The establishment of its national defence industry by Azerbaijan is seen as one of the responses to the often tense situation in the South Caucasus, as well as to the increasing arms build-up in the region. Despite the existence of military establishments during the Soviet period, Azerbaijan’s defence industry was only founded in 2005. The Azerbaijani government adopted several decisions to enhance the development of a military industrial complex starting in 2005. Further, beginning in 2006 the funds allocated to the defence industry from the state budget increased by 25-30 per cent annually.
In order to support the activity of its military industrial complex, the Azerbaijani government eliminated customs duties and taxes from the import of defence and special equipment for its defence industries, as well as value-added taxes. Also, the debts held by military establishments to the state budget and social protection funds, as well as the community charge debts, were written off according to an order issued by the president. In his speeches, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev announced that the primary purpose of the establishment of a military industrial complex is to remove the dependence upon foreign military technology by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces.
Commenting on the development of the military industry, Minister of Defence Industry (MDI) Yaver Jamalov said, “Under the present circumstances, we don’t need to realise large projects such as helicopter or tank production.”
“We work on production of goods needed by the armed forces and transfer the technologies in this context. Despite the military equipment and weapons in the stockpile of the Azerbaijani Army meeting Soviet standards, we can realise the production of ammunition which meets both NATO and Soviet standards in the new production lines set in MDI establishments,” Jamalov added.
INCREASING DOMESTIC PRODUCTION
Noting that the main direction was focused on the production of ammunition, Jamalov, in an interview with the Azeri Press Agency (APA), said that local arms manufacturers set a goal to fully lay in the 5.45 x 39 calibre bullets, as well as ammunition of different calibre, tanks, guns and reactive projectiles, by mid-2012.
Also, the opening of eight new production centres is planned during 2011; three of them (providing modernisation services, producing unmanned air vehicles (UAVs), as well as producing goods and providing different assignments, respectively) have already been opened this year. The opening of test centres and the implementation of large-calibre munitions are also planned.
The following weapon systems have been produced in Azerbaijan during the last five years:
• Istiglal IST-14.5 anti-materiel rifle
• IST – 12.7 mm calibre sniper rifle
• AK-74, an enhanced version of the Kalashnikov rifle (on the basis of a license by Izhmash concern)
• UP-7.62 submachine gun
• Inam, Zafar, and Zafar-K pistols (jointly with the TISAS company of Turkey)
• 7.62 x 54 mm submachine gun to be integrated with tanks and armoured vehicles
• RPG-7V2 hand-held anti-tank grenade launcher (Qaya-1 and Qaya-2)
• 60 mm mortar
• 82 mm mortar
• 107 mm reactive volley-fire system (gate mechanism and missiles)
• Matador and Marauder mine-protected armoured vehicles (jointly with the Paramount Group of South Africa)
Other products include small-arms, munitions for artillery-type weapons, mines, Qigilcim mine and bomb clearance system, helmets, ballistic protection, optical devices, collimator, thermal sighting system, multi-spectral covers, dosimeters for submariners and more.
The Istiglal IST-14.5 anti-materiel rifle, which is the first domestically produced weapon by Azerbaijan to be displayed at international exhibitions, is one of the weapons that aroused interest abroad. This weapon, which was developed by local experts, has several advantages over similar rifles. The weapon was developed by taking into account local conditions, such as battles in the Nagorno Karabakh region, and can be used against targets at a range of 2,000 meters. The rifle can pierce the armour of BTR armoured personnel carriers, as well as fire at helicopters, aircraft and vessels. The other difference in this weapon from its large-calibre competitors is that this weapon reloads itself automatically.
Also, the Ministry of Defence Industry has begun exporting several navigation systems for use in the aviation industry. First exports totalled USD 13 million in 2010.
As part of the cooperation begun with the Paramount Group in 2009, 30 Matador and Marauder mine-protected vehicles (MPV) have been delivered to the Army. In general, 60 MPVs will be manufactured within the framework of this joint project.
Also, the Ministry of Defence Industry earlier declared its interest in producing Mbombe armoured vehicles of the MRAP class in the short term, operating jointly with PG company.
Within the UAV project started jointly with IAI (Israel Aerospace Indutries) in early March, the Aerostar and Orbiter vehicles are currently being manufactured and assembled by the Azad Systems Co.
Currently, in joint production Azerbaijan is devoting much attention to the cooperation with Turkish companies, which followed high-level political, military and economic relations between the countries.
Within this framework, the production of multi-spectral covers by MDI, together with Turkish Öztek company, joint modernization projects, as well as production of a thermal sighting system and binoculars with ASELSAN, production of 107mm and 122mm missiles with an extended coverage range jointly with ROKETSAN, production of ammunition, revolver grenade launchers, MP5 machine pistols and other products can be shown as an example. Besides, Azerbaijani manufacturers are implementing various projects such as production of optic devices with Belarus, helmets and personal armour with KADDB company of Jordan, aircraft bombs with Pakistan, and Shimshek bullets and fire-control systems for combat vehicles jointly with EWT company of the Republic of South Africa, and ammunition jointly with the Jaksuz company of Poland, as well as other arms programmes.
Also, the production of 107mm and 122mm reactive volley fire systems was part of the agreement signed with ROKETSAN company during the IDEX defence exhibition held in Abu Dhabi in February 2011.
Additionally, beginning in early 2011 Azerbaijani companies started participating in the modernization projects of the Armed Forces. Baku Instrument-making plant, which was opened in March this year, modernizes T-72 main battle tanks, BTR and BRDM armoured personnel carriers. The modernized BTR and BRDM armoured personnel carriers are provided with Shimshek fire-control systems produced by the Ministry’s instrument-making plant and the EWT company.