Yet more lessons learned from a recent war


We’ve examined last year’s Armenia-Azerbaijan war over the Nagorno-Karabak enclave in two previous blog posts.  Now comes an article over at American Partisan, looking at what we can learn about strategy and tactics in a highly technological hostile environment.

The Second Nagorno-Karabakh War was fought between Armenia and Azerbaijan from September 24 to November 10, 2020. This 44-day war resulted in a decisive military victory for Azerbaijan. Armenia was out-fought, out-numbered, and out-spent and lost even though they controlled the high-ground in a mountainous region that favored traditional defense. Azerbaijan’s alliance with Turkey, and close technological support from Israel, strategically isolated Armenia. In addition, Turkey’s posturing influenced the Russians not to intervene to support Armenia. That Azerbaijan attacked Armenia during the pandemic was an additional factor. The fact that Azerbaijan won the war is not extraordinary, considering the correlation of forces arrayed against Armenia. What is exceptional is that this was the first modern war primarily decided by unmanned weapons … Here are ten lessons derived from a deep study of the open-source information about the conflict.

1. KNOW YOURSELF AND KNOW YOUR ENEMY: The First Nagorno-Karabakh War was a protracted conflict fought between1988 to 1994. The war ended in Armenian victory and the occupation by Armenia of most of Nagorno-Karabakh. The Azerbaijanis didn’t want a repeat of that disaster. They researched their opponent, studied recent changes in the methods of war, adopted the latest weapons and proven tactics from Turkey!s experience in Syria and Libya, and trained their forces. Azerbaijan foresaw a niche advantage over their enemy and outspent Armenia six-to-one, investing more than $24 billion in the decade before the war to purchase the latest Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), UCAV, and LM technology from Turkey and Israel. One of the primary lessons of the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War is to “know yourself and know your enemy,” and act on that knowledge.

. . .

3. DOMINATE AS MANY DOMAINS AS POSSIBLE: Azerbaijan fought in all five domains (land, sea, air, cyber, and space), while Armenia fought in the land, air, and cyber domains. Azerbaijan used Turkish satellites and accessed commercial satellites for data transmission and information. Azerbaijan commanded the land, air, space, and cyber domains for decisive moments during the first two weeks of the fighting to devastate Armenian air defenses and this gave Azerbaijan air supremacy over Nagorno-Karabakh. From that moment on, the Azerbaijanis continued to fight in all domains to their advantage. The ability to see, decide, and engage in multiple domains, and dominate the ones that matter during decisive periods, is the essence of war in the 21st century.

. . .

5. THE BATTLESPACE IS TRANSPARENT: Azerbaijani sensors, mostly mounted on UAVs, gave the Azerbaijani military a clear, 24-hour, unblinking view of the battlespace. Armenian positions that were camouflaged in the traditional way, were still identified by electro optical and thermal cameras. Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) platforms were merged with strike capability in the forms of the TB2 and HAROP. High-definition, full-motion-realtime videos from these platforms provided ISR, destroyed systems and personnel, and provided accurate battle damage assessments (BDA). Although both sides had plenty of tanks, it appears that tanks seldom got within shooting range and most engagements were fought at stand-off distances. Combined arms can still be decisive, as air platforms cannot take and hold ground, but only if ground forces survive long enough to move within direct fire range. During the war, there were more standoff engagements, than close combat fights.

There’s more at the link.  Highly recommended reading, particularly for military technology buffs and those focusing on strategy and tactics for the modern battlefield.

As I’ve said before, in military technology terms, I daresay I’m a dinosaur.  During my military service, and in combat, I used the technology of the 1970’s and 1980’s.  That’s now so far out of date that it probably would not be survivable on a modern, hi-tech battlefield.  Iraq was completely outclassed using Soviet technology of the same vintage against US and coalition forces in the First and Second Gulf Wars.  Now, using it would be like shooting fish in a barrel for more advanced opponents.  Gives me a nasty itching feeling between my shoulder blades . . .



  1. And, yet, the beauty of the American soldier is that he is adaptable and intelligent, and willing to stick his neck out on occasion.
    The kids actually do have tech – their phones, tablets, and other tech, including drones – and are very good about improvising. In a pinch, if the command lets them go, they could prove the edge that is needed.

  2. Good article.

    Key issue seems to be no cheap highly effective anti uav systems yet.

    Saudis are running into similar issues with “Yemeni” Uav’s, where they are using aircraft to shoot down.

  3. From a mailing list I may be on:

    Apparently many of the digital/security cameras in Gaza have been turned off, based on data gathered by Israeli security company AirEye.Tech.

    For example, Shodan also shows a drop of 80% in such devices in Gaza.

    If Israel had used these devices to collect Visual Intelligence or establish a beachhead into networks, that specific source has now been burned.

    Interestingly, Israeli news site ynet reports Israeli towns next to Gaza are asked to disconnect their own (such) devices from the Internet.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *