Right now, a war is being waged between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabak. It’s a minor sideshow as far as most of the rest of the world is concerned, but it’s yet another example of how Islamic fundamentalism is disrupting an otherwise peaceful area. In this case, Islamic fundamentalism in Azerbaijan is being aided and abetted by the same phenomenon in Turkey, which is supplying Azerbaijan with most of its high-tech arms and equipment.
The startling thing, to me, is the graphic evidence of how the modern battlefield has changed. In my days in uniform, sure, we were under constant threat from Soviet-supplied aircraft of the Angolan air force; but they weren’t well flown, and missed most of the time. Smart weapons weren’t usually encountered until the latter days of the Border War. As long as we camouflaged our positions well, and took basic precautions such as digging foxholes and slit trenches, we were more likely than not to emerge unscathed from Angolan air raids. Indeed, South African artillery operated for months well inside the Angolan air umbrella, and didn’t lose a single gun or crew to air attack.
Nowadays, things are very different. Here’s a video clip provided by Azerbaijan, showing how its Turkish-supplied unmanned aerial vehicles and the missiles they carry can interdict any group of Armenian soldiers they can see. It’s literally the truth for Armenia’s troops that to gather in a group, even in the protection of a slit trench or under other cover, is basically a death sentence. No matter what they do, they can be seen; and if sensors can detect them, they can be killed. There’s no longer any place to hide. Even camouflage won’t conceal them from modern sensors that can see through or around it.
WARNING: This is a very graphic video. It’s not “up close and personal”, but you’re watching many soldiers die. Nothing is “Hollywood” – it’s all real. Spare a thought for the dead and wounded, and say a prayer for them if you’re so inclined.
(If the embedded video above doesn’t play, you’ll find it here on YouTube.)
It’s sobering to realize that Turkey’s high-tech weapons, in Azerbaijani service, are currently out-performing the Russian weapons with which Armenia is equipped. Turkey has also used them to good effect in Syria, taking out several Russian-built weapon systems. Turkey is only one of many nations now making – or seeking to make – such weapons themselves. The USA used to have technological superiority in almost any area of the world. That’s no longer the case. If our soldiers have to go into combat in an environment like that, they’ll face the same dangers – and many will die because of them. Nobody has yet developed adequate defenses or countermeasures against such attacks, although many (including the USA) are trying.
This has ominous implications for the future of warfare as far as “boots on the ground” are concerned. More and more, it looks like conflict will become “drone-versus-drone” rather than man versus man. That’s bad for civilians, too – drones are unlikely to hesitate to destroy anything that moves, whereas soldiers can be trained not to target civilians.
Food for thought.