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The strongest Armed Forces of the region

Armed Forces of Azerbaijan with  annual military budget exceeding 3.3 billion dollars,  equipped with military weaponry and ammunitions, trained under  NATO standards is a leader  in the South Caucasus for its military power. Also parameters of the Azerbaijan Armed Forces affirm the fact that it is one of the powerful and well trained armies in the Post soviet area. In parallel with increasing of revenue of Azerbaijan the process of modernization of armed forces, its reconstruction, equipping with newest and strong weaponry is implemented, too. It is not a policy of militarization but a step which we was forced to make in connection with national security problems met by Azerbaijan, risks surrounding the region, violation of country integrity and sovereignty at result of military aggression of Armenia, occupation of 20% our lands for more than 20 years and having no results on mediation at negotiations on peaceful settlement of Nagorno Karabakh.

Growth of the military expenses

For any country creation and maintaining of army with combat readiness, equipped with modern arms and ammunitions requires huge amounts. For that reason Azerbaijan has increased its military expenses in parallel with increase of the economical power of the country for having the strong Armed Forces. If military budget of Azerbaijan in the 2003 amounted 135 millions of USD in total, this figure had passed 3.3 billion dollars in the 2011. Growth dynamics in the military expenses of Azerbaijan continues every year and already in 2010 these expenses reached  2 billion 150 millions USD and exceeded  the total State Budget of the Armenia. But the largest growth in the military expenses of Azerbaijan has been done in the 2011. Military expenses for the same year have been raised for 90 percentages compared to state budget of  2010 and reached 3.3 billion of USD . It must be marked for comparison that total expenses of the State Budget of the Armenia for that year amounted just 2 billion 350 millions of USD. But total military expenses of Armenia for 2011 amounted 387 millions of dollar, that is about 10- times less than military budget of Azerbaijan. In disclosed report of Stockholm Peace Studies Institute for 2012 connected with military budgets of the world countries it is said that Azerbaijan was the country increased its military budget in the world most of all since the 2008: Approximately 60 percentages. (Funds allocated to the Ministry of Defense Industry were not included in this report).

Modernization of the army and military industry

The main reason so rapidly and constantly increasing of military expenses of Azerbaijan was the necessity t5o renew the soviet manufactured, old military equipment being at use of armed forces, to supply it with modern weaponry manufactured based on the advanced technologies, as well as to improve the social conditions of personnel of the Armed Forces and to apply new methods in military training. In parallel to increasing of military expenses Azerbaijan had purchased new weapons and ammunitions from countries of close cooperation in military- technical field. At that the needs related to increasing of combat capabilities of Air Force, land forces, Boundary Troops, Air defense troops were taken as base. In order to avoid dependence on equipping of army from foreign countries Azerbaijan had established its national military industry, too. At the enterprises of the Ministry of Defense Industry, established since 2005 presently hundreds of items of military purposes are manufactured.

The strongest the Air Forces in the region

The analysis of the information included in the Register of Ordinary Weapons of the UNO  shows that Azerbaijan had purchased tens of fourth generation  modernized MiQ-29 Fulcrum combat planes from Ukraine and Belarus  to strengthen its Air Forces,  also had given order for purchase of over 20 Pakistan manufactured JF-17 aircrafts. Also during last few years Azerbaijan purchased from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus over 100 Mi-35M, Mi-24, Mi-8, Mi-17-1V combat planes, military transport and attack helicopters. At the same time the close cooperation is made with Israel having the very developed industry of the world for purchase and joint manufacture of pilotless planes, which are considered the combat technique of new generation. Within this cooperation pilotless reconnoiter  planes of Israel manufacture like Orbiter, Aerostar, Seacher, Hermes-450, Heron have been purchased. At result Azerbaijan has been turned to the country having the strongest the Air Forces in the region.  Also joint venture for manufacture of pilotless planes like Orbiter and Aerostar had been established in Baku. Collaboration on purchase of pilotless planes and other defense technology from Israel is continuing now, too.

Capabilities of land forces and reliable anti-aircraft defense
Besides air combat and reconnoiter means Azerbaijan had purchased in large amount armored combat technique, including tanks, IFV (infantry fighting vehicle), reactive artillery systems, as well as  systems heating the targets exactly, long-range  artillery units, strong anti-aircraft defense systems, including Russian made and considered as the strongest in its class in the world   S-300 PMU-2 “Favorite”   anti-aircraft complexes . In addition purchase of Israeli manufactured Barak-8 anti-aircraft complexes and radars of Green Pine allowed securing the reliable defense of country from air attacks, too. According to military experts, Azerbaijan has built system of reliable defense from air attacks with having strong Air Forces now, and so secured the defense of strategically important objects from possible air attacks.  At the same time Azerbaijan is the first state of the region manufacturing own armored defense technology. The Ministry of Defense Industry is implementing supply of Ministry of Defense with armored vehicles of Matador and Marauder manufacturing it jointly in collaboration with foreign partners. But local manufactured 14.5 mm Istiqlal (Independence) sniper rifle is among leaders in its class in the world for parameters.
International military experts affirm the Azerbaijani Armed Forces are the strongest in region for its parameters and weaponry in possession. It is informed in reports of the “Military Balance 2011” and “Military Balance 2012” of the International Peace Studies Institute of the Great Britain, conducted with the comparative analysis on the basis of parameters of the Azerbaijan Armed Forces, too.

