Azerbaijani Politics 1 october — 17:10

Azerbaijan will respond to Armenian Iskanders with Thunder (Our editorial)

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BY FARHAD MAMMADOV

Analysts speculate regarding the response of Azerbaijan to the Russian supplies to Armenia of short-range ballistic missile complexes (SRBM) Iskander.

As previously reported, a few hours after Iskander SRMB were demonstrated at the parade in Yerevan on September 21, on the instructions of President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev a meeting was held in the Ministry of Defence presided by the minister. At the meeting, Defence Minister Zakir Hasanov noted the need to strengthen intelligence activities to identify new targets on the territory of the enemy, assess their significance and order of their destruction. At the end of the meeting, it was decided to carry out activities on destruction at the proper hour of objects of strategic and military significance in Armenia.

Russia gave Iskander SRBM to Armenia not for use in military operations, but to keep Azerbaijan from beginning large-scale military operations for the liberation of the occupied territories. In other words, Moscow wants to completely eliminate the military scenario of the Karabakh settlement.

However, Baku cannot allow the implementation of these plans. As it has been so far, Azerbaijan must demonstrate to Armenia its military potential and resources to start action on de-occupation of its territories. Therefore, in response, Azerbaijan targeted all the military and strategic sites in Armenia, which will become yet another obstacle to the military and political leadership of Armenia in the issue of the use of Iskanders in the event of a resumption of hostilities.

However, official Baku will not be limited to this step. According to information from reliable sources, in response to the supply of Iskander SRBM to Yerevan, Azerbaijan is considering the purchase of tactical missiles with a range of 300 kilometres or more. Baku has been working on this option for a long time.

First, Azerbaijan is negotiating with allies on the purchase of tactical missiles with a range of 500 kilometres, as acknowledged by the Commander of the Missile and Artillery Forces, General Zahid Huseynov a few months ago. Second, Azerbaijan, which is developing its own military industry, is ready to proceed to the production of tactical short-range missiles, as recently stated by Minister of Defence Industry Yavar Jamalov.

The second option would be best, for obtaining technology for the production of short-range missiles, Azerbaijan will be able to organise their mass production. According to the laws of war, a massive attack of these missiles cannot be even compared with the impact of the Armenian Iskanders. For Baku there will be no problem in obtaining technology for the production of short-range ballistic missiles, given the nature of the allied relations of Azerbaijan with the producer countries of such missiles.

Among allies of Azerbaijan not the last place is occupied by Ukraine and Belarus.

Only the other day, Defence Minister of Belarus Andrei Ravkovin was in Baku on an official visit. He held talks with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Defence Minister Zakir Hasanov. In addition, heads of Ukrainian defence enterprises, who participated in the Baku defence exhibition ADEX 2016, held numerous talks with the Azerbaijani side.

After all, Ukraine and Belarus for a long time have been working on the creation of operational-tactical missile systems similar to Russian Iskander SRBM. This missile system is a high-precision Grom 2 (Thunder 2) SRBM with a range of 300 kilometres and a warhead weighing 480 kg.

Work on the creation of this missile system began in the 1990s, but was discontinued due to lack of funding. Now, however, after negotiations with Belarus, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, Ukraine has found sources of funding and has received the appropriate technological support.

These countries are interested in getting Grom 2 SRBM. For example, Belarus, which in Russia is called a 'fraternal country,' could not get the Iskander complexes. Moscow has refused to give Minsk weapons systems, created with the latest technology, including Iskander SRBM. Note that the mobile platform, on which the Iskander missiles are mounted, is the product of the Belarusian military-industrial complex. Thus, Minsk only needed to get the missiles to mount on this platform.

Ukrainian sources say that the first tests of Grom 2 SRBM will be held this autumn. Ukrainian missiles will be installed on the Belarusian platform. Financial support for the production of missiles Ukraine receives from abroad, believed to be from Saudi Arabia, because Russia refused Riyadh in exporting its Iskanders.

As early as 2008, President of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko in an interview to The Wall Street Journal said that Minsk was working to create analogues of Iskander missiles. Representatives of Minsk in 2014 held talks with Ukrainian arms producers, in particular with representatives of the Dnepropetrovsk military-industrial enterprise. Military experts say that Minsk speaking about Iskander analogues was referring to Grom 2 SRBM.

Now, Azerbaijan has shown it interest in Grom 2 complexes. Baku is considering the purchase of Ukrainian-Belarusian SRBM systems as one of the options to neutralise the Armenian Iskanders. According to Belarusian experts, one of the first buyers of Grom 2 SRBM will be exactly Azerbaijan.

It should be noted that the declared range of destruction of the complex is 300 kilometres. Reports indicate that the first batch of the new complex plans to purchase Saudi Arabia, and in the export variant missile distance will be reduced in accordance with the international rules of the Missile Technology Control Regime. Maximum distance of such a system should therefore reach 500 kilometres.

Grom 2 can be used as a means of defence, coast guard or missile system to destroy ground targets at long distances. Depending on the purpose, it is enough to arm missiles with a range of different types of warheads and guidance systems.

The missile, designed for Grom 2 systems, will be able to fly on aeroballistic trajectory, thus becoming almost inaccessible for modern air defence systems.

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