Country Risk

Armenian Mi-24 helicopter shot down by Azerbaijan

13 November 2014

Azerbaijan shot down an Armenian Mil Mi-24 'Hind' combat helicopter in the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, reportedly killing at least two crew members and drawing a promise of retaliation from Armenia.

The helicopter was shot down at 13:45 h local time on 12 November, according to a statement from the Armenian Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Armenia said that the helicopter belonged to the armed forces of the de facto Nagorno-Karabakh government and was on a training flight near the line of contact when it was shot down. "The enemy continues to carry out intensive fire from small arms of various calibres in the direction of the place of the incident," the statement said.

Investigations will show that the helicopter was unarmed, Armenian MoD spokesperson Artsrun Hovhannisyan said on his Facebook page, adding that "the consequences of this provocation will be very painful for Azerbaijan, and the military-political leadership of the country will bear responsibility".

However, Azerbaijan's MoD said the helicopter belonged to Armenia and it had violated Azerbaijan's airspace and "attempted to attack Azerbaijani positions". It said that two crew members were killed and a third escaped the crash scene.

Other reports said all three crew members were killed. Local media reported that the squad commander of the unit that shot down the helicopter, Ilkin Muradov Mamed Oglu, was awarded with a medal "for excellence in military service of the third rank".

It remains unclear what the Azerbaijan's military used to shoot down the Mi-24, but in recent conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and Ukraine, the type have proved vulnerable to man-portable air defence systems and ground fire from small arms and larger anti-aircraft weapons.

ANALYSIS

Armenian forces have controlled the disputed area of Nagorno-Karabakh since a war between them and Azerbaijan ended in 1994 with a ceasefire agreement brokered by Russia. However, Azerbaijan has been rearming heavily and regularly promises that it will take back the region. This year has seen a steady increase in ceasefire violations.

Armenia's claims that the Mi-24 in question was completely unarmed would appear unlikely given the type's principal attack function. Armenia operates both the Mi-24K and Mi-24P variants of the Hind, both of which can be armed with a range of missile and rocket armaments.

The Mi-24P is a specific gunship version of the helicopter, armed with a fixed 30mm GSh-30K twin-barrel cannon. Although theMi-24K is a reconnaissance and artillery observation variant, it too is fitted with a gun armament in the form of a chin-turret mounted YakB-12.7 four-barrel Gatling-type 12.7 mm machine gun.

While the aircraft may have not been carrying external rockets or missiles, many nation's militaries do not go through the laborious process of stripping gun ammunition from attack helicopters and other aircraft types once loaded unless absolutely necessary. Additionally, it would seem somewhat foolhardy to fly in the vicinity of the line of contact completely unarmed given the quantity of cross border fire recently taking place. As such it would more likely that the helicopter was in some way armed when it was shot down than not, as per Armenia's claims.

Irrespective of that, the shooting down of a military helicopter is a significant escalation in the stand-off between the two countries, once again raising the prospect of a conflict emerging between Armenia and Azerbaijan.



(545 words)
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT