APA Interview with Azerbaijani Defence Industry Minister Yaver Jamalov
Azerbaijan has increasingly stepped up its national and international defence activities, both in terms of military co-operation and in the field of defence technology, during recent years. Many collaborative projects for research and development as well as for the production of new systems or the modification and modernisation of existing equipment have since been initiated. The Azerbaijani Ministry of Defence Industry (MDI) is at the helm of all these activities.
On the occasion of one of the region’s largest defence trade shows, the 10th IDEX edition held last week in Abu Dhabi, the Minister of Defence Industry of Azerbaijan, Yaver Jamalov, spoke to Rashad Suleymanov, correspondent of the Azeri-Press Agency (APA, a media partner of defpro.com), about national defence industry projects to be carried out soon as well as about ongoing projects and the Minister’s assessment of future prospects.
APA, Rashad Suleymanov: How do you assess the IDEX 2011 International Defence Exhibition attended by the Azerbaijani Defence Industry Ministry?
Yaver Jamalov: The Defence Industry Ministry displayed 71 defence goods in this exhibition. We saw different defence goods produced by the leading companies of the world and, at the same time, we negotiated the purchase of technologies and equipment from those companies to organise production of defence goods in Azerbaijan. We signed memorandums of understanding and protocols on production of those defence goods and the transfer of necessary technologies. A number of countries showed interest in Azerbaijan-made defence products during the exhibition. The US, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Canada, Bulgaria, Turkey and Bangladesh were among them. We reached agreements on export of ammunition for small arms, mortar launchers, optical targets for launchers, ammunitions for AQS-17, AQS-30 mortar launchers, as well as other arms and ammunitions. According to the memorandums of understanding, representatives of those companies will visit Azerbaijan soon and we will, together, test those defence goods. We will sign export agreements after the tests.
APA: Earlier, agreements were signed with some companies during the SOFEX 2010 in Jordan. What would you say about realisation of those deals?
Jamalov: In Jordan, we signed an agreement on joint production of body armour and helmets. This agreement is in force and is being realised in the radio manufacturing plant. The first phase of the two-year deal with ASELSAN was realised and its second phase will be fulfilled this year. Regarding the execution of the agreements on the sale of ammunition, I would say that, unfortunately, we couldn’t conduct the tests because there was no test center. Those companies applied to us again during IDEX 2011. The test center, based on international standards, is ready now. We decided to develop work with those companies.
APA: What’s about the new agreement with Turkey’s Machine and Chemistry Company (MKEK)? What does this agreement contain?
Jamalov: We are planning cooperation with MKEK in two directions. First, we are planning to produce small arms and second, MKEK is expected to purchase ammunitions from Azerbaijan. These issues were described in the protocols. The small arms production will cover 12.7mm “Istiglal” sniper rifles, at first. We completed work on this arm and serial production is expected to begin at the end of the year. MKEK also intends to participate in serial production. We will also jointly produce MKEK’s revolver mortar launchers and its ammunitions. This project is to start soon.
APA: The agreement considers production of the MP5 submachine gun.
Jamalov: We negotiated the MP5 production with Czech Republic’s Ceska Zbrojovka. Czech Republic produces Scorpion submachine gun and it is similar with the MP5. Its examples will be brought to Azerbaijan. MKEK and Czech experts will attend the tests. We will prefer the technically superior submachine gun.
APA: How do the Azerbaijan-made arms and ammunitions meet NATO standards?
Jamalov: The Azerbaijani Army’s technical equipment and arms are based on Soviet standards, but the technologies we brought allow us to produce both NATO- and Soviet-standard goods.
APA: When do you think the Soviet standards can be abandoned completely? The quality of arms and technical equipment, on the basis of these standards, are behind the competitors.
Jamalov: I don’t think so. There are some arms from Soviet period that are better than NATO standards. For example, the Makarov pistol with 9×18 mm calibre. We are producing both 9×18-mm (Soviet) and 9×19-mm (NATO) bullets. We take into account the local conditions and fighting opportunities brought about by the Karabakh conditions.
APA: Do you have a prognosis as to when Azerbaijan will fully supply its army with small arms that are locally produced?
Jamalov: It demands much time. The Defence Industry Ministry was established five years ago. We are working for supplying our army with arms, ammunitions and technical equipments. It is carried out phase-by-phase. In the first phase, we carry out economically productive projects. Production of militarily technical and aviation abilities is not rational. We will do this work in the final phase. First of all, we produce arms and ammunition for the Azerbaijani Army’s needs today. We will begin production of various defence goods from 5.45×39-mm bullets to tank and artillery arms by the end of 2012.
APA: Recently you noted that you intend to realise production of laser warhead anti-tank missile this year.
Jamalov: We negotiated the production of laser warhead anti-tank missile with Denel Company, South Africa’s largest defence equipment manufacturer. At IDEX we once more met with the representatives of Denel. For the implementation of that project in Azerbaijan, in a short period of time, we decided to solve the issues and start the work.
APA: Is it planned to establish several spheres of production at the Ministry of Defence Industry?
Jamalov: We plan to launch eight new spheres of production. Among them is the production of various munitions, percussion caps, and spheres of production for the use of large-calibre munitions. We hope to create a unique military industry soon.
APA: You signed a contract with ROKETSAN company on the production of 107mm and 122mm long-range missiles. How efficient will it be to launch 122mm long-range missiles from Grad systems that are in line with Soviet standards?
Jamalov: We produce 107mm missiles. Their operational range is 8km. In the contract with ROKETSAN its operational range will reach 11km. The operational range of 122mm missiles is 22km. The operational range of the missiles that will be produced based upon the license of ROKETSAN will be 40km. The point you mentioned is taken into account in the calculations. Together with ROKETSAN we will also produce separate launchers for these missiles.
APA: These missiles of ROKETSAN are mainly launched from Sakarya systems. Will it be the same system?
Jamalov: Yes, it will be. The recent project will be complex.
APA: You had a project on the production of new towing and combat equipment on the gear of T-55 tanks that were removed from the inventory of the army. What can you say about this project?
Jamalov: This project will be realised. We plan to install the missiles with laser warheads, which will be used against the targets at 5km, on the MT LB vehicles. The representatives of Denel will come to Azerbaijan, we will conduct studies to see how many missiles can be installed on MT LB. We will also completely restore the T-55. After they are modernised, various weapons will be installed on them. We are restoring these vehicles at the Baku Machine Building Plant. The plant will be opened soon. Our ministry, together with the company from the Republic of South Africa, has prepared a special tower. 14.5mm machine guns and 30mm cannons will be installed on these towers. The tower will be guided automatically.
APA: Paramount Group introduced the Mbombe combat vehicle to the Azerbaijani delegation. Can this vehicle be produced in Azerbaijan within the framework of the cooperation with Paramount Group?
Jamalov: At present we are producing the Matador and Marauder. Their purpose is different – they are for carrying troops, weapons and munitions. Mbombe is a combat vehicle. We viewed that vehicle with the Defence Minister and commander of Border Troops. We gave our proposals. One of the vehicles will be brought to Azerbaijan this year. After they are tested here, we will start production. We are having normal cooperation with the Paramount Group. We have already completed the production of 30 vehicles. Now they are being armed. The weapons of local production are being installed on them.
APA: I would like to ask you about the cooperation with Turkey. The Azerbaijani parliament ratified the strategic cooperation agreement. The military cooperation has a special place in this agreement. What can we expect for in the cooperation with Turkey?
Jamalov: Turkey is our strategic partner and we have very high level relations. Both sides have proposals for the widening of the cooperation. Now the sides are working on these proposals. There will be new projects.
APA: The start of joint work on modernisation of L-39 and L-29 planes was reported during your visit to the Czech Republic in January.
Jamalov: We have become acquainted with Czech’s modernised L-159 aircrafts from their “L” class. They raised an issue on the gathering of these aircraft in Azerbaijan and their sale in the region. We gave our consent. But the Czech state must provide relevant permission to Azerbaijan. At the same time, we will hold discussions with the Czech Foreign Ministry. The works are still conducted in this direction. The modernisation of the L-39 was proposed and I offered to meet with the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry and discuss this issue.
APA: Is there any interest in the establishment of private military companies in Azerbaijan? Did anyone appeal to you for a license for it?
Jamalov: Nobody has appealed to us about working in the defence industry. But it will be possible in the future. However, the need for the military industry is increasing in the country. The amount of the orders given by the Defence Ministry to the Ministry of Defence Industry has increased seven times in comparison with last year. We are working on the fulfillment of this program. That’s why we converted to a three-shift working regime.
APA: And lastly, which international exhibitions do you plan to attend this year?
Jamalov: We will participate in IDEF 2011 exhibition in Istanbul in May. We plan to show 75-76 defence products in their vivid forms. One more exhibition will also be in Pakistan.