Turkish F-16 Fighter Jets: How They Reached Azerbaijan and What They Do in the Armenian Airspace

Garik Movsesyan, Chief of Staff of the Armenian Air Defense Forces, the anti-aircraft branch of the Armed Forces of Armenia, presented on October 15 details about the presence of Turkish F-16 fighter jets in Azerbaijan and their performance in combat missions.

How F-16s Reached Azerbaijan

The F-16 fighter jets appeared on the territory of Azerbaijan back in July 2020, on the eve of the Turkish-Azerbaijani joint military exercises. During the exercises, these aircrafts carried out active training flights along the entire length of the air border of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh [Artsakh], mainly targeting the Ganja-Vardenis, Ganja-Karvachar, Ganja-Martakert, and Ganja-Stepanakert areas.

After the end of the military exercise, these aircrafts did not return to Turkey, but remained at the Ganja airport. On September 23, the Turkish Air Force command changed the F-16 crews and technical personnel. During this time, flights from Turkey to Azerbaijan were carried out through Georgia’s airspace.

The role of F-16s in the War

Since the September 27 onset of offensive operations, F-16s have been involved in aerial bombardment of different areas in Karabakh [Artsakh] and Armenia. On September 27, two F-16 aircrafts violated Armenian airspace up to 6 kilometers into the territory during strikes on Mets Masrik and Sotk villages.

On September 29, at roughly 12:16 PM, a pair of F-16 aircrafts in the vicinity of the Mingachevir Reservoir in Azerbaijan noticed a SU-25 Armenian aircraft and shot it down with an air missile launched 60 kilometers from the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

In order to disguise the use of F-16s, on October 3, Azerbaijan diverted F-16s from the Ganja airport to the Gabala airfield farther east. If previously operations were carried out by F-16s alone, after that, there was a tactictical change, and F-16s began to operate together with Azerbaijan’s air force.

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Two to four jets took off from Gabala airport and took up duty above the Mingachevir Reservoir, after which, Azerbaijani Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and SU-25 planes headed towards the Mingachevir region, where the two groups joined together, making a 2-3-minute turnover. After that, one or two pairs of F-16s were separated from the group and targeted the area of Martakert.

Azerbaijan’s UAV arsenal consists of Turkish and Israeli-made weapons. The Turkish Bayraktar can fly at an altitude of up to 12,000 meters, conduct active reconnaissance and direct firepower.

During the 18 days of the war, 180 Azerbaijani aerial vehicles have been shot down, including 15 aircrafts, 8 helicopters and UAVs.

Movsesyan noted that all measures are being taken to ensure that the Armenian air defense systems are self-sufficient.

By Mkrtich Karapetyan

Translated by Zara Poghosyan