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Azerbaijan’s Innovative Use Of Soviet-Era An-2 Aircraft As Part Of Its Drone Strategy

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Azerbaijan’s Innovative Use Of Soviet-Era An-2 Aircraft As Part Of Its Drone Strategy

Click to see full-size image

Since September 27th, there have been numerous reports of An-2 aircraft, used by the Azerbaijani armed forces being downed by Armenia.

To provide some perspective, the Antonov An-2 is a Soviet mass-produced single-engine biplane utility/agricultural aircraft designed and manufactured by the Antonov Design Bureau beginning in 1946.

It has high durability, high lifting power, and ability to take off and land from poor runways have given it a long service life. The An-2 was produced up to 2001 and remains in service with military and civilian operators around the world.

It is not exactly a warplane.

However, there could be several reasons why Azerbaijan uses this cheap aircraft so widely.

According to Izvestia, based on unnamed sources, Baku has the capability to modify an An-2 into a unmanned precision weapon.

For this purpose, biplanes are loaded with additional fuel and explosives and sent to ram enemy positions.

Azerbaijan’s Innovative Use Of Soviet-Era An-2 Aircraft As Part Of Its Drone Strategy

Click to see the full-size image

It is likely that Azerbaijan has turned it into a suicide drone of sorts – load some weapons on it, or some small bombs, and either have it drop them or have it ram into a target.

What’s more likely, however, is that it is a dummy target – it’s turned into a sort of reconnaissance UAV – it’s sent in first, being slow and cheap, it’s destroyed by Armenian air defense forces, which reveal their positions. These positions are then targeted by attack aircraft or actual combat UAVs.

Old aircraft are equipped with control drives and the simplest autopilot using satellite navigation, as a result of which such a device can fly along a programmed route and attack stationary targets.

Baku refutes this information, although it does not deny the use of other types of drones.

The destructive power of drones based on the An-2 can be comparable to cruise missiles, but the size and slow-moving speed make the aircraft an easy target for any air defense system, according to experts, also very obviously with the number of them being downed by Armenian forces.

The Armenian Ministry of Defense has provided video footage of the fall of two flaming An-2s, which collapsed to the ground side by side and almost simultaneously.

As in previous cases of the defeat of such aircraft in the conflict zone, the crew did not leave them with parachutes. In the first week of fighting, the video showed the destruction of three more aircraft of this type over the front line.

The journalists examining the wreckage of the biplanes did not find the bodies of the pilots in them.

The single information center of Nagorno-Karabakh reports about 18 shot down enemy aircraft, without specifying their types. Earlier, the Artsakh announced the destruction of Azerbaijani Su-25 attack aircraft and MiG-29 fighters, but all the debris recorded in the photo and video belong to drones and An-2.

Separately, there’s another option – typically, in military affairs, the An-2 was used for reconnaissance, communications and delivery of goods to unprepared sites.

There were also armed versions, which could hang bombs weighing up to 250 kg or blocks for unguided rockets. The plane managed to take part in dozens of armed conflicts around the world. In Russia, it is still used for the initial training of paratroopers in parachute jumping.

It is quite likely that Azerbaijan, with or without help from Turkey has managed to turn this mass-produced and cheap plane into a sort of precision missile, which is much cheaper than your usual cruise missile.


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