Azerbaijan has received the next batch of Turkish-made minesweepers to use for mine action in the country’s liberated lands.
The Turkish National Defense Ministry announced on Saturday that 13 units of MEMATT mine clearance equipment have been delivered to Azerbaijan.
“The number of MEMATT minesweepers supplied to Azerbaijan so far now reached 20 units,” the ministry wrote in a Twitter post on the same day.
Previously, in February and May 2022, Turkish Defense Ministry’s ASFAT Company, the manufacturer of MEMATT, supplied seven units of the ultra-modern minesweeper to the Azerbaijani side.
MEMATT is a top-notch unmanned mine-clearing equipment co-produced by ASFAT and the Turkish private defense companies. The machine is covered with Armox 500T, known as the world’s toughest protection plate made of ultra-hard armor steel. MEMATT is mine-resistant and controlled remotely from up to 500 meters (1,640 feet). The maximum speed of the vehicle is 4 kilometers (2.48 miles) per hour, it can dive into a depth of 25 centimeters from the surface and clear a 1-kilometer-long, 1.7-meter-wide area from mines within an hour.
Azerbaijani forces managed to liberate over 300 settlements, including the cities of Jabrayil, Fuzuli, Zangilan, Gubadli, and Shusha, from nearly three decades of illegal Armenian occupation during the 44-day war that took place in 2020. The war ended in a tripartite statement signed by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia, under which Armenia also returned the occupied Aghdam, Kalbajar, and Lachin districts to Azerbaijan.
Shortly after the war, Azerbaijani authorities rolled out full-scale mine clearance operations in the country’s Karabakh (Garabagh) region, which had been heavily mined by Armenia during years of occupation.
In addition to Turkish MEMATT, Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action (ANAMA) also uses three Slovak-made Bozena-4 and two Bozena-5 minesweepers, one Croatian-made MV-4 special-purpose mine-clearing machine, and one AARDVARK mine clearance vehicle of the British production for mine clearance. Revival-P1 minesweeper of the Azerbaijani production is also expected to join the mine action soon.
Demining operations faced many challenges due to Armenia’s refusal to hand over the maps of the areas where the landmines are located.
Azerbaijan obtained from Armenia the minefield maps of the once occupied Aghdam, Fuzuli, and Zangilan districts, which reportedly identify the coordinates of a total of 189,000 anti-tank and anti-personnel mines. Armenia also provided the Azerbaijani side with mine maps of other liberated territories of Azerbaijan. In exchange for maps, Azerbaijan released dozens of Armenian saboteurs detained in Azerbaijani territory after the ceasefire was reached in November 2020. However, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev said the accuracy of these maps did not exceed 25 percent. Officials in Baku are convinced that the maps hidden by Armenia could help neutralize at least one million landmines.
Officials at ANAMA say the neutralization of unexploded ammunition, warheads, and missiles in the combat zones could take 5-6 years, while it is about 10-13 years for the mined areas.
More than 240 Azerbaijanis have been killed or injured by Armenian landmines since the signing of the tripartite statement. In June 2021, two Azerbaijani journalists and a government official lost their lives in a mine blast in the Kalbajar district.