But at the moment, it is still possible to state the superiority of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces in air superiority, which the Azerbaijani Armed Forces achieved, first of all, due to drones.
The mass media are actively discussing the active use of the Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drones by the Azerbaijani army. According to some commentators, it was they who allowed Azerbaijan to achieve most of the successes in the sky of Karabakh. This is supported by a large amount of information about the quite successful use of this complex by the Turks in the skies of Syria and Libya literally in the last couple of years. Probably, the name of the drone Bayraktar TB2 now sounds loud not only in our, but also in the world press, and this fact gives such reasoning additional weight.
And yet we dare to say - this is only part of the picture. And by no means the largest and brightest. In fact, everything is much more serious, and that's why...
In fact, it can be said without exaggeration that Azerbaijan is one of the leaders of the post-Soviet space in the use and production of drones of various types. The Azerbaijani Armed Forces relied on this type of weapons at the beginning of the 2000s. Then, as the main partner in this matter, Baku chose Israel - one of the undisputed leaders in the development and production of combat unmanned aerial vehicles.
It all started with the purchase and then the production of the Orbiter 2M reconnaissance UAV - small reconnaissance drones launched from the roof of the carrier vehicle using a catapult. Its radius of action is small - only 50 kilometers. It could have been more, but it is problematic (and probably unnecessary) to install really powerful communication equipment on a light drone weighing only 9 kg. This "toy" can stay in the air for 3 hours, filming and transmitting video about the enemy's positions to the control center. Also "Orbiter 2M" can carry out target designation for missiles and shells, which makes it a full-fledged combat system. The landing of this UAV is carried out by parachute, which makes the complex very flexible and completely independent of the runways - takeoff from the launch device located on the roof of any army off-road vehicle, and parachute landing literally into the hands of operators allow using this UAV almost from the advanced positions of their troops.
Around the same time, in the 2000s, other Israeli drones Aerostar, of the same company Aeronautics Defense Systems, were purchased. These are somewhat larger UAVs, for the transportation and launch of which cargo chassis were already used. However, the principle itself remained the same, only the possibilities increased.
At the end of the 2000s, Azerbaijan was already a very active buyer of Israeli drones. According to some estimates (very rough, however), up to 40% of the funds allocated at that time by Baku for the purchase of new weapons went directly to Israeli defense concerns. And at the beginning of the next decade, in 2011, close relations between Baku and Tel Aviv developed - a joint venture was opened in Azerbaijan to assemble UAVs from Israeli components on-site. It was assumed that localization will reach 30% - not bad for a country where high-tech, and even more aviation, there was no production at all.
It must be admitted that the enterprise, which received the name Azad Systems, did not receive money for nothing - in a fairly short time, the production of both the above-mentioned UAV models and new ones was launched there. In general, Baku regularly bought Israeli UAVs of various types - drones Hermes 450, Hermes 900, Heron, Searcher 2 appeared in its arsenal. Some of them were not only reconnaissance, but also reconnaissance and shock. That is, the Azerbaijani Armed Forces had the opportunity to remotely shoot Armenian positions long before the appearance of the Turkish Bayraktar in their army.
Presumably, the Orbiter 2M complex has been replaced by a more modern and sophisticated Orbiter 3 drone. It became larger, both its aerobatic and special capabilities improved, but the ejection takeoff and parachute landing were retained. Its production was also launched at the Baku Azad Systems plant, and already in 2016, during one of the local exacerbations in Karabakh, this UAV was seen among the wreckage of drones shot down by Armenians. And during the summer confrontation this year, the Armenian army and the self-defense army of Artsakh destroyed at least 3 such UAVs.
According to unconfirmed reports, another Israeli drone known as the IAI "Harop" is also being assembled in Azerbaijan. More precisely, this is not exactly a drone, but a loitering ammunition. Unlike a UAV, it can act autonomously, simply by loitering in a given area and independently attacking targets that it was able to detect and identify. This gives the attacking side some advantages - the operator does not need to closely monitor one UAV for several hours, which means that a certain area, if necessary, can be saturated with dozens of kamikazes. In addition, the reaction time of such an ammunition to a detected target is a matter of seconds, which can sometimes be of decisive importance for the successful destruction of a target.
That is, we can state that the Azerbaijani military has been mastering a very modern and effective type of weapons for about a decade and a half. And there is nothing surprising in the fact that their opponents are suffering significant losses from Azerbaijani drones - it would be surprising if the opposite happened.
The situation is aggravated by the fact that the Artsakh self-defense forces do not have the required quantity of at least some modern air defense systems. Alas, Soviet-made complexes, such as Wasp, were not originally designed to counter targets such as small UAVs. They have problems both with their detection, because the effective reflective surface of the same Orbiter is very small, and with defeat, since drones often fly at very low altitudes, against the background of a year, rocks and using the terrain.
In addition, the effective target destruction range of the Osa complex is, depending on the situation, 8-10 kilometers. Modern surveillance and target designation equipment placed on the UAV allows detecting the air defense missile system from a greater distance and successfully aiming high-precision ammunition at it - even a missile, even an adjustable artillery projectile, or an aerial bomb. And their defeat by the "Wasp" complex and its modifications, in principle, is not provided.
Own production, albeit under Israeli licenses, makes it very difficult to accurately estimate the number of UAVs currently in service with the Azerbaijani army. Even in open sources, you can find information about more than a hundred UAVs of various types purchased and produced in Baku. But in reality, this can only be the tip of the iceberg, while in reality several hundred unmanned aerial vehicles of all types could have been produced. In addition, it is completely unclear how many kits for the production of UAVs can now be stored in the warehouses of Azad Systems, which means that it is very likely that the losses of Azerbaijani drones that have taken place can be replenished even without new supplies from Israel.
Separately, it should be said about Turkish supplies. First, it must be admitted that the Bayraktar TB2 complex is indeed the ultimate weapon for this conflict. This is a full-fledged reconnaissance and strike complex, capable of both reconnaissance of targets and hitting them independently. And if necessary, it can also aim at a target with a whole range of modern weapons, which often allows attacking targets from long distances, without ever entering the zone of operation of a weak Armenian air defense. In addition, this UAV is armed with Turkish-developed UMTAS anti-tank missiles with a tandem warhead. Yes, the loud statements of Turkish developers that this ATGM is superior to the American Hellfire and the Israeli Spike in its characteristics, let us leave it on their conscience. But it should be noted that these missiles quite easily deal with tanks that do not have modern active protection systems. They are also effective against other targets, in particular, against field fortifications, which is very important in the conditions of offensive combat operations.
Secondly, with a fairly high degree of probability we can say that these complexes are run by the Turks themselves. That is, there were no supplies, as we usually understand them. Most likely, the Turkish side simply transferred its military unit, which has significant experience in using the Bayraktar UAV, to Azerbaijani territory immediately before the start of the conflict. This seems logical against the background of how suddenly and in what quantities these drones appeared in the sky of Karabakh, and how skillfully their operators are acting. Although, of course, the Azerbaijani side will certainly resolutely refute these speculations...
At the moment, it is difficult to predict the outcome of the confrontation, especially since a lot of conflicting and mutually exclusive information comes from the scene. It is probably better to refrain from any predictions at all. But the following can be said for sure...
Taking into account the involvement of various neighboring states in the conflict, including Turkey, Russia, Iran, events at any moment can get out of control. And let no one be reassured by the alleged phlegmatic reaction of the Kremlin - Azerbaijan “dragged” a third-party player, Turkey, to the post-Soviet territory, which means that from the point of view of the Kremlin’s interests it has already committed an unforgivable sin. Moscow must not allow Azerbaijan's success, otherwise everyone, including Kyrgyzstan and other relatively small and weak post-Soviet states, will start wiping their feet on it.
And if so, the situation may still change dramatically, with an appropriate response in Ankara. And if Iran suddenly decides to intervene, then Israel will certainly not stand aside either...
And the "unmanned war" will begin not in the literal, but in the figurative sense. Because hardly anyone will be able to manage the resulting conflict...