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Azerbaijan Army Ranked as Strongest in South Caucasus

By Timucin Turksoy January 9, 2023

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The newly created Commando Special Forces Units of the Azerbaijan Armed Forces / Courtesy

The Global Firepower (GFP) military tracker platform has ranked Azerbaijan 57 among 145 countries considered for the 2023 GFP review.

The country’s military was assigned a Power Index score of 0.9391 in the recently updated rankings by the US-based service. According to GFP, a score of 0.0000 is considered “perfect”.

Azerbaijan outperformed its regional neighbors Georgia and Armenia, which ranked 84 and 94, respectively.

According to the 2023 GFP Index, the overall available manpower in Azerbaijan stands at 5.073 million, including nearly 3.8 million fit for service. The total military personnel is 380,000, of which 65,000 are active, 300,000 reserve, and 15,000 paramilitary personnel.

In 2022, Azerbaijan ranked 63 among 142 countries in the Global Firepower Index, while Georgia and Armenia ranked 88 and 98, respectively.

Azerbaijan, the South Caucasus’ largest country that is home to over 10 million people, established its Armed Forces in 1918 when the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR) was founded after the fall of the Russian Empire. Around 25,000 soldiers were then recruited and the government allocated 24 percent of the state budget for military purposes. By August 1 of the same year, the newly established Military Ministry took over the armed forces.

In April 1920, the ADR was occupied by the Bolshevik forces, and Azerbaijan was later incorporated into the Soviet Union. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Azerbaijan revived its independent national army.

The modern armed forces of the Republic of Azerbaijan comprise the Land Forces, the Air and Air Defense Forces, and the Navy. The National Guard, the State Border Service, and the Internal Troops of Azerbaijan are considered associated forces.

The government of Azerbaijan allocated 5.3 billion manats or more than $3.1 billion for defense and national security purposes in 2023, meaning 18.5 percent more than in 2022.

In 2020, the Azerbaijani army fought a 44-day war with Armenia in the Karabakh (Garabagh) region – an internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan. Armenia occupied the Karabakh region in a bloody war that took place between 1991 and 1994, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

The latest outbreak of war in the region started on September 27, 2020, after Armenia’s forces deployed in the once-occupied Azerbaijani lands shelled military positions and civilian settlements of Azerbaijan. The attacks triggered the Azerbaijani forces to take immediate counter-offensive measures in order to push back the assault.

The Azerbaijani Armed Forces used a variety of cutting-edge arms and technologies during the war, including Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drones, Israeli Harop and SkyStriker loitering munitions. The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) fleet of the Azerbaijani troops is said to have destroyed more than 200 pieces of armor and artillery systems of the Armenian forces during the war.

The war in the Karabakh region ended with a decisive victory claimed by the Azerbaijani army, which liberated more than 300 settlements, including the cities of Jabrayil, Fuzuli, Zangilan, Gubadli and Shusha, from nearly 30-year-long illegal Armenian occupation. A tripartite statement signed by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia ended hostilities on November 10, 2020. As part of the agreement, Armenia also returned three occupied districts – Aghdam, Kalbajar, and Lachin to Azerbaijan by December 1, 2020.

During and after the war, President Ilham Aliyev revealed Azerbaijan’s intention to strengthen the national army based on the Turkish model but on a smaller scale. In October and November 2021, all-new Commando units of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces were launched in the liberated lands. The formation of the novel special forces units came as part of the upgrade of the national army in line with the Turkish military model. Before joining the army’s new “blue-beret” branch, the commando personnel has been through weeks-long “Commando preparation” courses in Türkiye.

President Aliyev said the post-war development of the national army remains to be a top priority for Azerbaijan and a lot has been done in the light of defense procurement and army reforms that brought the combat level of the Armed Forces to all-new levels.