The Second Nagorno-Karabakh War: A Milestone in Military Affairs

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By December 16, 2020 

Mideast Security and Policy Studies Paper #184

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The recently concluded six-week-long Second Nagorno-Karabakh War fought by Armenia and Azerbaijan was a milestone in military affairs, as it was the first conflict in which unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) won a war from the air.

Azerbaijan’s UAVs obliterated Armenia’s formidable array of ground-based air defenses, after which they systematically decimated Armenia’s ground force matériel, including tanks, artillery pieces, and supply trucks. This onslaught forced Armenia to accept a humiliating ceasefire imposed by Russia.

It is not entirely clear at this time how this feat of arms was achieved, but it appears that the key to the spectacular victory of Azerbaijan’s unmanned air power may have been electronic warfare that blinded Armenian radar, thus facilitating the destruction of its air defense batteries.

The war offered a glimpse of future battlefields on which unmanned weapons and electronic warfare might predominate. Israel should learn the lessons offered by this war and prepare its ground-based air defenses as well as its combat aircraft forces accordingly.

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Uzi Rubin
Uzi Rubin
Uzi Rubin was founding Director of the Israel Missile Defense Organization, which managed the Arrow program. He is now a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. Email: urubin1@012.net.il
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