The second strongest Navy in the Caspian

During past years Azerbaijan has achieved considerable success in direction to modernize and strengthen the Caspian fleet inherited from the Soviet time, too. At present Azerbaijani Navy is considered as the second strongest fleet in the Caspian Sea for its capabilities after Russia. The Navy includes coast guarding division, marines division, trail ships division, search–rescue division, training division, consisted of mainly surface ships brigade. There are different types and various destination ships. Since 2000 Azerbaijan has collaborated with the USA and other partners for modernization of the Caspian fleet. Special purpose forces have been created in structure of the Azerbaijani Caspian Navy to guard the strategically important oil and gas infrastructures, to guard the water boundaries of the country.
Today Azerbaijan implements the cadre training of the Navy through the Higher Military Naval School. Azerbaijan collaborates with ally country Turkish Military Sea Strengths in the matters of training of personnel for fleet. Moreover collaboration has been established between the Higher Military Naval School and the Academy of coast guarding of the USA. Strengthening of the sea safety of Azerbaijan holds the basic place in the frame of Plan of Actions on Military Cooperation signed between USA and Azerbaijan, too. Within the Plan of Actions Special Forces of the Navy of Azerbaijan are trained in special military marine operations, to secure marine energy infrastructures, de-mining operations, to prepare Special Forces of the Navy how to check the ship at any conditions in the Caspian Sea, boarding on vessel, search and confiscations operations, the capabilities to have underwater operations and coastal reconnoiter etc. Azerbaijan has considerably strengthened its positions in the Caspian Sea by purchasing from Israel ant-ship cruise missiles “Gabriel-5” at the beginning of the 2012. 

Professional military training and application of the NATO standards

Besides supplying of army with modern combat equipment Azerbaijan pays a special attention on professional training of the personnel adapted to NATO standards, too.  Azerbaijan Armed Forces collaborate with NATO in the frame of the Program of Partnership for the Peace from the 1994; moreover Azerbaijan Armed Forces have relations with a number of foreign states. Relations with other countries help becoming stronger of Azerbaijan Army. Azerbaijani Navy, Air Force had been adapted to NATO standard wholly. Military employees of Azerbaijan have trainings within the NATO frame and they take part in the courses of foreign language. The most productive mechanism of the Program of Partnership for the Peace is Individual Partnership Program, which covers wide area of training and instructions. Every year within the Individual Partnership Program between NATO and Azerbaijan over 1000 personnel of Armed Forces of Azerbaijan take part in various educational and training events. But since 1997 the NATO standards are applied in the Azerbaijan Higher Military School named after Heydar Aliyev, since 2000 in the Military Academy of the Armed Forces and since 2001 at the Military Education and Training Center of the Armed Forces. Presently the works on bilateral plan related to integration of Azerbaijan to the NATO are underway.

Participation in the international peace keeping operations

Azerbaijan Armed Forces support some peace keeping operations under the NATO and the UNO. Since September of 1994 Peace keeping divisions of the Azerbaijan Armed Forces have been serving in the structure of international peace keeping forces in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. Azerbaijani peace keeping contingent consisting of 34 soldiers had successfully served in Kosovo during 1999-2008 in structure of the Turkish Peace Keeping Forces of KFOR. In 2008 after Kosova had declared its independence Azerbaijani peace keeping contingent was withdrawn from Kosova by the decision of Milli Mejlis. During this period about 400 Azerbaijani peace keepers served in Kosovo as a whole. 
Azerbaijan soldiers have served in Iraq on the basis of decision accepted in the 2003 by the UN Security Council, too. Azerbaijani peace keeping contingent in Iraq consisted of 150 soldiers and officers.  Azerbaijani peace keeping contingent finished its mission in Iraq and returned home by the decision of Milli Mejlis adopted in November of the 2008. Presently Azerbaijan supports the international peace keeping operations in Afghanistan. 90 Azerbaijani peacekeepers serve in the structure of international forces securing safety in Afghanistan (The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)).
So, Azerbaijan has strengthened its positions with forming the strongest Armed Forces in the South Caucasus region. Having strong Armed Forces of Azerbaijan is the important factor for restoration of territorial integrity of the country and its sovereignty by peaceful means, for settlement of Nagorno Karabakh conflict on the basis of principles of the international law.

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