Powerful army turns country to impregnable fortress
By Sara Rajabova
June 26 marks the 97th anniversary of the establishment of the South Caucasus’ most powerful army –Azerbaijan's Armed Forces.
Today, the Azerbaijani Army is one of the strongest, most highly-disciplined armies in the world and the leading in the region. It is equipped with new high-quality weapons made by domestic and foreign military-industrial systems.
The development of the military is under special focus in Azerbaijan, a country, whose twenty percent of internationally-recognized territory has been under Armenian occupation for over 20 years. Azerbaijan remains in a state of war with Armenia.
The Azerbaijani armed forces, which is today considered the most modern army in the Caucasus, consists of the Air Force, Air Defense Forces, the Navy, and the Land Forces.
Every male in the country that reaches the age of 18, along with those that complete their university studies, are required by law to serve in the Azerbaijani Army.
The armed forces are continually modernized, reconstructed, and equipped with newest and strongest weaponry as the revenue of Azerbaijan increases.
Azerbaijan's military expenditure has developed rapidly in recent years, and in a short time, the military budget has increased more than 20 times.
Azerbaijan’s military budget for 2015 is $5 billion, which is considerably more than the last year's $3.8 billion in military expenditures. The country's military budget exceeds the overall state budget of occupant Armenia by $2 billion.
While increasing military expenses, Azerbaijan also purchased new weapons and ammunition from countries of close cooperation in the military-technical field.
Azerbaijan purchases military equipment mostly from Turkey, Israel, Russia, the U.S. etc. The country buys tanks from Russia as a part of agreements signed in 2011 and 2012.
The Azerbaijani army is supplied with modern weapons and technical equipment for maintaining a high level of combat capability. The army now possesses 120 mm portable mortars 2S12 "SANI", 220 mm heavy flamethrower systems ТОS-1А, 152 mm self-propelled howitzers "Msta-S", and 120 mm self-propelled artillery weapon 2S31 "Vena", while one military unit is completely equipped with BMP-3 type military vehicles.
Azerbaijan also supports the domestic production of the weaponry and military equipment. The country established its national military industry to avoid dependence on equipment from foreign countries. Hundreds of military equipment items are manufactured by the enterprises of the Defense Industry Ministry, which was established in 2005.
Domestic production includes the Istiglal sniper rifle, Mubariz rifle, Orbiter-2M unmanned intelligence drones, Gurza armored patrol car, "Matador" and "Marauder" armored vehicles, anti-tank mines etc.
Furthermore, more than 50 new production facilities have been built in Azerbaijan from 2007 to 2014.
Over the past few years Azerbaijan has also succeeded to modernize and strengthen its Caspian fleet inherited from Soviet times. At present, the Azerbaijani Navy is considered the second, after Russia, strongest fleet in the Caspian Sea for its capabilities, according to the Second Line of Defense Forum.
Military drills show strong combat capability, professionalism of Azerbaijani Army
Azerbaijan attaches importance to the improvement and modernization of its army's capabilities, including the level of combat efficiency both in terms of defense and attack operations.
The country pays special attention to the professional training of personnel, adapted to meet NATO standards.
Alongside the numerous military exercises inside the country, Azerbaijani armed forces also take part in various exercises conducted at the international level.
Azerbaijani armed forces have on several occasions participated at the joint military exercises with participation of Turkish and Georgian armed forces.
These exercises have proved the Azerbaijani Army’s readiness to fulfill the most complex tasks of modern war with success, showed a significant increase in its combat capability and professionalism, as well as the ability to skillfully use new weapons systems and military equipment.
The Azerbaijani Armed Forces have collaborated with NATO under the Partnership for the Peace Program since 1994 and have military cooperation with a number of foreign states.
The Azerbaijani Armed Forces’ contribution to international security and stability continues to grow.
Azerbaijan supports certain peacekeeping operations under NATO and the UN. Since September of 1994, the peacekeeping divisions of the Azerbaijan Armed Forces have served in international peacekeeping efforts forces in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Azerbaijan’s peacekeeping contingent, consisting of 34 soldiers, had successfully served in Kosovo during from 1999 until 2008 under Turkish Peace Keeping Forces of KFOR.
An Azerbaijani peacekeeping regiment, consisting of 150 soldiers and officers, has served in Iraq on the basis of a 2003 UN Security Council resolution.
Presently, Azerbaijan supports international peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan. A 94-member peacekeeping contingent of the Azerbaijani armed forces maintains security at the international airport in Kabul, within the framework of the NATO’s ‘Resolute Support’ non-combat mission in Afghanistan.
Both national and international reports on Azerbaijan's military have confirmed that Baku has increased its military focus, looking to further strengthen the role of its armed forces.
The most recent report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute confirmed that Azerbaijan's arms imports rose by 249 percent between the periods of 2005-2009 and 2010-2014.
Global Firepower, a think tank providing a unique analytical display of data concerning world military power, ranked Azerbaijan 50th among 106 countries in its most recent report, noting that the country can call upon hundreds of thousands of reservists.
Azerbaijan has strengthened its positions with forming the strongest armed forces in the South Caucasus region. The strengthening of the country’s military goes in line with the country's legal right of liberating its occupied lands by means of war should it be necessary.
Nowadays, the most important task in front of the Azerbaijani Army is to liberate occupied lands and restore the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
As the country is suffering from the occupation of its internationally recognized lands, Azerbaijan's strong military prowess should not be considered as an aggressive force but rather the expression of Baku's desire to protect its people and land.
Azerbaijan has always announced its strong loyalty to the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Azerbaijani officials have repeatedly called on Armenia to carry out the UN resolutions and abandon Azerbaijan's internationally recognized lands. This firmly approves Azerbaijan’s preference for peace.
Azerbaijani authorities also have not ruled out armed resolution to the conflict, which have continued over two decades, if peace efforts exhaust.
However, Armenia’s continuing provocations against Azerbaijan and derailment from peace negotiations makes the military solution of the conflict inevitable.
The history of the modern Azerbaijani army dates back to the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in the early 20th century. The Armed Forces of the Azerbaijan Republic were created on June 26, 1918 to protect the country from military aggression by Armenia and Russia.
The Day of the Armed Forces is celebrated annually on June 26 in Azerbaijan, in accordance with a relevant decree issued by the former President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev.