenian Iskander which are bought “for the sake of global peace” ? Ingilizian must be an Armenian. Lack of neutrality, Mr Higgins

    Reply

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